Other Considerations

While the case for restored order is clear and urgent, there remain practical concerns and considerations that warrant further work and discussion. This brief summary is, by no means, intended to resolve each concern exhaustively. In fact, many of these issues need to be thoughtfully considered and addressed at a parish, school, or even family level. 

Impact to Catholic School Enrollment

Many educators, school benefactors, pastors, and parents have expressed concern that enrollment in Catholic schools will suffer as a result of earlier Confirmation.  Afterall, the question typically goes, why would parents keep paying tuition if there is no reason to stay for the sacraments?

A version of this question was asked of a representative for the Archdiocese of Denver at our Diocesan Adult Enrichment Conference (Denver has already rolled out restored order).  He noted that Denver Catholic school enrollment has increased since the rollout of restored order. He did not attribute the restored order as the cause, but, in point of fact, their school enrollment has increased, not decreased.  So it is clear that declining enrollment is not a necessary outcome of the restored order.

While it is logical to question whether school enrollment will suffer, it is also important to consider that most of our parishes already have a Parish School of Religion.  If sacramental preparation was the only reason, or even the primary reason, for a family to enroll their children in a Catholic school—and tuition is the primary concern (i.e., why keep paying tuition)—then the family could have already saved tuition by sending their children to public schools and using the PSR program.

In fact, there are many reasons why parents choose our Catholic schools. Chief among them should be the very mission of our schools to form the whole Christian person and handing on the Catholic faith.  This involves much, much more than preparing kids for the sacraments.  It influences our academics, our school culture and environment, our activities, etc.  Particularly in light of some of the emerging concerns about the way life is changing for our kids, this overall context of Catholic education needs to be presented afresh as a compelling alternative to concerned parents.

Formation and Religious Education Beyond 3rd Grade

Another frequent question is what we will do in our schools and PSR programs after 3rd grade.  Herein lies the revelation of a hidden problem and one of the greatest opportunities of restored order. If sacramental preparation is the exclusive focus of our schools and PSR programs, then we have missed the boat—and this might help explain why we are failing to form strong, adult Catholics who survive the wind and waves of our culture with their faith intact.  Without the focal point of sacramental preparation, our religion programs must become faith formation programs, with age-appropriate experience and challenges to stretch their minds and hearts toward increasingly depths of discipleship.  And, given the gifts of the Holy Spirit poured forth into our kids at a younger age, their readiness to embrace this challenge and for it to bear fruit in their lives should be increased. 

Rite of Passage and More Mature Faith Commitment

Many parents, educators, pastors, and youth ministers have witnessed the power of the overall experience our teen confirmandi have been blessed with in preparing for Confirmation.  The service projects, retreats, and other experiences have had profound impact for many young people.  Also, there is certainly a positive aspect to the cultural rite of passage in which a teenager makes a public affirmation of their faith.  That said, the lowering of the age of reception of Confirmation does not necessarily mean such experiences need to disappear.  It is highly encouraged, valuable, and impactful for parishes and schools to organize such experience for kids—including a possible ceremonial aspect---in order to preserve this positive dimension of the later Confirmation age. 

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