It was my first day as the new Sacramento Area Regional Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. In the midst of tours of the building and paperwork, learning about the culture and focus of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry (which was, at that point, still part of the Department of Evangelization & Catechesis), I was asked to coordinate “Fired Up”, our annual Confirmation Conference, which would be taking place in February 2019.
Sacramento is the third diocese I’ve worked in since I began serving in youth and young adult ministry 14 years ago. In all of those years, I had never had the opportunity to take teens to a Confirmation Conference, but I was excited to help make such an important event happen. If I was going to coordinate the Confirmation Conference, though, first I had to know what is the point and purpose of “Fired Up”.
There are three main points: 1) giving students who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation an experience of being called by God to receive the Sacrament and 2) connecting directly with their bishop, not unlike the Rite of Election in the RCIA process, and 3) calling these students to engage in the period of continuing conversion and formation (mystagogia) following their Confirmation.
This is the perfect moment to address one of the frequent questions we receive: how is “Fired Up” different from a retreat or why do Confirmation students need to attend a retreat and “Fired Up”? The retreat that you will take your students on allows them to withdraw from the distractions and stresses of daily life so they can practice growing their spiritual life, deepening their relationship with God, and developing a more mature discipleship. So, the retreat is a fundamentally spiritual exercise that focuses on connecting students in an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.
The “Fired Up” Confirmation Conference, on the other hand, provides an opportunity for Bishop Soto to speak to the young people who are about to receive the gift of Confirmation and to call them to the sacrament. During that call, the Church, through the Bishop, recognizes and affirms that the gathered candidates “have the dispositions that make them fit to take part…in the sacraments of initiation” (119). In other words, it’s a chance for the Bishop to speak into the lives of your Confirmation students and say, “yes, you’re choosing to complete your initiation, but it is the Church who also chooses you.”
At 20-years-old, I went through Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in order to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. When I experienced the Rite of Election, one of the other impactful aspects of going through the rite, was getting a glimpse of how big our Church family is as I gathered with hundreds, if not 1,000+ other people going through the RCIA. Ask anyone who has been to a World Youth Day or regional conference like LA Youth Day or NCYC - there's something powerful that happens when hundreds or even thousands of teens gather at one time as Church to celebrate our faith, experience the joy of the Holy Spirit, listen to dynamic speakers, and pray together.
Once receiving all of the Sacraments of Initiation, neophytes (our newly, fully initiated members of the Church) go through a period of mystagogia – a time to reflect more deeply and pray on the mysteries of our faith. It can be really easy for our students to forget or ignore this aspect of the initiation process, especially for teens who are overscheduled and have multiple competing demands for their time and attention. Fired Up helps to call the students to continuing conversion and invites them to consider the “what’s next” after Confirmation – to prepare their hearts and minds for the period of mystagogia.
So, “Fired Up” gives Year 2 Confirmation students a glimpse of the reality that they are not alone in their faith journey and that, in being received fully into the Church, they are part of a universal family, that includes their parish or school, but also extends beyond their local church family. They are drawn into the excitement for Christ and His Church, with a focus upon connecting the student with their bishop, connecting with the more global Church, and calling them to see Confirmation as a beginning, rather than an end by how they respond once they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit at their Confirmation.
Register your parish/school today at www.confirmationconference.com.