Liliana Gutierrez, who lives with Down syndrome,  processes with the lectionary up the aisle during Mass. (Courtesy Lynn Gates)
Liliana Gutierrez, who lives with Down syndrome, processes with the lectionary up the aisle during Mass. (Courtesy Lynn Gates)

As everyone has had to do since the pandemic struck, the teens at Holy Family Parish in Southeast Portland who were set to be confirmed in the spring had to wait.

“It was hard not being able to go to church,” said Will Lundahl, a 15-year-old incoming sophomore at Lake Oswego High School.

The teen tried to pray every morning and night to grow closer to God, but he still missed the friends he was supposed to be getting confirmed alongside.

Lundahl described his confirmation as surreal.

“I feel so much closer with God,” Lundahl said, adding he was religious before receiving the sacrament. “It’s almost like I know him now.”

There were 31 teenagers from Holy Family set to be confirmed this year. Once in-person classes were cancelled, the classes were moved online with Zoom, the video conferencing application.

“We were able to meet as one big group, then do small group breakouts with the kids and their leaders,” said Krisi Christensen, youth and young adult ministry coordinator at the parish.”

The confirmation class leaders also reached out to the kids individually, asking each youth what prayers they could use and how their school, faith and social lives were being impacted by the pandemic.

“They were very appreciative and felt so loved and weren’t being forgotten during these difficult times,” said Christensen.

Since one big confirmation Mass at the parish wasn’t possible, the teens were broken up into smaller groups, being confirmed in 10 different confirmation Masses between July 18 and Aug. 2.

Lilian Gutierrez, a 15 year old living with down syndrome, was among the teens confirmed. The incoming sophomore at Portland’s Cleveland High School felt uncomfortable wearing a mask at her confirmation and couldn’t help but notice the small number of people present.

“But, I got to read the prayers and use the microphone,” she said. The Mass was special for her.

“I feel like I am growing up,” said Gutierrez.

The youths all played a part in their confirmation Masses.

“We all have a role at Mass,” said Christensen. “We all belong to Jesus Christ and his church. … Belonging is crucial for all of us, especially those who have special needs.”

The participation, she concluded, “is not just for them to have something to do but to show everyone that no matter your circumstance, we all belong to the body of Christ.”