Imagine your child is on a sports team, and their team advances to the championship game, which takes place three hours away. How would you react? You likely would be thrilled and celebrate! You would enthusiastically book a hotel room, pack up your car, maybe even take a vacation day or two, deal with the traffic and travel headaches, and stand there excited and proud as your child plays in the championship game and in the big-time stadium.
Your child receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion is that spiritual championship game for him or her. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield is that big-time stadium. Traveling to the Mother Church of our diocese for your child to be sealed with the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord) and receive Jesus wholly and entirely present in the Eucharist (the source and summit of our faith) for the first time, is really one of the most important days for their relationship with God. The Cathedral, as the Mother Church of our diocese, is a local symbol of our universal faith. So, it is perfectly fitting for the occasion and will help provide a powerful and spiritually uplifting experience for everyone.
Bishop Paprocki cares most importantly about the souls entrusted to his responsibility in our diocese. The old system was not working well due to the amount of parishes and geography of the diocese. Scheduling Confirmations and First Holy Communions across 28 counties and 129 parishes every year created scheduling issues not only for Bishop Paprocki, but the parishes as well. While this change helps with scheduling, the main reason for taking Confirmation and First Holy Communion to the Cathedral is to create an opportunity for an amazing pilgrimage for third-graders (and their families). This experience will boost their faith to new levels and lock in their spiritual compass toward authentic discipleship and holiness at a young age.
A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place to come to know God better. Every Catholic should visit their Mother Church, their Cathedral, at least once. Making a pilgrimage to the Mother Church is a spiritual journey. Our children, while on this journey, will be sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, will receive Jesus Christ for the first time in the Holy Eucharist and ultimately come to know God better.
The diocesan bishop, who is a successor of the Apostles, is a symbol of our connection and communion with the universal community of the Catholic Church throughout the world. So, it is fitting to celebrate the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion with the diocesan bishop at the Cathedral, the church that is also a diocesan symbol of our universal faith.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic impacting Confirmations that were on Bishop’s calendar in 2020, this change, which was being developed and discussed months before the pandemic, now allows for a natural and powerful transition starting in 2021. It’s an opportunity for all of us to help build the anticipation for our children!
This change also gives Bishop Paprocki more flexibility to make more parish visits every year across the diocese, allowing him more time at each parish to celebrate Mass, get to know parishioners, take questions, and hear what the parish is doing to advance our faith.
Confirmations and First Holy Communion will be scheduled on Tuesday evenings for parishes within 50 miles of Springfield and on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays of the month for parishes more than 50 miles from Springfield.
An exact number depends on how many children are receiving the sacraments. However, it’s anticipated the child, the sponsor, and several other family members will be able to come, perhaps more if it’s a smaller group of children.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception will live-stream all Confirmation/First Holy Communion Liturgies. Family and friends can watch the Mass LIVE at spicathedral.org.
Talk to your Pastor about hosting a local parish celebration the next Sunday or another Sunday after the children receive these sacraments, inviting the children to wear their First Holy Communion attire and pack the church with friends and family and the parish community.
Receiving these sacraments outside your parish community reminds us that these sacraments complete a person’s initiation into the Catholic faith, not into a parish congregation. The word “catholic” means “universal,” so we are part of this world-wide community of faith. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the diocesan symbol of our universal faith.
Therefore, receiving these sacraments at the Cathedral will be a powerful experience - an experience which will remind everyone that what we believe and how we live as Catholics must go beyond our local communities and into the world.
Each parish can bring their cantors and/or a choir for this momentous day. Once your day is scheduled, you will work with Mark Gifford, the director of Music at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, for anything music related. If you would like to bring readers or servers, you will work with Father Dominic Rankin, the Master of Ceremonies for Bishop Paprocki.
Sponsors must be ordinarily at least 16 years old, but exceptions can be made; a fully initiated Catholic (they must have been baptized, confirmed, and received their First Holy Communion - copies of certificates are not required); practicing the Catholic faith (if they are married, they must have been married in a Catholic Church); and willing to support the parents and this child in his/her spiritual life.