Cardinal confirms students from local campus ministries

BOSTON -- For Justin Solis, being confirmed in the Catholic Church was "a journey of self-discovery" that began when he was working on a farm on Long Island.

Solis, a 20-year-old political science and environmental studies student at Tufts University, was raised Catholic in upstate New York. He was baptized and received First Communion, but stopped attending religious education classes when he was in third grade.

"At that time, I wasn't ready to join the faith," he told The Pilot. "So I think, being a young kid, I just dropped it."

Solis spent the summer of 2023 working on the farm. During his downtime, he would read the Bible with an app on his phone. Discovering the message of loving thy neighbor and being immersed in the beauty of nature convinced him to become active again in the Catholic Church.

"Once I actually engaged with the text, I found that a lot of things (the Bible is) talking about are misrepresented in media," he said. "And I think it's too easy to just listen to what the media says and not actually go into the source and read the Bible firsthand."

On April 6, Solis and 24 other college students from throughout the Archdiocese of Boston received the sacrament of confirmation from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

The Mass, celebrated by Cardinal O'Malley, is an annual tradition for college students who wish to be confirmed. Students from eight schools -- Bentley University, Boston University, Bridgewater State University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, Regis College, Tufts University, and Umass Boston -- were joined by their families, friends, sponsors, and chaplains. The students renewed their baptismal promises before the cardinal laid his hands on them and anointed them with the sacred chrism oil.

"It feels great," Solis said. "I think a huge part of this for me was just being able to undertake something for essentially a year and being able to end up here, and just prove to myself that if I have something I want to follow through, I'll be able to do it. And it feels great to be a member of that community here."

Solis chose St. Christopher to be his confirmation saint, because his mother's name is Christina and because, growing up by the sea, he was familiar with the saint's veneration among sailors and fishermen.

"The big thing for me is just the idea that there's something bigger out there and that all my problems are kind of resolved under God," he said, "and that I don't need to stress about things that you normally do. Earthly pleasures are not the main goal here."

Father Eric Cadin, director of the Archdiocese of Boston's Office for Vocations and Office of University Missions, said that the presence of students from eight colleges and universities was "a wonderful sign for each and all of us. Certainly showing, in a deeper way, our Catholic faith in the community, but also the greater community that is our church in Boston and the world."

"It is absolutely wonderful to have you here," he said. "Thank you to all the families, friends who've joined, and especially those campus ministers and chaplains at their respective schools, for all the great work they've done."

Speaking to The Pilot, Solis said he was grateful to Lynn Cooper, the Catholic chaplain at Tufts University, for answering all his questions about the faith.

"She was super helpful with the idea that there doesn't need to be a solid answer for everything," he said. "I was looking for a lot of yes-no answers, and she conveyed the idea that it's a journey within yourself and that the answer is not always going to be super apparent."

Before Mass, Father Cadin instructed the candidates on how to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. He told them that if they forgot what to do, they could simply follow the person in front of them.

"Whoever's first, everything's on you," he joked.

The first candidate to be confirmed was Kellen Healey, an 18-year-old studying economics and finance at Bentley University in Waltham.

"I'm a little nervous," Healey told The Pilot, "but I'm sure it'll be fine."

Healey was raised Catholic and attended Mass frequently, but "faded away" from the church as he grew older.

"When I came to Bentley, I found a good group and came back to it," he said. "I wanted to finish my confirmation."

He can't say what exactly brought him to the faith, but he knows that he was called to it.

"I wanted to come back and get closer to God," he said.

He said that his father and sponsor, Joe Healey, emphasized the faith as Kellen was growing up.

"I think it's great," Joe Healey told The Pilot. "I think the fact he's choosing to do it at the age of 18 versus doing it traditionally when it would have been done, in the 10th grade, is, I think, a stronger symbol that this is what he's interested in doing."

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley said that in a society of individualism, the Catholic Church and its sacraments provide unity among people of every race, nationality, language, and culture.

"There's no solo flight for discipleship," he said. "Discipleship is sort of like a language. By being part of a community that speaks that language, Jesus has called us to be a community."

The cardinal said that science can explain many things, but it cannot give people an identity or sense of purpose.

"Only faith can answer these questions," he said, "and faith is the gift that the Lord gives us. And today in your confirmation, the Lord is strengthening your faith and calling you to a greater participation in the life of the community, a greater responsibility."

He compared the community offered by the church to the isolated rituals of those who say that they are "spiritual but not religious."

"Jesus didn't come and die on the cross so that we can have the warm fuzzies," he said. "He came to establish a people, a community of faith, where we have obligations to God and one another. And the Holy Spirit is the glue that keeps us together."

He told the candidates to obey Christ's commandments of loving God and loving their neighbor, and to attend Mass every Sunday.

"If you happen to be one of those Catholics who come to church only when they're hatched, matched, and dispatched," he said, "the gifts of the Spirit aren't going to be available to you in moments of trial, moments of decision, moments of temptation. Because it's in a community that the gifts of the Spirit are received and nurtured and grown in our hearts."

Cardinal O'Malley compared life to building an appliance -- it's difficult without an instruction manual. He said that God has given an instruction manual in the form of the 10 Commandments, and that by providing those rules to follow, God wants humanity to be happy. Serving others, the cardinal explained, will bring the candidates closer to happiness than simply worrying about "having fun."

"Our God is once again making the gift of himself to you in this sacrament," he said. "Open your hearts to receive that gift so that you can make a gift of yourselves to God and others. That is the only success in life. That is what will bring you meaning, happiness, and salvation."