On the evening of March 20th in the Duke University Chapel, Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge confirmed 23 college students from various campuses in the Diocese of Raleigh. The total included 9 students from Duke, 3 from UNC-Chapel Hill, 1 from NCSU, 3 from Elon University, 1 from UNC-Wilmington and 6 from East Carolina University.
Fr. Joe Vetter, Campus Minister at Duke and Director of Campus Ministry for the Diocese, said that more college students were confirmed this year than last. At Duke the number tripled. This was the second year of a single Diocesan celebration of Confirmation for all college students in campus ministries. Before that, the sacrament was celebrated on individual campuses by campus ministers authorized to confirm.
”I think the number of confirmands, as well as the number of people baptized and confirmed at our respective Easter Vigils, is an indication of the effectiveness of campus ministry,” Fr. Vetter said. “Many of these students chose not to be confirmed when they were living at home and in high school because they had unresolved questions and did not feel ready to commit themselves to the Catholic faith. As active members of Catholic communities on their university campuses, these young people addressed their questions and concerns, deepened their faith and decided to complete the initiation process.”
Elisabetta Cooper, a freshman at Elon, said she felt as if Confirmation had “filled a void” in her life “with the love of God.”
“I was raised Catholic,” Cooper explained, “but didn’t go to church often. My mom wanted me to be confirmed when I was truly ready.” Recent difficult family events caused Cooper to turn to the Lord for healing. “Although some unfortunate events led to my decision to be confirmed,” she said, “I would not have given up this experience for the world, because I have come to know the unconditional love of God.”
Caitlin Beeler, a junior at Elon, welcomed “the opportunity to grow closer to God and to strengthen my faith. My sponsor said it might be years before the true meaning of Confirmation becomes clear to me, but the Holy Spirit will be guiding me in times of faith and darkness always. I use this message as encouragement and as a challenge to continue practicing and sharing the Catholic faith every day.”
Fr. Vetter believes that a great part of the success of campus ministry involves relationships: First, the relationship between campus ministers and the students and second, among the students. “Being surrounded by an active peer faith community makes a huge difference in the lives of young people who are forming their worldviews and values,” he said.
Elisa Ducket, a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, agrees. “After I began attending Mass at the Newman center I heard of the wonderful opportunity of being confirmed with other college students from the area. I thought to myself, I could wait until I'm ready to get married or I can take advantage of this opportunity now. I am so glad that I decided to get confirmed during college because now I realize how wonderful it is to be a part of a faith community.”
Another member of the UNC-Chapel Hill faith community, confirmed the same evening, was senior Cristina Villasmil. “I was baptized Catholic as a child,” Villasmil said, “but my family never really went to church regularly. In high school, I went sporadically to church, but my going was very dependent on whether my friends went or not. I did have a strong relationship with God through my childhood and teen years. I prayed often and depended on Him, but when I got to college I wanted to take it a step higher. I started going to the student Mass regularly at Newman over a year ago. Finally I wanted to ‘consummate’ in a sense my faith and relationship with God by becoming confirmed in the Catholic Church.”
Bishop Burbidge called the Confirmation of the 23 college students “a tremendous joy.”
“Their profound love for the Lord and their strong witness are sources of inspiration for all of us,” the Bishop said. “In them, you see the mysterious and miraculous plan God has for each of us and the joy that follows when we respond to Him, surrender ourselves to His Will and depend on His grace and the strength of the Holy Spirit.”
Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Campus Ministers and college students from six universities confirmed in ceremony at Duke University Chapel