independent

Monday 23 October 2017

Confirmation Day: Bringing together home, school and parish

By Maria pepper

Fr. Odhran Furlong outside St. Aidan's Cathedral in Enniscorthy.
Fr. Odhran Furlong outside St. Aidan's Cathedral in Enniscorthy.

Fr. Odhrán Furlong, the Administrator of St. Aidan's parish in Enniscorthy, had the biggest single group of 6th class pupils in the county to prepare for Confirmation this year.

A total of 90 young people from St. Aidan's national school made their Confirmation in the Cathedral last Saturday and Fr. Furlong helped to prepare them for their milestone event.

The Sacrament is still a big deal for the social media generation as they prepare to leave primary school behind and move into the pre-adult world, according to Fr. Furlong who has found working with Confirmation classes to be very rewarding and worthwhile.

'There is something very impressive about them as they are preparing. They are at a stage of life where you can really see the goodness in them. They are so open to positive influence, to doing right and being the best they can be,' he said.

The preparation for Confirmation is different now than it used to be.

'I'm 45 and when I made my Confirmation over 30 years ago, we would never have gone away for a day for a Confirmation retreat.'

All 90 of his charges from St. Aidan's school attended a day-long retreat in Ballyvaloo Retreat and Conference Centre in Blackwater which was tailor-made for them by a trained diocesan team.

During the day of prayer and reflection they were gently encouraged to focus on the spiritual aspect of their lives away from the noise of the classroom and playground.

'It was a very interesting and interactive day. There was excellent feedback. They really got a lot out of it. We would never have done that in our day,' he said.

Each of the pupils completed their own individual workbook as part of the preparation programme, filling it with drawings, essays and reflections. 'Confirmation brings together home, school and parish, encouraging young people to consider their contribution to each of them.'

Despite modern 12-year olds having access to an entire world of influences through the internet, they are still not much different than their counterparts who went through Confirmation in less technological times.

'As the saying goes, the school around the corner's just the same. Absolutely, they are still the same, when you peel back the layers,' said Fr. Furlong.

The Pledge taken by Confirmation children to abstain from alcohol has expanded to incorporate a promise to also stay away from drugs. The Pledge is taken silently and not out loud in front of peers.

'There is still a Pledge that is offered. It's their own choice. We encourage them to go home and discuss it with their families. They promise to abstain from alcohol until the legal drinking age and to stay away from illegal substances for life. The Bishop reads out the Pledge and if they want to take it, they do so silently.'

'We also get a person from the Pioneer Association to come in and talk to them. They get the chance to become Junior Pioneers if they want to.'

Fr. Furlong said the illegal substances pledge has been offered for a few years, to reflect the added challenges facing young people as they grow up.

The preparation for Confirmation is participatory with every child getting the opportunity to contribute in some way in the lead-up to the big day during a series of special Masses including a Ceremony of Light.

Asked whether hard cash is a hot topic among Confirmation participants who can expect a large financial windfall in money gifts from relatives, Fr. Furlong said: 'I purposely don't mention it. It's not part of our thing. The teachers would talk about the importance of being charitable and helping worthy causes.'

Wexford People

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