Kristina DeNeve, diocesan adult faith formation coordinator, facilitates the “Restoring Proper Order” session at St. Ann Church, Kaneohe, July 7. (HCH photo | Darlene Dela Cruz)
Catechism classes, the involvement of youth in parishes, and sacramental preparation were among the topics addressed at “Restoring Proper Order” listening sessions taking place around the diocese in July and August.
Simply put, Restoring Proper Order is Bishop Larry Silva’s plan to lower the age of Confirmation — from the teen years to around 7 years old.
Right now, in every Hawaii parish except one, Confirmation is given to teenagers who have completed a two-year preparation program. However, the bishop wants to administer the sacrament to keiki before they receive their first Holy Communion.
It’s the “proper order” of the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation and Eucharist — the sequence the church originally intended, the bishop said. The goal of the Diocese of Honolulu is to have its members receive Confirmation “at the age of reason” alongside their first Confession and Communion.
“Our baptismal covenant with God is sealed in Confirmation,” Bishop Silva wrote in an April 24 letter in the Hawaii Catholic Herald. “The two sacraments go together like Easter and Pentecost.”
“Received third, the Holy Eucharist is then seen as the summit of initiation,” he said.
A few Mainland dioceses like Phoenix, Fargo and Denver have successfully corrected the order of their sacraments of initiation. Bishop Silva has been working for more than a year with a group of diocesan staff and clergy to take on the logistical and catechetical challenges of establishing proper order here.
They scheduled public “listening sessions” to get feedback from catechists, pastors and religious about the change. This summer, six sessions were held on four islands:
- July 7, St. Ann Church, Kaneohe, Oahu
- July 11, Sacred Hearts Church, Lanai City, Lanai
- Aug. 11, Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu
- Aug. 13, Immaculate Conception Church, Lihue, Kauai
- Aug. 19, Annunciation Church, Waimea, Big Island
- Aug. 20, St. Joseph Church, Hilo, Big Island
The sessions drew several hundred people total. Each meeting lasted 90 minutes. The diocesan team provided a brief presentation on the topic and allowed an open forum for questions and comments from attendees.
The meetings began with prayer and small group discussions led by Kristina DeNeve, diocesan adult faith formation coordinator.
Father William Kunisch, pastor of Resurrection of the Lord Parish in Waipio, Oahu, opened the presentation with historical and theological background on the Sacraments of Initiation.
The former director of the diocesan Office of Worship cited several church documents that call for administering Confirmation at the age of reason. Children are well prepared, he said, to receive the sacrament because Confirmation is a “sealing and strengthening of the Spirit given in Baptism.”
He addressed the misconception many Catholics have of Confirmation being a coming-of-age rite where teens affirm their faith. Confirmation, Father Kunisch explained, “is a not a sacrament of ‘my choosing God’ but of ‘God choosing me.’”
The priest noted that currently half of the children baptized in Hawaii do not go on to receive Confirmation. Providing the sacrament at the same age of Reconciliation and Eucharist will allow more Islanders to be in full communion with the church early on.
Father Kunisch touched on the example of the parish of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, which has been practicing proper order for almost two decades. The cathedral had been a “pilot parish” when the diocese earlier explored the possibility of initiating proper order. Parishioners there continue to embrace the practice today.
After Father Kunisch’s presentation, Jayne Mondoy, diocesan director of religious education, provided a list of proper order teaching resources and curriculum ideas.
Lisa Gomes, Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry director, spoke about comprehensive youth ministry. A huge challenge the diocese faces when it lowers the age for Confirmation is how to keep middle and high school students engaged in religious education without the “award” of a sacrament to give them.
Gomes has a full schedule of youth ministry training seminars posted at www.catholichawaii.org/oyyam/ym.
The director of the Office of Worship Deacon Modesto Cordero ended the presentation with a timetable and the logistics of the plan. A preliminary aim is to get all parishes on board with the sacramental shift by roughly 2021.
Parishes will be divided into groups, the deacon said, and changes will be made to their catechetical programs in phases.
The listening sessions raised a diverse array of questions from parishioners, catechists and pastors.
At St. Ann Church and St. Theresa Co-Cathedral, several catechists were concerned about the additional preparation for Confirmation required for young children. One longtime teacher at the St. Ann meeting said it may be “difficult cognitively” for 7-year-olds to retain what is taught for three sacraments.
Questions were also raised about the realities of parental involvement, catechist re-certification, priest orientations and the impact of proper order on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children and Adults, and Hawaii Catholic Schools programs.
The planning team will present these comments for further discussion with the bishop.
Three more listening sessions will be held in the coming months:
- Sept. 9, 7 p.m., Resurrection of the Lord Church, Waipio, Oahu
- Sept. 12, 10:30 a.m., St. Anthony Church, Wailuku, Maui
- Nov. 7, 1 p.m., St. Damien Church, Kaunakakai, Molokai
More information on Restoring Proper Order can be found on the diocesan website: http://www.catholichawaii.org/catholic-essentials/proper-order.aspx