My son is a junior in high school. In our archdiocese, that is the chosen year for confirmation. His group is the second to go through the new program; prior to that confirmation was in eighth grade. On New Year's Eve we were at a party with a bunch of old friends. These are people we met through a Catholic singles group over twenty years ago. We all got married about the same time, and our kids (except my baby) are like stair steps, pretty much one after the other for a few years in there. We all go to church regularly and many of us are involved in our parishes in other ways. Except for my kids, all the kids go to Catholic school. In short, while I won't go so far as to judge the state of anyone's soul, I'd say that at least on paper, we are, as a group, better than average Catholics, at least in terms of time, effort and money spent in and around the church. I mention all of this because one topic we discussed was confirmation.
If you are reading this, and you aren't Catholic or familiar with Catholicism, Confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Spirit comes to you in a special way. It is the final sacrament of initiation, the other two being Baptism and Eucharist. As the name implies, it is also a time at which we are asked to confirm the decision made for us when we were baptized as infants.
All of my friends attend different parishes. We were discussing confirmation requirements. It seems that my parish's requirements are on the high side. Kids in Catholic schools are required to attend one Lifeteen Life Night per month(a particular one, not just any one), four classes their sophomore year and eight classes their junior year. They are also required to attend a weekend retreat as juniors. They have to earn service hours. Kids who are in public school have to attend Lifeteen every week for two years (during the school year) plus what the Catholic school kids do. Other parishes generally require some classes, and maybe a retreat. One friend said a bunch of parents at her son's school were comparing notes and trying to find the parish with the easiest requirements. Another friend said she heard the archdiocese was surprised at how few kids were confirmed last year (the first group under the new system). We basically agreed that it showed how little the archdiocesan leaders know about the lives of these kids.
In our area, Catholic high schools are the norm. However, it is not necessarily the norm to attend the nearest Catholic high school. Further, the boys' and girls' schools are generally separate. This means there isn't one school to which you can go and ask for a light homework load or no extracurriculars on a particular night or nights because many of the kids will be at confirmation. Further, it means that many of these kids leave home at or before 7 a.m. and get home, at best, after 3. They have sports practice, band practice, play practice, and club meetings before or after school. By their junior year the top students are taking heavy loads with lots of homework. Lots of kids have jobs after school. Yes, God should come before all of those things, but does that mean confirmation classes should? If a group of "church people" like my friends and I question the value of confirmation programs vs. the effort they require, what is the response of parents who don't value their faith? I suspect the lower confirmation numbers are the answer to that question.
My son is autistic. The DRE has basically agreed to waive whatever requirements need to be waived. For example, he did not attend the retreat (much to his relief, and I'm sure to the relief of those running the retreat too). My son has also decided he does not want to be confirmed because it cuts into his free time. I explained that he still had to go to all the classes, but in the end, he could make the decison. Confirmation is growing closer and he is no closer to changing his mind. I don't know why. He'd be aghast at the idea of missing mass on Sunday. He insists we pray before meals, no matter where we are. He does not want to be confirmed.