Q: Why does the age that we receive confirmation vary in different dioceses?
A: If you travel the United States and happen to attend a liturgy where the sacrament of confirmation is being administered, you may recognize that the people being confirmed differ in age to our own diocese or other dioceses. As chief shepherd of our diocese, I am obliged to take care that the, “sacrament of confirmation is conferred on subjects who properly and reasonably seek it.” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 885).
In other words, as bishop, I exercise the pastoral care especially regarding the integrity of the sacrament. The age of confirmation in a specific diocese is at the discretion of the bishop which, of course, respects church law that requires the individual to have been baptized as well as to have reached the age of reason.
If you check with three different dioceses, you may see three different ages in which the subjects are confirmed. In order for us to have continuity in age for the sacrament of confirmation to be conferred in the Diocese of Steubenville, I have provided the directive that the common age for confirmation in our diocese is to be fifth grade, or the age equivalent. The sacrament of confirmation imprints a character on each person, strengthening them by the gift of the Holy Spirit as they continue their path as fellow Christians.
Q: Is being a bishop hard or confusing?
A: At times I can answer “yes” to either part of the question. I am a firm believer that if we are to serve Our Lord in the Christian vocation he has given us, then hard work is required. I cannot simply sit back and watch our brother priests exercise their pastoral care in the parishes without having myself personally involved in the everyday working of the diocese, which includes our parishes, schools and various care centers. As you may imagine, some days entail more extensive labor than others. Even prayer is hard work if we take it seriously.
As for confusing, there are times when I can receive mixed messages and, therefore, am in need of additional counsel. It is important to remember that your bishop depends on so many good and holy people. I am grateful for the grace from the Holy Spirit as your bishop to seek counsel from others such as our clergy, religious and laity. Please continue to remember me in prayer, especially at Mass, for the consequent gifts from your prayers make me a better bishop.
Q: Have you ever met the pope?
A: Yes, yes and yes. In December 1992, I had the honor to introduce my mother and father to (now saint) Pope John Paul II. My parents came to Rome, Italy, as I was ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Basilica by Cardinal (Aloysius) Hickey of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The second “yes” is when I had the opportunity to meet Pope Benedict XVI twice, once as a priest in Detroit and the second time as your bishop, after just completing “baby bishops’ school.” The third “yes” is for when I had the privilege to briefly greet Pope Francis on the Wednesday immediately following the canonizations of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II.
You may imagine that each moment is a remarkable time in my life, for one cannot replicate the privileged moment to greet the vicar of Christ. How humbled I am to also serve the pope now as one of his bishops.
In this extraordinary Ordinary Time may we deepen our encounter with Jesus Christ in our prayer and in our pastoral work. God bless you and your family.