Fifteen parishioners of St. Brendan on the Lake in Newfane will be confirmed at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo on May 15, at 3 p.m. The parish's director of faith formation, Mary Palmer, its catechist, James Cantella, and two confirmation students see a special significance in being able to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation in the Diocese of Buffalo's mother church.
Jared Nowacki, a junior at Lockport High School, and Sarah Caltagirone, a junior at Newfane Senior High School, are among those who will be making their confirmation. The two students said the experience of taking confirmation classes has been a positive one. The classes have been using Decision Point, a confirmation program featuring Matthew Kelly.
"He has a lot of good stories. The kids seem to be really interested in him and like him," said Cantella, who noted the Dynamic Catholic's Australian accent helps add to his appeal.
Palmer said each year, the cathedral is open to each of the parishes for confirmation students, and it was Father Jozef Dudzik, pastor of St. Brendan on the Lake, who made the choice to have the confirmation ceremony at the cathedral.
"Some of our students have been there, some of our students have not, but it's a great chance to visit the mother church of the Diocese of Buffalo," Palmer said. "We're a smaller parish, so being able to see the larger Church helps our students realize that it's not just about the Church of Newfane."
Both students are optimistic about being confirmed at the cathedral.
"I think that's going to be a really great experience, knowing that it's not just in our area and it's open to everywhere," Caltagirone said.
Nowacki added that he feels this will be a very different experience than having a ceremony at their church since they will get to know other people in the faith.
As the parish's director of faith formation, Palmer has done research on the programs the parish uses and found the ones she feels would be best able to prepare her students. The team includes Palmer along with James and Maria Cantella.
"We're dedicated in showing a healthy marriage, the sacrament of matrimony, in our catechesis," Palmer said. "Some of our students come from broken homes, so it's finding the right people to guide our students on the way to confirmation. The youth ministers, I've had a chance to get to know them through convention and through some of the retreats we've done."
Cantella said, as a teacher, he believes the experience of seeing various aspects of the cathedral such as the architecture, statues and dedications will help those being confirmed.
"It's just a lot more realness," he said. "It's just so much to take in. It's really what their faith is, so much more than just a little church."
According to Palmer, confirmation preparation for the students also involved attending the 64th-annual Diocesan Youth Convention in Buffalo. The theme of the convention was "Know Mercy," and in honor of the Year of Mercy, teens were called to help others by performing corporal works of mercy.
"It's been widely known that sometimes confirmation is seen as graduation," Palmer said. "It's one more hoop to jump through, and it's having the opportunity to change the perspective. The confirmation is the jumping off point. It's not the end, it's the very beginning. It's about spirituality, and being confirmed out here is helping them understand that this is an anointing. It's an infusion of the Holy Spirit to give them the courage to live each day as a Catholic, not just jump through the hoops and feel obligated."
When Palmer asked the students if they plan to continue going to Mass after they are confirmed, both of them said they would do so in order to continue living their faith. Both also said they are excited about being able to celebrate the sacrament.
As adult Catholics in the Church, students will have more responsibility to live their faith by not only attending Mass, but doing other things such as giving to the poor and helping in their community, Nowacki said. He also noted these elements are also an important part of Catholicism.
"As a teacher, we are trying to prepare them. As husband and wife, we show them that they are going to be living their faith. You're getting help from everyone you can," Cantella said. "Your whole life has to be directed by the Spirit. It's really more of a sending off. It's not an ending, it's a beginning. They realize they have that much more spirit, that much more faith, that much more strength."