Cardinal confirms college students at cathedral

BOSTON -- The college and university students who gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on April 23 received a special gift for the Easter season: an outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the Rite of Confirmation celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.

The two dozen students, ranging from undergraduates to PhD candidates, were received into the Catholic Church during a special Mass. Accompanied by their family, friends, and campus ministers, they represented eight different schools: Bentley University, Boston University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Regis College, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley spoke to the candidates about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the importance of following the commandments, which he said lead to both happiness and holiness.

He pointed out that in Jesus' post-Resurrection appearance to the apostles in the upper room, "The very first gift of the risen Lord is the Holy Spirit."

"This is what Confirmation is about: God making a gift to us," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He encouraged the candidates to live out the Ten Commandments, with particular emphasis on the Third Commandment, "Keep holy the sabbath," which he said would help them live out the others.

"Come to Mass on Sunday. Live your faith by being part of a faith-filled community. The gifts of the Spirit are discerned and bestowed and cultivated only in the context of a community," the cardinal said.

He said the grace of confirmation helps in living a holy life and discerning one's vocation.

He encouraged those who are called to marriage to "Ask the Lord to help you to find the right person. Pray to the Holy Spirit to help you be the right person, and cultivate those virtues of generosity, and love, and capacity to forgive as a preparation for your marriage."

"Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to find what God is calling you to do with your life. Use the gifts of the Spirit to transform your life so you can help to transform the world," Cardinal O'Malley said.

After the homily, the candidates renewed their baptismal vows and were anointed with holy chrism.

Lynn Cooper served as sponsor proxy for five students of Tufts University, where she is the Catholic chaplain. Speaking to The Pilot after the Mass, she explained that many students have homes far away from the school, making it difficult for candidates' sponsors to travel and be present for the ceremony.

"It's so wonderful to have this option so that they can hold that person in their life who is inspiring, who is living a faithful witness to the gospel, and then I get the honor of standing in for this day," Cooper said.

She said that this year's candidates from Tufts were a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, including several seniors, a master's student, and a PhD student. A freshman was also accepted into the Church at the Easter vigil.

"It's been quite a rich year," Cooper said.

For Francesca Bisi, a graduate student at Tufts studying art history and museum studies, confirmation was the end of a road that began in her home church in Italy. She was born into a Catholic family, but they moved to the U.S. the year she was supposed to receive her first Communion. For years after that, she kept thinking, "I'll do it next year."

She decided to finally receive the sacraments after moving to Boston. But she had an additional obstacle: the church where she had been baptized was badly damaged by an earthquake in 2012, and many baptismal records were lost. It took many years for the necessary documents to be found.

Francesca told The Pilot she was grateful to be present and finally receive her confirmation.

"It feels like I've finally reached a milestone," she said.