Thirty-nine candidates were presented yesterday for the Sacrament of Confirmation by Reverend John Frink, administrator of the Parish of Saint Jerome to His Excellency Bishop Edward Cullen, retired bishop of the Diocese of Allentown. Wearing red, the color of the Holy Spirit, candidates from Saint Jerome Regional School, the Tamaqua Area School District and Blue Mountain Area Middle School were anxious about the nine questions and their responses they memorized as part of their preparation. In honor of the recent election of Pope Francis I, Bishop Cullen indicated in his homily that he would not require the confirmandi to answer any questions. After an almost audible sigh of relief from the candidates, the bishop went on to describe the newly elected pope as a very holy man who follows the example of Jesus' compassion and humility.
The new pontiff and confirmandi have a special connection through their spiritual journeys. While the crowd in Saint Peter's Square eagerly awaited Pope Francis' first appearance, the families of the candidates were assembling to celebrate the reception of the third Sacrament of Initiation.
Two candidates, Charlie Davison and Matthew Smarr have another special connection to the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. Charlie and Matt had chosen the name "Francis" as their confirmation name.
The candidates may choose the name of a saint that exemplifies qualities of a good Christian, or they may retain their baptismal name. Matt, chose Francis of Assisi as his patron saint because of the number of people who became followers of Christ through Francis' example. Charlie remembered Francis' compassion to animals. Abbigale Agosti chose the feminine form, Francine, in honor of her sponsor. Sponsors help offer spiritual support and encouragement throughout the candidate's life. During the ceremony they stand behind the candidate and place their hand on their right shoulder as the bishop anoints their forehead with sacred chrism in the form of a cross.
Bishop Cullen did ask the students to answer one question as a group, "What is confirmation?" All thirty-nine stood and together began, "Bishop, Confirmation is the sacrament in which the Holy Spirit comes to us in a special way, to join us more closely to Jesus and His Church and to seal and strengthen us as Christ's witnesses." It was an answer that resonated with what had just happened behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel where one hundred and fifteen Princes of the Church, were guided in their selection by the Holy Spirit. Bishop Cullen noted that years earlier at another confirmation ceremony a young man named Jorge probably didn't realize that he would one day be following in the footsteps of Saint Peter as the two hundred and sixty-sixth Bishop of Rome. Viva il Papa! Long live the Pope!