Pandemic forces new ways of doing confirmation, first Communions

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Pandemic forces new ways of doing confirmation, first Communions

When the Archdiocese of Chicago notified parishes in late June that those certified for public Masses could begin planning socially distanced first Communions, confirmations and receptions into the Catholic Church, pastors and their teams swung into action.
Father Andrew Liaugminas anoints the head of Savannah Silver during confirmation at Calvert House, 5735 S. University Ave., July 2, 2020. Calvert House is the Catholic chaplaincy for the University of Chicago. Liaugminas is the chaplain. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)
Father Andrew Liaugminas and Savannah Silver recite the Profession of Faith as Silver is received into full communion with the church during a Mass at Calvert House on July 2, 2020. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)

When the Archdiocese of Chicago notified parishes in late June that those certified for public Masses could begin planning socially distanced first Communions, confirmations and receptions into the Catholic Church, pastors and their teams swung into action.

Perhaps none moved as fast as the team at Calvert House, the Catholic campus ministry at the University of Chicago.

“It was important timing for us,” said Father Andrew Liaugminas, chaplain and director of Calvert House, which functions as a parish for the university community. “Our academic year ends in late June.”

That means that some of the people who had prepared to receive the sacraments at Calvert House — for years, in some cases — would be graduating and leaving the state or even the country. In normal years, with people received into the church at the Easter vigil and most first Communions and confirmations scheduled during the spring, that’s not an issue, Liaugminas said.

“It was very important that we be able to celebrate the sacraments with them,” he said.

Given the need for social distancing, Calvert House scheduled the sacraments of reception one or two people at a time, instead of in a large group. By July 1, Liaugminas had already celebrated two adult baptisms and three confirmations, in addition to an infant baptism. There was another baptism and confirmation planned for the first week of July, with more to follow.

Under the guidelines, pastors have been given the authority to administer the sacrament of confirmation for their parishioners who are ready to receive it through the end of 2020.

For parishioners at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich, that’s going to mean at least six different Masses, said Pam Lynch, the parish’s director of youth and young adult ministry and adult faith formation.

The parish had planned to have 130 mostly tenth graders confirmed by a bishop on April 18, the Saturday after Easter. Now the parish will confirm groups of no more than 25 young people at a time, with each of the confirmandi able to bring up to four guests, including their parents and sponsors. That means there will be at least six separate confirmation Masses.

“I’m still deciding on exact dates,” Lynch said, although the tentative plan was for the first Mass to be July 19. “I’m probably going to schedule them on three or four Sundays and one or two weekday evenings. Then I might wait and do one or two later in September or October, for people who have family members who aren’t comfortable coming to church yet.”

That will make for a packed liturgical schedule for St. Francis de Sales’ pastor, Father David Ryan, who will also be celebrating first Communion Masses over four consecutive Sundays starting July 19. That means that on some Sundays, the parish will have a regular morning Mass, an afternoon first Communion and a late afternoon or early evening confirmation.

The parish had 100 second graders who planned to make their first Communions in four Masses over two days in May, said Mimi McGlauchlin, the coordinator of religious education. Families will sign up for dates online, the same way parishioners sign up for Sunday Masses, and they will need to watch a video demonstrating the procedure for first Communion before they arrive.

“We usually do a rehearsal,” McGlauchlin said. “Doing a video means one less time we’re bringing people together.”

Under the archdiocesan guidelines, children are not to participate as liturgical ministers, so there will be no children serving at or dressing the altar, reading or bringing up the gifts.

“The kids are mostly worried about doing everything right,” she said. Still, “we’re talking about second graders in masks.”

The parish will get the ball rolling with sacraments of reception July 12, when the five people who participated in RCIA will be welcomed into the church, said Deacon Bob Arvidson. Three will be baptized and all of them will receive Communion and confirmation.

“Usually we do adult baptisms at our church by having them kneel in the shallow part of our font and pouring the water over their heads,” Arvidson said. “This is going to be different.”

The group has stayed in contact, meeting virtually while they wait to be welcomed into the church, he said.

“They took it very well, the disappointment,” Arvidson said. “They seem to be patiently waiting. They appreciate staying in contact with myself and with each other.”

Liaugminas said the extended wait to be received into the church has functioned as a sort of pre-mystagogia period for Calvert House’s catechumens and candidates.

“They seemed to stay with it more,” he said.

At St. Joseph Parish in Libertyville, all of the RCIA candidates were received at the 5 p.m. Mass June 28.

Among them was Scott Dotson, 61, who was married to his sponsor eight days earlier. The original plan, he said, was for him to enter the church at the Easter Vigil in April and get married in May.

That didn’t happen, but Dotson is glad they got there in the end.

“It was a lot of mixed feelings, a lot of happiness,” he said. “There was a peacefulness to it. It was nice to receive Communion and it was nice to be able to do it with my wife, who was my sponsor. Once you’ve prepared, when you’ve prepared for something for so long, it’s good and bad. It was great to be a member of the church and to have first Communion. I’ve really enjoyed RCIA and the things that I’ve learned have been eye-opening and incredibly meaningful. You kind of go through that door and say, ‘Okay, now what do I do?’”


  • sacraments
  • coronavirus
  • covid-19
  • parishes reopen

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