Bishop Stika resumes a full confirmation schedule as youth prepare to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
By Dan McWilliams
Bishop Richard F. Stika is back on the road conferring confirmations after COVID paused most of his celebrations of the sacrament last year, and no one may be any happier about it than he is.
“It’s great,” he said following a confirmation March 27 at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Madisonville. “I’ll be doing them every weekend and some days during the week. It’s just nice to be with the people. I much prefer to be with the people as opposed to being [alone] in the office, unless people come to visit me.”
Pastors were given the faculties to celebrate confirmations last year during the pandemic.
“I did some,” Bishop Stika said, “but with COVID and the uncertainty and the limitations on the people in the church, I just delegated the pastors to do it whenever they could, but I did some last year as well.”
Youth confirmation used to be reserved for teenagers, but younger kids are receiving the sacrament now.
“We shifted that a few years ago to fifth and sixth [grades], just because I think the gift of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, kids nowadays, children nowadays, need that extra help,” Bishop Stika said. “It’s working out fine.”
The post-COVID return to normal is “as normal as it could be” with the situation in Ukraine, the bishop said.
“We really have to pray for Ukraine and Russia because that could spread so easily. That has to be utmost in our prayer life,” he said.
The eight confirmandi at St. Joseph the Worker were excited to receive the sacrament, Bishop Stika pointed out.
“I can always see it in their eyes, and I see it in their parents and sponsors and with the photographs. It’s just a reflection of who we are,” he said.
St. Joseph the Worker pastor Father Julius Abuh and his parishioners welcomed the bishop to the Monroe County church.
“Today for us in our parish is a day of great joy, that we can have the successor of the Apostles in the person of Bishop Richard Stika come visit our parish, and not just a visit—he has come to perform the sacrament of confirmation on eight of our candidates,” Father Abuh said. “It makes the Church present, because the Church teaches that wherever the bishop is, there is the Church. We find his presence very gratifying.”
Everyone was excited over the bishop’s visit, he added.
“The kids and everybody and myself as the pastor, everybody—the general populace—they are so excited to see Bishop Stika today,” Father Abuh said. “All the parishioners, the families and friends of all those who have been confirmed, are so happy to see the bishop.”
Bishop Stika has a special affinity for the Madisonville parish’s patron saint.
“Since St. Joseph is one of my favorite saints, and since I love to travel to see all of the people in the diocese, which I’m doing now for confirmations, it’s a joy for me to be here with all of you as we celebrate the sacrament of confirmation with my sisters and brothers,” he said in his opening remarks.
The bishop celebrated the confirmation Mass before a standing-room-only gathering with Father Abuh concelebrating and Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey assisting.
Keith Feltz is the catechist for the St. Joseph the Worker confirmandi, and Jan Dye is the director of religious education. John McClure and Art Slouka proclaimed the readings, and cantor Jodi Swiderek, guitarist Ben Swiderek, and pianist Lynn Kyker provided the music.
Mr. Feltz presented the candidates for confirmation to the bishop.
“I present to you these young people of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, who have completed a period of preparation for confirmation,” he said. “They have deepened their knowledge of Jesus Christ . . . and they have been supported by the prayers and example of our parish community.”
The bishop began his homily by offering the confirmandi “my prayerful congratulations.”
He also told them that “God in his infinite wisdom knows that we need help. That is why we celebrate the confirmation that we’ll celebrate with all of you. The Holy Spirit, that unpredictable force that God, through Jesus, promised when Jesus ascended to His Father, that unpredictable force gives us that assistance.”
Bishop Stika did ask the assembly to notify him of one potential occurrence as referenced in Scripture. “If anybody sees tongues of fire, let me know.”
The bishop had a prayer for the confirmandi.
“During this Lenten season, as we pray with you, my sisters and brothers to be confirmed, my prayer for you is that you might always turn to the Lord and ask for His help and celebrate His presence with you daily, moment to moment,” he said.
Bishop Stika said that at the chrismation, the anointing of the confirmandi’s foreheads with sacred chrism, the youth would be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit as he greeted them by their confirmation names.
“So now you’ll have a special relationship with that saint for the rest of your lives,” he said. “God willing, someday you’ll meet them in heaven, and they’ll say, ‘Thanks—thanks for honoring me.’ The way you can honor that saint is how you choose to live your lives in goodness.”
After confirmation, the bishop told the eight young people, “You’re going to leave, and you’re going to make all kinds of decisions for the rest of your life. It’s our prayer that you’ll always include God in those decisions. And in those moments when you sin, and if you’re truly sorry and you confess that sin, God forgives because He is also a God of mercy.”
In the confirmation rite, Bishop Stika asked the eight youth several questions, to which each answered, “I do.”
“My sisters and brothers, I ask you, do you renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises? Do you believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, who rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who today in this Church of St. Joseph the Worker, through the sacrament of confirmation, is given to you in a special way, just as it was given to the Apostles on that day of Pentecost? Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?”
The bishop continued.
“My friends, this is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
He then invoked the Holy Spirit.
“Dearly beloved, let us now pray to God, the Almighty Father, for these His adopted sons and daughters, already born again to eternal life in baptism, that He will graciously pour out the Holy Spirit upon them . . . and to confirm them with His many gifts and that through this anointing conform them more closely to Christ, the Son of God.”
At the end of Mass, Bishop Stika complimented Mrs. Swiderek, the cantor, who also played harmonica during the liturgy.
“I have to tell you—I love the harmonica,” the bishop said.
The diocesan shepherd also shared, with an eye on the back of the nave, a hope he has for the future of St. Joseph the Worker Church.
“I have this vision that someday I’ll come here and you’ll push out that brick, that wall, and increase the size of the church,” Bishop Stika said, quickly adding: “Don’t worry, I’m not announcing the fundraising, but I know someday it will happen because God is with us.”