For many teenagers who see the whole world set out before them with seemingly endless opportunity at their disposal, it is difficult not to get wrapped up in the pursuit of worldly success, status and selfish gains. It takes some serious determination, perseverant prayer and a strong support system to break free from the flow of secular society and all that it holds dear.
Thankfully, the Lord, through Holy Mother Church, has wisely gifted to us a sacrament that safeguards and guides those coming of age to their countercultural mission. That sacrament is Confirmation.
We start our relationship with Christ at our baptism, where our soul is changed permanently and filled with grace—God’s life within us. But it is only through the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation that those baptismal graces can be complete. It is through the sacrament that one is filled with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for spiritual strength, bound to the Church, and sent forth on one’s holy mission.
Like many teens, high school senior Hannah David of St. Joseph Parish in Adams-Friendship felt the draw of the world. A good student, athlete and volunteer at her parish, she felt like she was on the right track, but two unexpected curveballs came into her life to put everything in perspective and spark an evaluation of her life.
During her freshman year of high school, Hannah began Confirmation preparation classes at her parish. At the same time, she was quietly struggling with an eating disorder. Providentially, Hannah chose as her Confirmation sponsor her Aunt Sarah, who was instrumental in introducing Hannah to an unlikely source of support and encouragement for her health struggles: a seventh-century Irish princess—St. Dymphna.
A devotee of St. Dymphna herself, Sarah shared with Hannah about the life and example of young St. Dymphna, who she thought could be very helpful to her niece. St. Dymphna was indeed the intervention Hannah needed to overcome her eating disorder.
“St. Dymphna has interceded for me in such a way that if I get to heaven, I will have to owe at least part of it to her,” said Hannah. “I rarely give her enough thanksgiving, even though she has helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life that I have encountered yet. Because I owe so much to her and her powerful intercession and the mercy that has been blessed upon me, I have her as my Confirmation name.”
After a year of prayerful and powerful preparations, Hannah was confirmed her sophomore year in the spring of 2017 by Bishop William Patrick Callahan in a ceremony she will not soon forget. She admits, “Before Confirmation, I would say that I was very arrogant and closed off to the subject of Faith by my own personal choice. I did not want to reach out or even listen to the Word of God inside of me and around me. Simply put, I was just trying to please others.”
It has always been a priority for Hannah and her family to attend Mass together each week and be involved in parish life. She and her sister were involved in singing in the choir, lectoring and serving from an early age. But it took the graces and responsibilities of Confirmation to shake her out of her comfortable life where she was in control to be open to the unpredictable will of God.
“But, then something really happened after Confirmation,” Hannah explained, “perhaps part of it was knowing that I was now responsible for my own actions and that I was now a member of the Church by choice, not only just following my parents’ lead. I started reading more about my Faith and exploring how God was asking me to live my life. I started my journey on a consecration to our Mother Mary and started trying to change small things in my life. I’m still a work in progress, but I have to say that I have come a long way from where I was before getting confirmed.”
Hannah continues her previous parish commitments and now also teaches third grade religious education, where she excitedly shares her newly enlivened Faith with her students, attempting to keep them “engaged, on task and not bored” with fun activities, since she firmly believes “our Faith is not boring, so CCD should not be either!”
Hannah lives in Adams County, a very impoverished area of the state where 72% of students in the district receive free or reduced-price lunches. “Some students come to school and wear the same clothes every day because that’s all they have,” Hannah explained. Other students don’t have a meal to go home to after school. Thanks to a grant that Adams-Friendship Schools have received, the National Honor Society, of which Hannah is a part, runs a food pantry in the school. The pantry is open to local families on Monday evenings and students all week during school hours. Students are able to anonymously leave a backpack in the pantry to be filled by NHS officers like Hannah.
Through the experience of volunteering at the food pantry, Hannah has developed a heart for those she serves, many of whom are classmates. She recognizes that it is so important to be inclusive because everyone is dealing with some hardship in life and bearing some cross.
In Hannah’s study of her Faith and encounters with saints, she has found kindred spirits in Mother St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio and St. Francis of Assisi. “They all inspire me, and I wear the medals of the three of them on a necklace almost every day. I like to honestly think of them as my best friends who never leave my side when I feel lonely or when it has been a rough day. They all suffered tremendous amounts, and that makes me realize that my problems are nowhere near as bad as the suffering that they willingly endured. The biggest point of why I am devoted to these three though is because of the poorness they willingly accepted into their lives. I find this beautiful, and I hope to follow in their path of poverty if God’s plan for me allows.”
Hannah is close with her 14-year-old sister Arran, who is preparing to make her own Confirmation. The two are able to share and support one another in the Faith. To Arran and others preparing for their own personal Pentecost in the Sacrament of Confirmation, Hannah encourages them with these words learned through her own journey: “Don’t care so much how others are preparing or not preparing. Don’t compare. Open up. Don’t put on a show. God knows your heart. Go into the experience full force!”
Looking back at her journey, Hannah said, “In short, my Faith is driven by my will. I am a perfectionist and a worrier, and often times I find myself wondering how and what to believe, whether I am doing ‘enough’ in God’s eyes, and whether what I believe in is the right thing. But when I come to this point where I feel myself starting to waver in Faith, I realize that it is the worries themselves holding me back. Faith is about driving back those insecurities and fears. After all, God is not a fool. He knows everything we go through and sees every little action we do. But when we get past the complaining and excuses inside our head and just do it because we tell ourselves that we are going to do it no matter what, then God smiles because He knows that we are His servants, and for this He gives us a multitude of blessings and an abundance in strength for the next time we are weak.”
Story and photography by Amy Eichsteadt
I started reading more about my Faith and exploring how God was asking me to live my life. I started my journey on a consecration to our Mother Mary and started trying to change small things in my life.