Retreat Offers Confirmation Candidates a Deeper Encounter with Christ


By Tony DeGol

As J.J. Steinbugl gets ready to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation in just a matter of months, a healthy relationship with the Lord is more important than ever.

“In our lives, we face a lot of adversity, and we face a lot of opportunity to sin, and I think that being close to God is a great thing for you, your person, your soul, and it can really save you and help you to be a better person,” Steinbugl insisted.

A parishioner of Saint Mary Parish in Altoona, Steinbugl was one of dozens of Confirmation candidates from throughout the Altoona Deanery to participate in a day-long retreat on November 20th at Saint Mary Parish. By the middle of the experience, J.J. was already giving it two thumbs up.

“I would say it has been a great experience getting to hang out with everyone my age and bond in our faith as we prepare for Confirmation,” he said.

Led by the Student Evangelization Networking Teams – or S.E.N.T. ministries at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, the retreat theme was: “I Believe: Fostering a Deeper Relationship with Jesus.”

“I think it’s a great thing to have people who are so close to us in age because they share our experiences, and they really can connect with us and get us to see God in the life that we had because they’re very similar to us,” Steinbugl added.

Chase Dorsett and Bridget Dutton are S.E.N.T. leaders who brought a team to be with the Altoona area Confirmation candidates and carry out the S.E.N.T. motto: Serve. Inspire. Evangelize.

“We like to have about 70 percent content based including talks, small groups, prayer, adoration, Mass, and Reconciliation, and 30 percent where it’s just time for them to enjoy themselves,” explained Dorsett. “Our big goal is to create an environment for them to encounter the Lord.”

The formation process for the Sacrament of Confirmation may sometimes seem daunting for the candidates and their parents, but the importance of preparing for that milestone moment should never be underestimated.

Candidates should not feel alone on their journey, Dutton insisted, and they should not feel that they are simply completing a check-list to receive the Holy Spirit.

“I want them to realize that Jesus is inviting them to do these things, and He wants to do them with them and for them,” she stated.

In concert with the Very Reverend Lubomir Strecok, VF, Dean of the Altoona Deanery, Directors of Religious Education from the participating parishes helped orchestrate the gathering. They were proud to offer the opportunity for their young parishioners.

“The deepest thing they’re going to carry with them for the rest of their lives is having that personal and intimate relationship with the Lord,” stressed Sister Linda LaMagna, CCW, Director of Religious Education at Saint Joseph Parish in Bellwood.

As preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation continues for the young people, it is important for them to realize that even after they receive the Holy Spirit in just a few months, their faith journey does not end.

“I want them to really see that their faith is such a center of who they are,” Sister Linda added. “Everything else circles around that.”

[Photos: (Top) A S.E.N.T. representative joins Confirmation candidates in quiet reflection during the retreat. (Inset)J.J. Steinbugl listens during a talk.]