WICHITA, Kan.—Pope John Paul II's personal representative to the Catholic Church in the United States challenged hundreds of confirmation candidates to accept the responsibility of publicly professing their faith and accepting God in their lives. The fervent message came during an outdoor celebration of Mass in Wichita, Kan., where nearly 2,800 young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation May 3.

With an estimated crowd of more than 20,000 people looking on under clear skies and near-perfect weather conditions, Papal Pro-Nuncio Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan asked those gathered to seek the “superior perspective” in all things of life, including the human quest for beauty, power, and riches that is so attractive to the young people of the world today.

“Unless there is a superior perspective for these things and a vision for superior values, the youth cannot be good, and cannot be good people of tomorrow,” the archbishop said.

He joined Bishop Eugene Gerber, ordinary of Wichita and 17 other bishops and abbots from throughout the Midwest in administering the Sacrament of Confirmation during a Mass held at Cessna Stadium on the campus of Wichita State University. It was the single-largest gathering of Catholics in the 111-year history of the diocese and one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the United States this year.

Confirmation candidates processed into the stadium with their sponsors wearing white robes with a special medallion around their necks held with a red ribbon. Although approximately half of the candidates live in the Wichita area, many traveled up to three hours with family, friends, and other supporters to pray and participate in the Confirmation Mass.

The event dubbed “Confirmation ‘98” is one part of the Diocese of Wichita's process of spiritual preparation for the Jubilee called Disciples 2000. Because Pope John Paul II has designated 1998 as the Year of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Gerber decided it would be the ideal occasion to call together the entire diocesan family to celebrate the Holy Spirit, with a special emphasis on the Sacrament of Confirmation and its influence upon the young.

“I stand in awe and wonder at what has taken place here today,” the bishop said moments after the confirmation Mass ended. “I hope that the great out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our young people will prepare them even more to cross the threshold of the new millennium in which they will have such a wide influence.”

Archbishop Cacciavillan reminded members of the news media of Pope John Paul II's great love and esteem for the youth of the world today, and expressed his gratitude at having been invited to attend Confirmation ‘98 and serve as the principal celebrant of the Mass.

“This confirmation celebration was a very meaningful and beautiful message delivered to the city,” said Archbishop Cacciavillan. “Hopefully the youth will be the first to feel the responsibility now to profess their faith and their acceptance of God and the Spirit.” (Chuck Weber)