To mark the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on March 3 and the 30th anniversary of the Diocese of Knoxville’s founding, Bishop Richard F. Stika will celebrate the sacrament of confirmation for all diocesan parishes in the cathedral next spring.
Bishop Stika is adjusting the confirmation Mass schedules only for 2018, after which all confirmations will return to the parishes.
“In over eight years being in Knoxville, one of the things I’ve discovered is the number of people who have not been to our cathedral because they’ve never been invited. Normally, for confirmations and other activities I go out to the parishes,” Bishop Stika said.
“Next year in 2018, being our 30th anniversary, we’re going to have a series of events at the cathedral and in the diocese. I’m even asking the Holy Father to declare a holy year for us as we celebrate this and have an indulgence for the cathedral,” he added. “So I thought it would be a good time to invite everyone to come to the cathedral for various activities, including confirmations.”
Bishop Stika noted that other dioceses have invited parishioners to come to their cathedral, including the Diocese of Nashville in celebrating a recent milestone anniversary.
“I thought it was a great idea. It will be a good way to celebrate with Bishop Stika said plans now are to match larger parishes with smaller ones in scheduling the confirmations to maintain a proper balance. Consideration also is being given to holding confirmations by region so parishioners can carpool where possible.
A cathedral for any diocese is the mother church, he said, noting that people attending the confirmation Masses will be invited to take part in Mass by serving in the choir or as readers.
“We’re going to try to create a certain sense of unity of diocese. So often we think we belong to either the Chattanooga parishes, or the Tri-Cities parishes, or Knoxville. This will show that the Church has a beautiful broad spectrum of people from all 36 counties of the diocese,” the bishop said.
Father Richard Armstrong, assistant director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation, said the cathedral offers a unique setting to celebrate confirmations, that of our mother church, of which all diocesan parishes are a member.
“I think it’s a good idea because it will help us realize that although we’re in individual parishes we’re actually members of a larger community of faith. Our Protestant brothers and sisters, their parishes stand on their own. They are individual entities, if you will. The Catholic Church isn’t like that. The individual parishes actually are all members of the larger community of faith, the larger Church in East Tennessee. I believe this gives us the opportunity to show forth our Catholicity in a greater way by having confirmations at the cathedral,” Father Armstrong said.
He emphasized Bishop Stika’s intent to move all youth confirmations back to the parishes in 2019.
“There are a lot of different events planned for the new cathedral to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the diocese. All of these events are converging naturally at the cathedral. So to be able to have confirmations be a part of this, I think, is a great thing,” he said. “After 2018, the bishop’s intention is to go back to the parishes. The diocesan-wide adult confirmations will still be a part of our cathedral celebrations on Pentecost Sunday.”
In discussing confirmations, Bishop Stika said he is encouraged by the response to his decision to move the age of confirmation from high school to fifth and sixth grades. That gradual transition is underway and will take time.
He noted that the healthy numbers of youth and adults being confirmed and also entering the Church reflect the growth of the Church in East Tennessee.
“The Church is definitely growing in East Tennessee. Twenty-nine years ago we started with 33,000 Catholics. Now we’re over 70,000. As I see the large confirmation classes and people coming in with the RCIA process, it just shows that it is good steady growth as we continue to teach the Catholic faith and preach Jesus, not this huge growth that becomes overwhelming,” the bishop said.
In reminding that he formed a commission a number of months ago to study changing the age for confirmation in the diocese from high school to fifth and sixth grades, Bishop Stika said the commission suggested second grade for confirmation, but he believes fifth and sixth grades will be more effective.
“I thought fifth grade because that is when they are more inquisitive. It is really when they are beginning to set certain values, their commitment to the Church, and there is an excitement about the faith when you’re in fifth and sixth grade, so that’s why I decided to move it to the fifth and sixth grades,” he said.
But he pointed out that confirmation is being emphasized for any age, whether elementary school, high school, or adults, and noted that for the last two years on the feast of Pentecost he has celebrated confirmation Masses at Sacred Heart Cathedral for adults in the diocese.
But adults will be the only ones confirmed at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on a permanent basis unless …
“The confirmations at the cathedral are just for the jubilee year, 2018, for the 30th anniversary, and will not be permanent. They will transition back to the parishes in 2019,” Bishop Stika said, adding that if any parishes are interested and request it, he will consider holding confirmations for them at the cathedral going forward.