Parishes in western Oregon will begin preparing children for confirmation in seventh grade. The presbyteral council, an advisory body of priests, voted unanimously in favor of the change.

The sacrament has been conferred on high school students in Oregon for decades.

In a June 13 letter to priests, Archbishop Alexander Sample said a number of clergy and laity asked for the shift, which has already been put into effect in other places like the Archdiocese of Seattle, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

“Among the reasons that motivated this request were the desire that our youth receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as they transitioned through adolescence into adulthood, the opportunity for recipients to exercise the graces of Confirmation through meaningful Christian ministry during their high school years, and to ensure an increase in confirmed Catholics,” Archbishop Sample told western Oregon priests.

The archbishop said he wants to nix the perception that confirmation constitutes a graduation from the church and is primarily a personal choice.

Instead, the archbishop explained, confirmation is “the freely given gift of the Holy Spirit who desires all the baptized to share actively in the paschal mystery as authentic witnesses of Jesus in the world.”

Parishes have the option of making the change now or phasing it in, making sure in any case that no one is left out.