April 28, 2008 – A Spirit-Filled Evening

Did you here a unusual noise about 9:00PM Monday evening?  It may have been a collective sigh of relief from the halls of the buildings that make up our parish.  Our Confirmation ceremony has now come and gone, and as promised, I would like to share my thoughts on the evening.

It was a good omen about the middle of the afternoon when the rain that was forecast never really materialized, the clouds parted, and the sun shined brightly.  You could feel that the Holy Spirit was going to be present in a special way for us this evening.

The Confirmation Mass did not begin until 7:00PM, but the candidates and teachers were in full swing by 5:30PM.  Once the gowns and the name tags are put on, it is time for pictures.  This part, admittedly, is one of my least favorite parts of the evening, but I put on my “best” face and made it through.  After pictures, the candidates returned to school to meet up with their sponsors, and it was time for us teachers to meet with Bishop Braxton.  The candidates each write a letter to the Bishop requesting that they be Confirmed.  The Bishop was complimentary of the letters, and rightfully so.  There were some intriguing and inspiring stories of faith in the letters which left all of us very impressed.  After our meeting, it was time for the Bishop to meet with the candidates and sponsors.  The Bishop did a very good job putting the kids at ease and letting them know what was expected of them.

It was then time for the Confirmation Mass.  I can honestly say that everything went off without a hitch.  The music provided by Del Girard was excellent, and the church sang in a loud voice.  There was a wonderful sense of reverence present in the church.  Bishop Braxton gave a very nice homily, and asked some very good questions of the kids.  The kids did a FANTASTIC job answering the Bishop’s questions.  Teachers, clergy, parents, and relatives had to be so proud.  We may have to sweep the buttons up off of the church floor froom everyone’s chests swelling with pride.  It was then time for the most important part of the evening, when the Bishop sealed the candidates with the oil of Chrism.  Personally, as a teacher, this is the moment that gives me the most pride, to see my class who had worked so hard for 8 months receive their reward.

After Mass, it was time for the reception.  I can remember in years past when there was not a large crowd at the reception, and it seemed that everyone left early.  Not so this year.  Most everyone came over and enjoyed themselves.  Bishop Braxton came in for pictures with the Confirmandi and greeted folks before his departure.  All in all, it was a great evening, one that will be etched in my memory for a long time. 

Many people deserve thank you’s for this blessed evening.  I first have to thank Bishop Edward Braxton for doing a very good job with the kids and for showing a “personable” side that many may have not seen before.  One evening does not cure our ills, and there certainly remain many differences to be addressed and prayed for, particularly between our dedicated clergy and our Diocesan leader.  This does not take away from the fact, however, that our Bishop is an excellent theologian and educator, and these qualities shined through on this night.  Let us pray that this may be a beginning toward a healing that our Diocese is in need of.

I would like to thank Fr. Gene for his hard work in preparing for Confirmation, and for the care he shows to our children in making sure that their faith experience is memorable.  I also personally thank you, Fr. Gene, for your encouraging words to me as we prepared for this day.  I treasure our friendship (and your uplifting e-mails)!

I thank our Director of Religious Education, Cheryl Gross, for the long hours of dedicated work that she puts into not only preparing the Confirmation class, but in overseeing all aspects of religious education in our parish.  We are blessed to have someone with the gifts that she brings to all of us.  Thank you also to Brenda Congiardo, the catechist for our 7th/8th grade school children, for her inspiration to them and the knowledge that she imparts to them.  She has a wonderful relationship with the kids and it truly shows when the chips are down.  God Bless our dedicated staff!

I thank the parishioners of St. Mary’s who were in attendance for our Confirmation ceremony, and those who were not able to be in church but that were there in spirit and prayer.  Our parishioners are tremendous examples to our students, and I know that our students cannot help but be inspired by you.

I thank those who joined us from our cluster parish of St. Boniface in Evansville: Fr. Jack, the catechists, candidates and parishioners.   Their presence truly enhanced our liturgy, and showed that even amidst the declining number of clergy, fewer people in the pews, and other issues, that our Catholic faith can still be inspiring when we come together as one.

Finally, the largest thank you goes to the now newly Confirmed of our parish from our school and PSR program.  They did tremendously well in all aspects of the evening, and I know put in many long hours of studying, and probably hours of worrying as well.  They are deserving of our congratulations and our continued support as well.  If this group is an indicator of the future, our church will be in good hands.  Please congratulate them when you see them and let them know that they will always be a vital part of our parish.  Their names are listed on the home page at www.maryhoc.org.

As it is now past 11:00PM, I close with the words of Pope John XXIII: “Lord, the church belongs to you now.  I am going to bed.”





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