Children and the Sacraments

Many parishes have held confirmation and first communion celebrations during the Easter season. I still get questions about the pattern of sacramental initiation for children even though the current policy has been in place for many years.
In 1989 Archbishop Francis Rush issued new guidelines for the Archdiocese of Brisbane on the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation, eucharist and penance with children. Six years later, an extensive consultation and review process was undertaken. Some adaptations were made as a result, particularly in the area of introducing children to the first rite of reconciliation. The revised document was promulgated by Archbishop Bathersby as the official diocesan policy on the sacraments of confirmation, eucharist and penance with children on 24 May 1997.
The policy is based on several fundamental principles:

Since introduction to the Church's sacramental life is the means through which one enters more fully into the life of the faith community, the parish is responsible for the sacramental preparation of children.
Pastor, parents, and catechist all have a role in discerning a child’s readiness for the sacraments.
In keeping with our theological and liturgical tradition, confirmation is celebrated prior to the first reception of eucharist which is the climax of the initiation process.
The norm for first reception of the sacrament of penance is that it precedes admission to eucharist, even though it is an obligation only for the child who is conscious of grave sin.

This is the 12-point Sacramental Policy:
1. Children from about the age of seven years who are not baptised are enrolled in a modified catechumenate and are baptised, confirmed and admitted to eucharist in a single ceremony, usually at the Easter Vigil.
2. Children who are baptised as infants may be considered eligible for confirmation and first reception of eucharist from about the age of seven years.
3. Confirmation is celebrated together with, or just prior to, the first reception of eucharist.
4. The sacramental celebration is prepared for within a parish program that involves at least child and parents.
5. When readiness for the sacraments has been determined, each child is enrolled in the parish program for sacramental preparation.
6. Each child is expected to be receiving on-going catechesis both before and after the time of celebrating the sacraments.
7. The celebration of these sacraments involves the entire parish community, if possible during the Easter season.
8. The ordinary minister of the sacrament of confirmation is the bishop of the diocese which, in Brisbane, includes the archbishop and his auxiliaries.
9. The opportunity for the celebration of sacramental reconciliation precedes the first reception of eucharist.
10. At this stage, children will normally be introduced to the sacrament of penance through the communal (2nd) rite in a simplified form.
11. The principal parish program relating to the sacrament of penance will take place for those who are about ten years of age to prepare them for the celebration of the individual (1st) rite of reconciliation.
12. Greater pastoral flexibility will be required to cater for those who have an intellectual disability or other special needs.


Elizabeth Harrington