The 39th annual Spring Enrichment will be held May 14-17 at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. More than 110 courses, workshops and lectures are offered. Open to all, it includes certification courses for catechists and youth ministers, presentations on faith formation, keynote addresses and more. The full schedule appeared in the March 15 issue of The Evangelist and is also on the program's site. For information, call the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life, 453-6630, or email

• "Receive the Gift: Issues in Adolescent Confirmation" (May 14, 1 p.m.)
Even though adolescent confirmation has been called "a sacrament in search of a theology," its theology is actually well-defined, said a facilitator of a Spring Enrichment workshop on the subject.

Joyce Solimini is diocesan associate director of adult, intergenerational and sacramental catechesis. In her workshop, she and a youth minister will seek to dispel some myths associated with confirmation, describe the sacrament's history and explain why young Catholics around the country may be confirmed at different ages.

The theories that confirmation signifies personal achievement, a coming-of-age or a "graduation" from church are incorrect, Mrs. Solimini said: "It's not about being an adult. It's about being initiated on the road that you're on in your faith journey."

Confirmation is no more important than baptism or youth ministry, she said, and preparation for the sacrament shouldn't just create more hoops for teenagers to jump through.

Parishes need to draw youth in other ways, she said, asking: "How can our programs become more conducive to opening hearts to receive the gift of God?"

At different times, confirmation was also misunderstood to be a "sacrament of spirit" or a step to strengthen one's faith. But confirmation was once part of post-baptismal rites.

In fact, Orthodox and some Eastern Catholic churches still administer confirmation alongside baptism, but the Roman Catholic Church in the West separated the two sacraments after the first centuries.

Now, only bishops administer the sacrament. The Vatican has allowed individual U.S. bishops to determine the age - between seven and 18 - at which youth in their dioceses are confirmed.

In the Albany Diocese, it's been 10th grade or age 15 - at least since Bishop Howard J. Hubbard became bishop 35 years ago. Some bishops choose to confirm young people earlier.

Mrs. Solimini will explain the advantages and disadvantages of different ages; 15-year-olds, for example, have had time to learn about discipleship, leadership, social justice and service, but are at an age when they might rebel against anything that seems like "their parents' faith."

Mrs. Solomini believes faith formation programs need to be revised so they're less like school and more like church. In catechesis, children should be called "young parishioners" instead of "students."

Change "can be even as simple as language," she explained. "We've been in that mentality for so long that it's going to take generations to change."

• "Letting go of a Grudge" (May 15, 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.)
The producer of "The Big Question," a popular film on forgiveness, will return to the Albany Diocese to show participants at Spring Enrichment how to achieve forgiveness.

"You can cultivate compassion," Rev. Frank Desiderio, CSP, director of the Paulist Center in Boston, told The Evangelist.

A priest for 30 years, his assignments have included campus and parish ministry and leadership of his order's seminary and Paulist Productions.

Father Desiderio's interest in forgiveness was inspired by preaching the Gospel and discovering that many individuals struggle to overcome the obstacle of a sense of injustice, the sense that someone has wronged them.

His film, which debuted in 2008, featured people who faced tragedies and forgave their offenders and insight from scientists, psychologists and religious leaders.

At his retreats, he answers questions about the film and goes through the steps required to let go of hurt and resentment and ultimately forgive. There are three ways to "close the injustice gap," he said:

• the wrongdoer apologizes and offers restitution;

• the victim gets revenge; or

• the victim gives forgiveness.

To skip to the third option, he recommends reflecting on your feelings about someone you love and extending those feelings to someone you're trying to forgive.

At all of his retreats, he said, "Someone comes up with tears in their eyes and says, 'Thank you." His goal is to "move people to whatever the next step is for them individually."

This will be Father Desiderio's third visit to the Albany Diocese. His sister once worked for the diocesan Family Life Office, now part of the Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life.

• "Pastoral Visitation to the Mentally Ill" (May 14, 7 p.m.)
Rev. Thomas Konopka is a social worker, director of the diocesan Consultation Center in Albany and sacramental minister at St. Clare's parish in Colonie. He'll be leading a Spring Enrichment workshop on awareness of parishioners with mental illness and practical ways to address them.

Father Konopka said the mentally ill are a misunderstood and stigmatized population who "sort of go underground in a parish community. It's OK to say, 'I have cancer.' I don't know how comfortable we are with" hearing about conditions like bipolar disorder, depression or admission to a psychiatric hospital.

But, Father Konopka continued, "You have to deal with these people as people, not [as] a disease or a diagnosis."

Mental illnesses have physical components and should be treated pastorally like any other health issue or crisis, he explained. It's the same reason parish volunteers visit the sick: In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

"The outreach, I think, needs to be the same," Father Konopka said. "It's the sense of helping someone feel accepted and welcomed and cared about."

Parishioners should greet anyone they spot in church - even the quiet person in the back pew, Father Konopka said. That "creates an environment where people start to feel comfortable with who they are."

His workshop will highlight strategies to deal with erratic or suicidal behavior and integrate all types of individuals into parish life. Since about 12 to 18 percent of the population in the U.S. deals with depression, each parish most likely is home to a few such people, he said.

"How do you respond to that in a way that's kind but also helps them with their illness?" he noted.

Pastoral leadership "really needs to be aware of what's going on in other people's lives. It's not doing anything extra. It's just doing the pastoral ministry of being available. If they're comfortable approaching [priests], they're going to say something.

"A lot of people, I don't think, feel prepared," he continued. But persons with mental illnes are "not a population you necessarily need to be afraid of."

He told The Evangelist that parish leaders should know what services are available in their area, including therapists, hospitals, Catholic Charities counseling and mental health clinics.