Come Holy Ghost: Class receives Sacrament of Confirmation in hospital with leukemia patient

A Texas reader sent this my way, describing it as “awesome” — and she’s right.

Read on: 

Alexis Enriquez was sitting in a hospital room at Cook Children’s Medical Center May 14 when doctors delivered some disappointing news. The 15-year-old high school freshman, undergoing treatment for a third bout of leukemia, was scheduled for a curative bone marrow transplant May 24. But troubling lab results forced her medical team to postpone the surgery.

The setback would have devastated most people. Not Alexis. The hopeful teenager from Clifton, just northwest of Waco, found a silver lining in the situation. Preparing for a transplant would have meant high doses of chemotherapy followed by isolation to prevent infection. Instead, Alexis sat in the front pew of a hospital chapel on May 19 and received the Sacrament of Confirmation with the rest of her friends.

After spending two years studying catechism, attending retreats, and performing community service together, 11 Confirmation students at Holy Angels Church in Clifton told Trish Baum, the parish’s director of religious education, they didn’t want a large parish celebration. Receiving the sacrament alongside their hospitalized classmate was more important.

“It was their idea,” Baum said, recalling how the teens approached her about having the Confirmation Mass at Cook Children’s where Alexis has been a patient since February. Initially, the teenagers were told the ceremony might take place without their ailing friend. The bishop would confirm Alexis in Fort Worth, and they could drive up to witness the service. Baum asked the group to consider that scenario.

“They said, ‘no.’ We’re a class and we want to do this as a class,” the youth leader said, remembering the exchange. “Knowing how sick Alexis is, they didn’t want to do this without her.”

Baum wasn’t sure the group’s request for Confirmation in a hospital chapel was even possible. After receiving permission from Holy Angels pastor Father Tom Kennedy and Bishop Kevin Vann, the D.R.E. had to get the OK from hospital administrators and doctors treating Alexis’ leukemia.

Winning the approval of parents was another challenge. Moving the ceremony 100 miles away from Bosque County to Tarrant County meant a two-hour car ride for families and limiting the guest list. The intimate chapel, which has a unique feature, a tabernacle housing the Blessed Sacrament, comfortably seats about 35 people.

Today’s young people are often described as self-absorbed and self-entitled. Baum called the decision made by the Confirmation class “self-less.” Confirmation in the small, rural town is a big community event.

“Everyone is invited and there is a big reception in the hall,” she said explaining the parish celebration. “For 15-year-olds to consider putting someone else’s needs above their own is just amazing. I was surprised and proud.”

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