A Catholic and a Lutheran Confirmation Certificate

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Two Confirmation certificates show the important of the immigrant experience and the role played by religion in centering the immigrant. In Worcester, a Swedish Lutheran community was able to preserve its language. In Boston, a Catholic immigrant from Austria-Hungary was only accepted with her named changed to Smith. Both images are in their original frames and were undoubtedly displayed in the home.

Sophia Smith by Patrick McCurdy

Sophia Smith was born in Austria-Hungary where she was baptized and received her first Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Faith. She emmigrated to the United and as was common in many cases, her surname was most likely not Smith but was changed upon arrival at immigration services in the U.S. Shortly after her arrival in the United State, Sophia was confirmed. The examination of Sophia's confirmation certificate allows one to derive this information of Sophia's early life. The document also gives one a glimpse of what else was important in both her family and community at the time.

The certificate can quickly be identified as Catholic: in the pediment at the top of the print are found a crucifix and image of the Eucharist, the sacrament where bread and wine are spiritually changed into the body and blood of Christ. Below the two angels bowing before the Eucharist, are cherubs, which are also found in the bottom corners of the print. Enclosed in a frame of Baroque architecture, the largest and most central image on the print is that of children receiving their first communion. To the left and right of the Communion scene are St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, the parents of Jesus. Above Joseph is the Sacred Heart of Jesus and above the Virgin, the Sacred Heart of Mary, popular devotional concepts in the 19th century. Confirmation is depicted at the bottom of the document; on either side of the confirmation are scenes of boys and girls receiving instructions prior to receiving the sacrament. The children on the left appear to be renewing their baptismal vows, and the girl on the right receiving a scapula from a priest. Between the scenes of Communion and Confirmation are Confirmation Candles, Rosary beads, and a Bible. This creates a complex image to the viewer representing the awakening of one's faith and spiritual importance of these two sacraments.

Printed in Paris, Juasse-Label 29 rue du St. Sulpice, the chromolithograph certificate was nonetheless useful to a wide range of Catholic immigrants. The print was not originally .framed with glass as is evident by the surface stains. One notices the natural wood frame which, from the back, reveals that it was hand crafted. The frame has three beveled grooves that run parallel around the entire frame, carefully done, yet still with imperfections. The frame is distinctive and its owners would have hung this certificate proudly in their home and treasured it greatly.

Otto Pehrsson by Alexa Ferrer

A Swedish Confirmation certificate is dated May 25, 1902. An image like this one was designed for private audiences, especially those of the faithful devout Lutheran community. It is a decorative keepsake for a newly confirmed church member. This certificate acknowledges that Otto Pehrsson received Confirmation in the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Gethsemane Congregation of Worcester. The writing is in Swedish and documents Otto's Confirmation by Pastor E. J. Nystrom.

The date of this certificate is important because it sheds light on the history behind the significant Swedish immigration and influx of population into Worcester at the turn of the century. Worcester became the central city in New England that attracted Swedish immigrants. The city's Swedish population was double the size of any other city during the time this certificate was commissioned. There were two streams of Swedish migrants into Worcester at that time. These waves of movement into Worcester are a significant example of the importance of "networks and niche-building in the immigration process" (Meagher 217). The first company in search of skilled Swedish workers was the Washburn Moen Wire Works, the largest company in Worcester at that time. This facility had been using Swedish iron bar for quite some years and was in search of experienced wire and ironworkers. For this reason, many Swedes comprised of family and friends journeyed to Worcester. The second movement of Swedish workers came from pottery-making villages in the Hoganas region. These skilled potters were well favored by the Norton Company, which manufactured vitrified abrasives (Meagher 218). These factory jobs provided the Swedish population with strong connections to each other and prints like this one reaffirmed their relations to the faith community. The writing in the center of the certificate, "remember your ties" demonstrates to people the importance of staying rooted to the Swedish culture and the hard work ethic.

In terms of form, this certificate is an elaborately decorated and colorful print that illustrates the significant scenes of Christ's life, which were deemed important in the Lutheran faith. The two sacraments that Lutherans believe in and teach are Baptism and Holy Communion; both depicted in this certificate. Holy Baptism, the image on the right side shows Christ being baptized by John the Baptist. An illustration confirms that the sacrament begins one's faithful journey. Lutherans believe that baptism is a means of grace through which the Holy Spirit offers forgiveness. Through Holy Baptism, infants become children of God and through Confirmation adults become secure in their faith in Christ. The large image on the bottom depicts the Last Supper, the sacrament of Holy Communion. Lutherans believe that by receiving the gift of Christ's body and blood God acknowledges their faith. This sacrament is important in order for one to make the next step to Confirmation. The image on the left shows Jesus welcoming the little children, . teaching and blessing the members of his audience.

This document places importance on the significance of religion to members of the Lutheran Church while connecting them to the historical ties that brought Swedes to Worcester. Confirmation certificates like this often were passed down from one generation to another.

Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org
Meagher, Tomothy J. Inventing Irish America: Generation, Class and Ethnicity in a New England City 1880-1928. University of Notre Dame Press, 2001
Morgan, David and Promey, Sally M. Exhibiting the Visual Culture of American Religions. Valparaiso, IN, 2000.

Confirmation Certificate of Otto Heunk Pehrsan 1902 Swedish Lutheran
Worcester MA
Jag vill komma i håg mitt förbund (I will remember my ties)/ Härmed Intygas/ att Ott Heunk Pehrsan blef, efter behörig undervisning i Guds ord med ledning af Luthers Katekes ud Bibl. Historien Konfirmerad den 25:te Maj 1902 uti Worcester Mass, C. J. Svyseran, Pastor / Publisher: A P. Lundborg, Worcester, Mass. No. 6
I will remember my foundations. This certifies that Otto Huenk Pehrsan was, duly instructed in God's word with the guidance of Luther's Catechism and Bible History, confirmed on the 25th day of May 1902 in Worcester Mass. C.J. Svyseran, Pastor
15 x 11; original 1 inch frame, gold paint on wood

Confirmation Certificate of Sophia Smith ca. 1900 Catholic, French/Austrian
St. Mary's Church, Boston MA
Miss Sophia Smith Baptized in Smatyn M.B.S. Raplerzney received first Holy Communion in the Church of M. B. S. Raplerzney in Smatyn Austrya H. and the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation in St. Mary's Church, Boston Mass. / Publisher: Juasse-Label 3094 29 rue du St. Sulpice, Paris
Original frame; glass modern; original possibly did not have glass (paper stained)