Among their parents are a mechanic, a hospital housekeeper, a farmworker and a stay-at home mom. Iraiza Sanchez and Deisy Martinez, 15-year-old members of Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland, would rather work in medicine, perhaps as physicians, maybe as nurses.
But, like their parents, these high school freshmen plan to be serious lifelong Catholics. Even now, they are not the kind to hide their faith, even when it's awkward. Iraiza attends Gresham High and Deisy goes to Barlow.
"I feel like I'm really becoming part of this church," Iraiza says, having just been confirmed. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I am very happy."
Iraiza and Deisy were two of 46 young Catholics confirmed by Archbishop Alexander Sample April 18 at Ascension Church. A lively liturgy with drums, guitars and scores of bouncy children in the packed pews, it was Archbishop Sample's first confirmation rite as leader of western Oregon Catholics.
He told the mostly-Hispanic congregation he is delighted to experience the Archdiocese of Portland's "rich diversity of culture." He delivered a version of his confirmation instructions in Spanish.
The archbishop will be traveling across the region — from the California border to the Pacific and to Portland neighborhoods — to confirm more young people this spring.
Excited by the sacrament, he told students the story of Pentecost. "The disciples lost all of their fear because they were filled with the Holy Spirit," he said. "They didn't care what happened to them any more. My dear young people, this is the same gift you will be given tonight."
Telling the students that the Catholic Church is much bigger than their parishes, he reminded them that bishops, who have a direct line of succession to those apostles at Pentecost, are confirming young people all over the world.
"Tonight is not the end of anything," he said, imploring the youths to remain active at their parishes. "It's only a beginning of a whole new life in Jesus Christ." After Mass, the dozens of students and families surged to have photos taken with the 6-foot-2-inch archbishop.
Marcos Garcia, a 17-year-old student at Reynolds High School, was beaming as he stood with family after the rite, just beneath a massive mural depicting Jesus' Ascension. Asked what was most important from the evening, he simply said, "I'm confirmed now."