Bishop Greg Bennet visited St Patrick’s Pakenham to confirm 20 young people, primarily ex-St Patrick’s Primary and St Clare’s Primary students, who have now moved on to high school on March 10.
“I met the Bishop for the first time and I was happy to know we were his first group of Confirmation recipients (in the diocese and since becoming Bishop),” said Pakenham Parishioner Vaughan Gridley.
Vaughan’s mother Bernadette Gridley said it was a long-awaited celebration for the candidates who had to show patience and resilience during COVID-19 restrictions.
Mrs Gridley said she was grateful to all who had help prepare the young people to be confirmed and that Bishop Bennet was accommodating of his time for a chat and photos after the spiritual and moving ceremony which was con-celebrated by Parish Priests Fr Janeesh Jose and Fr Paul Zahar.
The church, was filled in a COVIDsafe manner, with lots of people present to share their support.
“It was great to see some of my primary school teachers too!” said Vaughan.
Some parish weathered the COVID-19 disruption and found innovative ways to ensure young parishioners were still able to receive the sacraments.
Sponsor Rob Mure, Candidate Vaughan Gridley, Fr Paul Zaher (background) and Bishop Greg Bennet at St Patrick’s Pakenham.
The Eastern Region parishes used video technology to avoid gathering in person so preparation could still be completed, and the sacraments received by candidates in 2020.
Sacramental Coordinator Michelle Grimsted led a preparation program where students gathered with their parents and school teachers on Google Meets and Zoom.
Ms Grimsted said the program took an approach that is family centred, parish based, and school and catechist supported to prepare candidates for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
“We had a 100% attendance rate for each of the three sessions and the parent engagement was so encouraging to see,” she said.
Candidates watched videos online, prayed together and undertook a little craft activity as part of the preparation to enhance the children’s understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Candidates were sent a Sacramental gift packs which included a crucifix, candle, prayer card and a bottle of holy water, prepared resource books and activity sheets to assist families with the online sessions.
“It was great to be able to connect with the candidates and their families in what was a very difficult time,” she said.
REL’s Helen Renehan from St Brendan’s Lakes Entrance and Wendy Dean from St Mary’s Bairnsdale were integral to the school supported program, Ms Grimsted said.
The outcome was 28 young people were confirmed at Bairnsdale and 12 young people confirmed at Lakes Entrance confirmed by their Parish Priest Fr Michael Willemsen in late November 2020.
This year Eastern Region Parishes have already completed a reconciliation program in the last month for over 70 candidates and are preparing for approximately another 70 candidates to receive the Sacrament of First Holy Communion in May and June.
“Distance is a real issue for us here in the east and it isn’t always easy for families to get to the meetings.
“So the digital platform has been a wonderful gateway to be able to still connect and support families in the faith journey of their child,” Ms Grimsted concluded.
Other parishes, such as in the south of the Diocese St Laurence O’Toole Parish at Leongatha have also recommenced sacramental programs with a group of students recently completing their first Reconciliation.
Student from St Laurence O’Toole Primary School who made their first Reconciliation in late March with Fr Aju Varghese and Fr Bernard Buckley.