Sponsors immerse themselves in the same journey as their young people, and together they experience Christ’s call to live out mercy in their lives.
Questions, polls, and guide dialogue are addressed to the sponsors, as they reflect on answering the call to mercy in their own lives. All sponsors are put into one course so they can see one another’s responses.
Each module in the Sponsor Experience ends with Conversation Starter Questions for the sponsor and young person to discuss. Sponsors then meet with their young people regularly during Confirmation preparation to strengthen their relationship, reflect on their experience, and discuss how to apply their learnings in daily life.
Module 1: True Happiness
This module welcomes the sponsors to the Called to Mercy Sponsor Experience and explains how they will move through learning modules that parallel the student experience. Sponsors are led through the process of creating their unique profile and then through a discernment and clarification process to arrive at the meaning of true happiness.
Sponsors are invited to consider how love is most needed “in the shadows of society” and how we are called as missionary disciples to bring love to those most in need. Ultimately, sponsors are led to the meaning of the Sacrament of Confirmation, in the context of the Sacraments of initiation, as the sacrament that confirms our call to live as witnesses of God’s love in the world.
Module 2: The Gift of Happiness
In this module, sponsors explore how choosing the path of true happiness takes courage, strength, and resolve. They discover that the Gifts of the Spirit are actually foundations for a life of happiness. It takes courage to “do what’s right” in life, and this courage is one of the gifts, one of the graces, that God bestows on us.
Thus in the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are anointed with sacred oil, called Chrism, and in the anointing we are “sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Sponsors, like the young people, are led through a discernment of the Gifts of the Spirit and personal reflection on the need for the gifts in their own lives.
Module 3: Doing What We Believe
In this module, sponsors are again affirmed and encouraged in their role, having been chosen by a young person to serve as a sponsor, a witness of faith in the community. They are invited to recall and tell what they remember of their own Confirmation.
Through Bishop Frank’s call that at the heart of Confirmation is God’s call to “put into practice what you believe,” sponsors explore the inspirational stories of young people around the world who are putting their belief into practice through acts of mercy. Sponsors are then led into an exploration of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and led to see that the fruits of the Spirit are the signs of God’s love manifest in the world through witnesses of faith.
Module 4: Guides along the Way
This module leads sponsors into an exploration of the life of Jesus and his works of mercy and then into an inspirational contemplation on the lives of great spiritual women and men, particularly those canonized by the Church as models of the Church’s mission of giving witness to mercy.
Sponsors explore the meaning of the Catholic tradition of saints, the communion of saints, considering saints not as lofty models of unattainable holiness but as our friends and spiritual companions or guides. In the parallel student module, young people are led through a discernment of selecting a saint name as their Confirmation name. (Note: in some dioceses, young people choose a saint name, yet in other dioceses the young people use their baptismal name. Local Confirmation coordinators will communicate the practice of their diocese).
Module 5: When We Hurt
This module begins by inviting sponsors to consider times when they have been hurt by another and to consider how easy or hard it can be to forgive. They hear several powerful stories of forgiveness and then consider the question, “Could I forgive like this?” They also explore the ways in which they and their peers fall short of acting with love and mercy in their ordinary, daily life. Considering the reality of sin in this light, sponsors are invited to explore what a response of love looks like—forgiving unconditionally, as God does—in order to see that love restores brokenness, hurt, sorrow, and sinful action.
Bishop Frank invites them, along with their young person, to consider practical things they can do in this moment to heal the hurt of someone they know.
Module 6: What’s It All About?
In this module, sponsors are first led to consider for themselves the meaning of the term humandignity by exploring ways in which human dignity is diminished. They then enter the story of the Great Commandment and Jesus’ call to mercy as the action that builds up and restores human dignity.
Bishop Frank invites them to understand how “love helps a person to realize the dignity they already have” and that love is not something to be earned. We are born with dignity. Why? Because we are made in the image and likeness of God. Both sponsors and the young people are asked to consider the question, “Tomorrow, when you encounter someone in need of tenderness and mercy, what do you hope you will do in response given our call as people of faith?”
Module 7: It’s Me and We
This module allows sponsors to explore a common wonderment of many young people: Do I really need to be part of a community, the Church, to follow the call to mercy? Both the young people and sponsors first consider the ways they already live all aspects of their lives as part of a team, a group, or a community.
Then they explore models of the Church that expand their childhood notion of the Church as just a place where we go to Mass, arriving at a broader, more mature vision of the Church. Bishop Frank tackles the question and explores the idea of what it means when we ask, Am I more spiritual or more religious?—a common wonderment of young people. Ultimately, Bishop Frank leads them to think about that question in a new way and to think about how the community of the Church can support the authentic spiritual search for God. Sponsors are then led to reflect on not only how we need the Church but also how the Church needs us to fulfill its mission of being a witness and sacrament in the world.
Module 8: Beyond These Walls
Bishop Frank sets the stage for this introspective and reflective module as he calls the young people and sponsors to see that the Church nourishes them for one purpose: to leave the four walls of the Church, to go out and change the world by giving witness to God’s love and mercy.
Sponsors are presented the inspirational challenge of Pope Saint John Paul II to do one simple thing each day to make the world a better place. They are then invited to name one simple thing they will commit to doing right now as a first step. They explore stories of inspirational people who have taken up the call to mercy in profound and beautiful ways and are introduced to a young boy, Lucas Hobbs, who at the age of 12, while enduring treatment for cancer, was granted his Make-A-Wish Foundation request—to give back to those who show mercy to others every day of their lives. As Called to Mercy comes to a close, the young people and sponsors, in light of all their learning and contemplation, are asked to consider one last question: If you were to take up one cause to make the world a better place, what would that cause be and what would you do? They are invited to share stories of young people who are doing amazing things to make the world a better place.
Annually, Saint Mary’s Press will choose someone with a particularly inspiring story of mercy to receive a $1,000 gift to help support their project of mercy. Bishop Frank offers a final word of encouragement as he reminds the sponsors that even the things we do with the best of intentions that don’t work out still give glory to God because we tried.
Module 9: Confirmed to Witness Mercy
This module leads sponsors through the Order of Confirmation, highlighting and shedding light on the significant moments in the Order that tie into the call to merciful lives that they have explored through their preparation. The module is in part summative and introductory, allowing the sponsor to become familiar with the movement, words, actions, and language of the Order of Confirmation so that the liturgy may take on greater meaning and significance on the day of their young people are confirmed.