“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…”. (John 14: 16-17)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
As you know each one of us has been called into communion with God through our Baptism, which submerges us into the Divine Trinity and calls us to a life of witness to Him in the world. By placing in our souls the seal of the Holy Spirit which is a pledge of eternal life, this sacrament illuminates us and makes us in a special way children of God called to grow in His love and return to Him in heaven.
Closely linked to the sacrament of Baptism is Confirmation which takes the gifts we received in that first sacrament and brings them to maturity and fulfillment with a special and new gift of the Holy Spirit. According to Pope Saint Paul VI, Confirmation empowers us to be “more perfectly bound to the Church… to spread and defend the faith both by word and deed, as true witnesses to Christ.” Along with this empowerment to give a greater witness to Christ, Confirmation deepens our intimacy with Jesus (which is the source of this witness), a union with Him which receives its greatest expression and grace in this life in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
We know the challenges our young people face today and have seen throughout history how even young children can show heroic virtue and strength in the face of enormous temptations and trials. I consider it crucial that our youth receive the strength of the sacrament of Confirmation as soon as possible to assist them in their lives.
Pope Saint Paul VI also reminded us of the intimate link of the Sacrament of Confirmation with the Holy Eucharist, saying that “is so closely linked to the Holy Eucharist that the faithful, after being signed by Holy Baptism and Confirmation, are incorporated fully into the Body of Christ through participation in the Eucharist.” I believe it is important to emphasize this connection between the sacraments of initiation which gives us a better understanding of their relationship to one another.
For these reasons, after consultation with the Presbyteral Council and having prayerfully considered it, I have decided to restore the Sacraments of Initiation to their original order, that is, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. I have issued the new Policy for the Restored Order of the Sacraments of Initiation, available on the Diocese of Gallup website.
The new policy will be implemented over the next three years. Beginning this Fall, 2019, all High School youth and those in 8th grade will be invited to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to be conferred the following Spring; Fall 2020 we will invite 6th grade and up; and the following year, 2021, 4th and up. In Fall 2022 the Restored Order of the Sacraments of Initiation should be fully implemented for all students in the 3rd grade where they will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist in the same celebration. In smaller parishes this schedule can be adjusted to allow for a quicker step down.
It is my prayer that these changes in the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation may be a source of holiness for young people in our communities while giving a greater witness to their faith and commitment to the Church.
I am grateful for your work and continued efforts to bring the Word of God and the sacraments to God’s People in these demanding times.
Bishop James S. Wall