Diocesan News

Confirmation: The Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Road to Faith Formation

Father Michael Tedone, parochial vicar for St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church, called a car service to take him to the airport and it resulted in Zion and Olivia Lopez receiving first Communion. Now, Zion is preparing for confirmation. (Photos: Courtesy of Jeanneth Lopez)

MILL BASIN — Of all things, it was a car ride that started Zion Charles on the road to a closer commitment to his Catholic faith.

It all began when his mother, Jeanneth Lopez, a car service driver, was sent by her dispatcher to St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Mill Basin to pick up a parish priest, Father Michael Tedone, and drive him to Kennedy Airport one day last year. 

During that car ride, Father Tedone and Lopez got into a conversation about faith. And when the driver revealed that her two children, Zion and Olivia, were baptized Catholic yet never received holy Communion or confirmation, the priest talked her into enrolling them in the faith formation program at the church.

Zion, a 15-year-old freshman at Midwood High School, and his little sister received first Communion earlier this month and Zion is preparing for confirmation this fall.

Jeanneth Lopez said seeing her children, Zion and Olicia, receive first Communion was one of the happiest days of her life.

There are many roads Catholics take to arrive at confirmation, the sacrament that gives the faithful the gift of the Holy Spirit meant to strengthen their faith.

Some lucky Catholics get the chance to strengthen their faith together. For Norma Forde and her son Anthony, 25, confirmation at Mary, Queen of Heaven in Mill Basin on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, was a family affair. Mother and son were confirmed together.

One of the most joyful moments of Norma Forde’s life took place at her confirmation. Standing at the altar next to her in Mary, Queen of Heaven Church was her son Anthony.

“It was a plan for both Anthony and I to receive the sacrament at the same time, so we studied together and did our homework together,” Norma Forde explained.

She grew up in Haiti, one of 12 children, and was baptized and received Communion. But a family tragedy — her father’s death when she was a teenager — sidetracked her away from confirmation. 

“And throughout my life I know I’ve been blessed on many levels. And I realized that as I journey through this life, that receiving my confirmation is a gift that I always want to provide for myself,” she explained.

Getting behind the wheel of a car turned out to be a stroke of luck for Jeanneth Lopez and her family.

It turned out to be a gift she wanted her son Anthony to have — just not right away. Anthony is 25, more than a decade older than most confirmation candidates. 

“I wanted to make sure that Anthony fully understood the journey of confirmation, which is why we delayed the experience of him preparing,” said Forde, a licensed social worker.

When Anthony was ready, so was his mother. “It was the most beautiful experience, standing there together. My older son Andrew was our sponsor,” she recalled.

Anthony Forde, a student at Eastern Gateway Community College studying the performing arts, is glad confirmation happened when it did. 

“I’m lucky I didn’t get confirmed when I was a kid. I felt more prepared for confirmation now because I felt closer to God. I understand things better,” he said.

Anthony Rossetti, a seventh grader at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Academy, is relying on help from his favorite saint, St. Padre Pio, as he prepares for confirmation in the fall. He regularly prays for St. Padre Pio’s intercession to help him as he studies.

St. Padre Pio (1887-1968) was an Italian priest who bore the stigmata, the visible wounds Jesus suffered during the crucifixion. He is the patron saint of adolescents, stress relief, those with wintertime blues, and civil defense volunteers.

Norma Forde (right) said she is grateful for the guidance she and her son Anthony received from Father Thomas Leach, pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven Church, and Sister Mary Jane Rolston, OP, the faith formation director, and they studied for confirmation. (Photo: Courtesy of Norma Forde)

Anthony first learned about St. Padre Pio from his late grandmother, Rita Stumbo, a retired bookkeeper at St. Edmund Preparatory High School, and would join her as she asked for his intercession. 

“That was my connection to her, praying. And my connection to Padre Pio was through her,” he said.

“He had a saying that I really like, ‘Pray, hope, and don’t worry.’ I think about that a lot,” Anthony added.

The Rossettis keep many mementos of St. Padre Pio in their house, including a relic.

Anthony’s mom, Alaina Rossetti, a secretary at St. Edmund Prep, recalled that he helped take care of Stumbo when she became ill. 

“My mother lived with us and Anthony was close to her. He knew all of her medications and used to go to doctor’s appointments with her. And he was just a young boy at the time,” she said. Stumbo passed away in 2021.

One of Anthony Rossetti’s prized possessions is a relic of St. Padre Pio. His mother, Alaina Rossetti, said praying for the saint’s intercession has helped the family many times. (Photo: Courtesy of Alaina Rossetti)

As he looks forward to confirmation in the fall at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church, Anthony relies on St. Padre Pio. “He guides me through my faith. And teaches me how to continue my faith and spread my faith to other people, by my actions,” he said.

Zion Charles said he can’t help but think about how a simple car ride changed his life.

“We meet God by Him bringing people to us. That’s how Father Mike came into our lives,” he added.

Lopez, who drives for Eastland Car Service in Brooklyn, remembers picking up Father Tedone at the church and driving him to the airport. “He was going to Jamaica. His niece was getting married and he was going to perform the ceremony. It was one of those destination weddings. I picked him up and we talked while I was driving him,” she explained.

“I noticed that she spoke Spanish,” Father Tedone recalled. “So I told her, ‘We have a Spanish Mass at St. Bernard’s.’ I suggested that she come and bring her family.”

Lopez expressed an interest in attending the Spanish Mass and then she revealed to Father Tedone that her two children needed their sacraments. 

That was all the priest needed to hear. He offered to put her in touch with Melissa Wagner, the faith formation director of St. Bernard’s, and the rest fell into place. The family started attending Mass regularly and the children started faith formation classes.

“It’s funny how it happened,” Lopez said. “All I did was pick up a passenger. Look at what it has done for my family.”

For his part, Father Tedone refuses to take credit. “That wasn’t from me. That was from God,” he said.

Zion, who is eagerly looking forward to his confirmation, said it’s a giant step. “I think I will feel more grown up,” he added.