“In all my years as bishop, confirmations have never gone quite as well,” said Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen. The Archbishop conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation in 29 parishes throughout the archdiocese this year.
Bolen made the focus of each occasion, “the many ways in which we can come to trust that God loves us, starting with how creation speaks to us, and how the human condition itselfis an expression of God’s love, and culminating in the boundless love of God revealed in the dying and rising of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit.” The children were engaged in a question and answer format that invited them to think about the many ways that God enters into a loving conversation with us, including the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation.
He said he is always mindful in Confirmation homilies that he is striving to speak to the kids at an age level they can understand, but also speaking to parents, some of whom who may have onlya loose association with the church, and so “this is an opportunity to try to talk about the integrity and credibility of the faith to the parents as well.”
Asked why he thought the season went so well, he thought it was the dialogueformat and the simple question of the ways in which God loves us. He also thought he was getting better at talking to young children.
“I have no training in teaching young children. Most of the kids are seven, eight, nine years old, and understanding the Incarnation is not an easy thing, so some of the answers were pretty funny,” said the Archbishop. “I’m learning but it’s been a steep learning curve.”
During the Confirmation question and answer sessions, he usually sat on the front step of the sanctuary and the confirmation candidates sat on the floor around him. “It was a kind of informal conversation on the ways in which we know that God loves us and the kids are delightful.”
The informal setting didn’t work as well with large groups, so in those situations the format was more traditional. Holy Family Parish in Regina had more than 90 candidates and was the largest group the archbishop confirmed. It was held over two nights.
One of several highlights in his confirmation journey was going as far as St. Stephen’s Parish in Consul. Consul is in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan, near the U.S. and Alberta borders. It is the furthest parish in the Archdiocese from the Archdiocese office – recorded in Google as 467 kilometers from Regina, a 4.5-hour drive. It’s near the Cypress Hills and the Grasslands national park.
“It’s a beautiful place. I was there shortly after Easter. I went for a little walk in the evening and heard the Meadowlarks singing. It was a reminder of the beauty of the province in springtime.”
He described St. Stephen’s as a little parish that perseveres. It is served out of Maple Creek about 80 kilometers north of Consul. “It was a reminderof the Church’s resilience and the resilience of the people of God trying to keep their parishes going and strong.”
Another highlight was a one-on-one he had with the only confirmation candidate at the Lestock annual pilgrimage. “I asked him if he would like to stay in his pew or join me in front of the congregation at the pilgrimage site. He was confident in his faith and said he would like to join me. I told him, if he wished, he could answer my questions quietly but he said, no, he would speak into the microphone, so we had a delightful conversation in front of the congregation and he did very well and the people were obviously very proud of him.”
Bolen started the Confirmation season shortly after Easter at Consul and ended at Claybank near the end of June. Archbishop Bolen has clearly enjoyed the Confirmation season this year, and particularly his interaction with the candidates.