Confirmation pilgrims take to Saint John streets

By  Samantha Hermack, Youth Speak News
  • December 12, 2008
{mosimage}SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation doesn’t usually mean joining 600 other youth for a day of talks and a walking pilgrimage through city streets.

But in Saint John, that is exactly what students did, converging at St. Malachy’s High School from towns across the diocese.

The diocesan event, now in its second year, was a day for students to grow in their faith and prepare for the sacrament of Confirmation. Some of the groups travelled for as long as three hours to attend the Nov. 23 event.

They started off by gathering in the gym of the high school, getting to know each other and breaking the ice with the help of the conference’s main speaker, Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the archdiocese of Toronto.

After several hours filled with inspirational talks, the youth made a 15-minute walking pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where Bishop Robert Harris presided over the Mass.

“People from many different religions do pilgrimages. It’s a way for them to become closer to God,” said MacCarthy.

He told the students it is necessary to have support while on that road to God, and stressed the importance of the youth getting to know each other and meeting other people who were also preparing for their Confirmation.

“You are climbing the ‘Majestic Mountain,’ the road is steep and rough. Do not travel alone; look for help along the way,” he added.

The catechetical/youth ministry co-ordinators of the diocese decided to begin hosting this event last year to better prepare youth about to be confirmed into the Catholic Church.

“When young people are preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, they usually have questions around it,” said Madelyn Ramier, the director of youth ministry for the diocese.

“The pilgrimage gives them an opportunity to meet with many others who are preparing for Confirmation and to meet their bishop before Confirmation.” 

To some of the youth, being confirmed was not something that they had thought was a big deal, and they didn’t see religion as something that applied to everyday life.

Their pilgrimage gave them a chance to see Confirmation as more than something that their parents forced them to do.

Although the youth arrived not knowing what to expect, the day seemed to have a positive effect on many students who say they got more than they expected.

“I saw friends there that I didn’t even know were Catholic, which was cool, and I hope to become better friends with them,” said Liam McCullough, a Confirmation candidate from St. Matthew parish in Grand Bay-Westfield.

Most of the responses from the youth were similar. When Harris asked 10 youth to share their feelings, some of them said that they “now realize that religion is a part of everyday life,” that it was “great to see so many Catholic friends” and that “Confirmation will mean a lot more” to them after their experience.

People in the Saint John diocese know that youth participate more in their faith when they know other young practising Catholics.

Ramier said they work hard to provide them with a chance to do so. 

“We believe that this is a worthwhile event to provide for our young people.

“It is an opportunity for them to connect with other Catholic youth and hopefully they will continue to see their faith and their church as an important part of their lives.”

(Hermack, 16, is a home-schooled student in Grand-Bay Westfield, N.B.)

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