Sep 7, 2017

Catholic Confirmation at Mary Queen of Peace Church

Me, Archbishop Philip Hannan, and Georgette Pintado (Nanan)
In the Catholic tradition, young people get confirmed. It's the standard rite of passage for Catholic youth. You take some classes. You go on a field trip. You take on the name of a saint and you choose a sponsor to help support you in your Catholicity. At sixteen years old, I was confirmed at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville, Louisiana. The pastor was Father Ronnie Calkins - a really nice guy who I later knew better when I joined the Seminary. But that's another story.

As part of the naming tradition inherent in Catholic traditions when you take on a new spiritual identity, I chose Saint Benedict. I wanted to be a Benedictine monk so naturally, I chose the founder of Western monasticism as my patron. I actually did become a monk as an older adult, a life I lived until 2008. But, that too, is another story.

But back to the memory this photograph holds - My sponsor was Georgette Pintado, whom we all called Nanan. She took care of kids in her home - that was her job - but she also was a French immigrant to the United States after the Second World War - married an American serviceman and carved out a life for herself in Louisiana. She was a great friend to me. Nanan was larger than life. She had a booming personality and for some reason, she had taken a liking to me - I visited her a lot on Live Oak Street and we talked about everything from Princess Diana to climate change. She died in 2005 and I still miss her.

The unusual part of my confirmation is that I chose to do it myself.  Normally, parents send their kids to confirmation classes to make sure they get confirmed but because I was pretty much committed to my Catholic faith at an early age, I wanted to get confirmed. None of my brothers had done it - and I decided to ride my bike once a week to the parish church to make sure I had enough hours to get it done.


Like marriage, birth, and death, the initiation rite of Confirmation is a sacrament. So it's kind of a big deal in Catholicism - especially in Southern Louisiana where Catholic traditions are prominent. At the time, I was excited to do it because I was really interested in taking one more step towards adulthood. Even though I was still a junior in High School at the time, my mind and heart was already set on what I wanted to do in College and beyond. I wanted to be a priest. While that plan never panned out - I still have fond memories of this day.

The bishop who confirmed my class was kind of a big deal. He was the retired archbishop of New Orleans at the time and he was a legend. He had served in the Second World War as a chaplain and was a religious confidante to John F. Kennedy. People in New Orleans love him. He was like one of those revered older people that folks just sort of gravitate to.

The archbishop laid his hands on my head and confirmed me. I remember the faces of some of the other teens who were in my class, but I don't remember much else. There was Kristen and I think James. I don't remember who in my family was at the ceremony - maybe my mother came late? I

If I had to do it all over again I would have created my own confirmation ceremony in the backyard, replete with a choir singing the Hallelujah chorus and ministers reciting passages from my favorite poems. Then we would have eaten pizza and shouted for joy.

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