Questions about implementing the proper order of the sacraments of initiation are already being posed to our diocesan offices. At the heart of many of these queries is a care and concern about our desire to understand and successfully support parents, clergy, catechists, teachers and the entire parish community in each of their various roles tied to raising children in the faith.
Under the guidance of the diocesan Offices of Religious Education and the Hawaii Catholic Schools, catechists and teachers will work together to revise religion curriculum standards, policies, and review text books and supplemental teaching materials on the proper order. Diocesan offices will offer training and consultation in the use of educational resources and workshops on family ministry.
Grade-based faith formation classes in parishes and schools will continue. Preliminary preparation for Confirmation and first Holy Communion will take place at age six and a more intentional and focused preparation at age seven. Expectations for children receiving the sacraments will be age-appropriate. They should understand that their Baptism is being completed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and that they are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Also, diocesan offices will make recommendations and offer resources for preparing older children and adults who need to complete their initiation.
Included with these reforms will be a greater emphasis on family catechesis and active involvement in the parish. For some, this may require a shift in thinking, but the truth is that faith formation and sacramental preparation for children of all ages require parental involvement. This is not a new idea! Ever since Vatican II, the church has had a renewed emphasis on parents as the primary religious educators of their children. St. John Paul II constantly called for parishes (and schools) to help families become a domestic church, a place where faith is taught and lived both in word and deed.
On the role of parents and the parish, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states: “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at the early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children” (CCC 2225).
“Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents” (CCC 2226).
As parents grow in their own faith and understanding, they are better able to assist their child in doing the same. And as families deepen their relationship with Christ, then so too are our parish and school communities enlivened and enriched by their faith. With the implementation of the proper order of the sacraments of initiation, our parishes and schools are being asked to consider how we might create an even more welcoming environment for families — one that includes assisting parents with catechizing their children — one that empowers parents and children to live out their faith in the world.
Our series title “Offer, Strengthen, Sustain” refers to the intimate connection of the three sacraments of initiation. These sacraments mark the beginning of life in Christ. Jesus offers us life through the waters of Baptism. Jesus strengthens us in Confirmation and, of course, Jesus sustains us with his body and blood in the Eucharist. They infuse us with divine gifts — gifts that keep on giving throughout our life’s journey in faith.
Persons interested in learning more about implementing the proper order are encouraged to attend one of the listening sessions scheduled for their island. Most importantly, we ask you to offer a prayer of gratitude to God — it is he who offers, strengthens and sustains us … through the grace of the sacraments of initiation.
Jayne Mondoy is the diocesan director of the Office of Religious Education.