REGINA — May and June were busy months for Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen as he held 53 confirmation celebrations in 50 parishes throughout the archdiocese.
Bishops traditionally celebrate the confirmations, but last year the archdiocese was between bishops so parish priests looked after the services. As the new bishop in town, Bolen decided to perform all the confirmations personally because he wants to visit as many parishes as possible. Unfortunately, there are not enough weekends in the year to get to all 131 parishes in the archdiocese, plus those on First Nations Reserves; he expects that it will take three years to visit them all.
Bolen said people can always find reasons why we can be discouraged, “but when you do the confirmation runs you see a lot of positive signs of life in the church.” He suggested that some of the children who were confirmed and received first communion are in families who don’t regularly attend mass — but, he pointed out, those parents and grandparents still see the sacraments as important for the life of their children: “It’s very encouraging to see all these young people taking steps to deepen their faith.”
He talked about the differences among the various celebrations. The largest group of candidates — 90 — came from Resurrection Parish in Regina, with at least two other city parishes close behind. Resurrection, Holy Trinity and Holy Family each had two classes of candidates, and in each case the celebrations were held on two consecutive evenings.
The large celebrations have a certain dynamic, Bolen said, while the small ones are like extended family gatherings. With the smaller celebrations, he tries to find a way to be easy on the candidates when he questions them. “When there are 50 kids there’s a lot of cover and you don’t have to answer questions if you don’t want to. There’s more pressure within smaller groups and I try to make it easier for them. It’s not my desire to make them feel awkward.”
The smallest number was one candidate at St. Elizabeth Parish in Killaly, and one in the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Parish in Val Marie. Killaly is in east-central Saskatchewan, about a 1.5-hour drive from Regina, and Val Marie is in the Cypress Hills area, some 3.5 hours from the capital, emphasizing the vastness of the archdiocese, which constitutes most of southern Saskatchewan. Bolen said he put about 5,000 kilometers on his vehicle during May and June.
He has a companion, a retired Knight of Columbus, who drives for him on long trips while he sometimes takes the opportunity to work on his laptop. The days get longer in May and June and he enjoys seeing the field work beginning and the greening of the prairie when the crops start to sprout.
“I think, overall, it went very well,” he said. Next year Bolen will reach out to different parishes to celebrate confirmations.