Children benefit from CDA support of parish faith formation efforts
Charity and Development Appeal (CDA)
The CDA supports more than 70 charitable organizations connected to the Diocese of Phoenix.
By Gina Keating
The Catholic Sun
The Easter season ushers in renewed joy and grace made particularly evident through the sacrament of Confirmation.
The Holy Spirit, poured out on the Church 50 days after Jesus rose — on Pentecost — has been guiding the Church in carrying out its mission to lead people to salvation through Jesus.
Confirmation, together with Baptism and Eucharist, form the Sacraments of Initiation that are intimately connected.
In the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are “sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” and strengthened for service to the Body of Christ.
Msgr. Thomas Hever, retired pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, explained that Baptism begins the spiritual life, Eucharist nourishes the spiritual life and Confirmation strengthens the spiritual life.
“The work of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process,” Msgr. Hever said. “The Spirit works through people who are actively involved in doing Christ’s work in the world.”
That work — made manifest through the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, knowledge, courage, reverence and awe and wonder — is in the capable hands of 8-year-olds.
Since the Diocese of Phoenix restored the order of the Sacraments of Initiation in 2005, children in third grade are confirmed and receive Holy Communion.
The Church teaches that through the sacrament of Confirmation, there is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the faithful (Gifts of the Holy Spirit) and they are given strength to share the Good News.
“These children know the gifts and how they are working in their lives,” said Dcn. Jeffrey Arner, director of Religious Education at Our Lady of the Lake Parish, which had 38 children confirmed during a bilingual Mass April 23.
The church, located in Lake Havasu, last year received a grant of $35,000 from the Charity and Development Appeal in support of parish ministry and programs.
Dcn. Arner recently transitioned the religious education classes from traditional to a family-style program that catechizes the whole family.
“What really stands out … is what the Holy Spirit empowers the children to do; to be Christ-like to people around them. It’s the same Spirit that propelled the Apostles,” he said. “The children breathe life into the Church and it’s what keeps the Church vibrant and moving forward. It’s the Holy Spirit working through them and sharing God’s love.”
According to the Chancellor’s Office, last year 8,941 people were confirmed in parishes throughout the diocese, which includes third grade through adults.
Thanks to the generous contributions by parishioners to the CDA, parishes receive vital financial assistance to help pass on the faith.
“All parishes receive support from the CDA in various forms,” said Fr. Greg Schlarb, vicar of stewardship and pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“For some, support is given by providing training and resources for parish leaders as they instruct children and adults in the faith through catechetical, youth ministry and sacramental preparation programs. Others receive direct funding to support specific needs. Either way, the funding is providing many opportunities for the instruments of evangelization to journey with people seeking and bringing them to Christ.”
Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral received a $65,000 CDA-funded grant last year. Andrea Diaz, director of Faith Formation at the cathedral, provides whole family catechesis to about 500 children enrolled in kindergarten through sixth-grade. She said nearly 250 children spanning four Masses were recently confirmed.
“We need the grace now when facing our culture,” Diaz said. “They are not learning cute stories. Children are committing to God to be a saint and living that out.
“When we talk about the call to serve others, they see us serving with them and it says to them it’s doable,” she added. “It’s not about receiving, it’s about opening that gift of the Holy Spirit and cherishing it as Catholics and loving Jesus in their hearts as their best friend.”
Every baptized person has a mission, which is lived out through the service of others.
A St. Theresa student’s project made headlines (St. Vincent de Paul blog)
For the past eight years, third grade children preparing for Confirmation at St. Theresa Parish embrace their call to discipleship through a family service project. Efforts have included collecting cans for cash to benefit Valley animal shelters and saving allowance, then donating it to St. Vincent de Paul.
Ella Reithinger, a third-grader at St. Theresa School, chose a children’s emergency center, Mendy’s Place, to be the beneficiary of monies from her lemonade stand.
“What I learned from my project was that people are generous and willing to give to a good cause, and people are willing to receive,” Reithinger said. “Jesus has been generous by giving up His life for us, and His people receive. This continues to occur daily in our world.”
Msgr. Hever said the commissioning of the faithful during the Year of Mercy deepens the corporal and spiritual works of the Church.
“This is the age of the Spirit and that’s why it is so important we recognize His importance in our lives. Like children, we need to listen to the Scriptures and live out His words.”