Preparing for a Sacrament: Day-Long Retreat Inspires Confirmation Candidates

posted January 5, 2017

On a frigid morning in December, Red Cloud parishioners from across the reservation gathered in the warmth of Christ the King Church, in the small community of Porcupine, SD. They came together for a day-long retreat designed to support a group of both young people and adults nearing the time of their Confirmation—the initiation rite when a Catholic is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Surrounded by their parents and other loved ones, the candidates spent the day preparing for this powerful rite of passage—and reflecting on their own spiritual path toward Confirmation.

“This retreat day was a true blessing by the Holy Spirit,” said Sister Connie Schmidt, SSND, Red Cloud’s assistant for evangelization and formation, who coordinates the Confirmation program on the Pine Ridge Reservation. “Our candidates took part in a number of activities aimed at knowing more about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and there was so much good energy among all who attended. As they prepare for Confirmation, it was wonderful to see our candidates gather encouragement from one another as they move through this important journey.”

Providing sound religious education and guidance is a central part of the work of Red Cloud’s parish and, in her role, Sister Connie focuses on ensuring that each candidate is prepared for Confirmation, both intellectually and spiritually. In order to prepare, each candidate takes part in a weekly class at their church and works with a catechist—a religious teacher—to understand more fully what it means to be confirmed. They also take part in more intensive retreats organized by Sister Connie, Pastoral Coordinator Veronica Valandra, and the parish catechists.  

According to Sister Connie, retreats like this one provide an opportunity for more focused reflection, as well as some fun. To spark their energy at the outset of the day, the candidates played a game of “Confirmation Jeopardy” to test how much they have learned about the sacrament through their preparation so far. Carol LaDeaux, the religious education coordinator at Sacred Heart Church, created the game for the retreat, and said she was thrilled to see how much the candidates already knew about Confirmation and its meaning.

Later in the day, Mackenzie Gibbons, a senior at Red Cloud High School, inspired participants by sharing her own person story and perspective on the spiritual importance of the sacrament. She was confirmed two years ago and explained to candidates that she believes, “Confirmation has made me much stronger.”

Beyond preparing candidates themselves, the retreat was also meant to help parents and relatives understand their role in helping their loved ones ready themselves for Confirmation. Parents, grandparents and others in attendance took part in their own session—and learned how they can encourage preparation activities at home and support their loved ones as they work toward Confirmation.

Each group of Confirmation candidates is truly unique. This cohort includes 16 students who attend schools across the reservation and range from 7th graders to seniors in high school, as well as two adults preparing for the sacrament. But regardless of their differences, Sister Connie says the group bonded in important ways and honored each other’s successes during the retreat. Toward the end of the day, the group prayed together during a special Mass for Confirmation candidates and their families. And finally, they celebrated the end of the retreat by enjoying a meal together—sharing stories and reflections over warm bowls of chicken noodle soup.

For Sister Connie, that sense of community plays an important part in the preparation process and represents a crucial source of support for candidates.

“These retreats are so important—and so I’m delighted our candidates will be able to participate in another one in April, just before their Confirmation on Sunday, May 7,” she said. “On that day, Bishop Gruss of the Diocese of Rapid City will come to Holy Rosary Church to confirm these candidates. Let us keep them in prayer as they continue on this journey."

Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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