Archdiocesan-wide confessions set for Sept. 14
Every church in the archdiocese is scheduling confessions for Sept. 14, beginning at 7 p.m. How did this archdiocesan initiative come about?
It was the result of two discussions. When we were talking about the Catholics Come Home program in Lent, we wanted to make sure that people who had been away from the church not only felt welcomed back to the family table but also to the sacrament of penance and to all of the blessings of the Catholic Church. There is great power in the sacrament of penance. God touches our brokenness and heals us and gives us new life. We were talking about how the number of confessions across the archdiocese probably would increase. That led into a discussion that sometimes we may not be making confession available at the most convenient times for people to come. Quite often confession is on a Saturday afternoon. That’s when the discussion went a little bit further – could we designate a time in the fall where every church throughout the whole archdiocese would have confessions? That might help those who can’t go on Saturday afternoons or those who have been putting off going to confession for whatever reason. I realize that some parishes have confessions every day, and some parishes have confessions on Sunday mornings, so I’m not in any way saying that the sacrament is not available. But the question is, how can we make it more available, given that it is such an important part of our tradition and such an important practice that Jesus calls us to. He calls us to bring our brokenness to him.
What suggestions would you have for Catholics who have not been to confession in quite awhile?
I think they should go into the confessional and simply say, “Father, I haven’t been to confession in a long time, and I might need some help. Could you help me examine my conscience? Could you help me go through the sacrament step by step because it’s been a long time?” All of us as priests have had those opportunities, and it really helps for a person to get that out. We as priests need to help them to feel more comfortable. That puts more responsibility on priests, but that allows us to walk with them.
Have you seen an increase in confessions since the Catholics Come Home program?
We asked pastors to evaluate the Catholics Come Home program, and without any hard statistics, their feeling was that confessions this past Lent were more than usual. Also, people outside of confession have said to me that they used the reminders provided by Catholics Come Home as a catalyst to go to confession. Catholics Come Home not only invited people back to the church who had been away for awhile but also reinvigorated active Catholics to become more appreciative of their faith and live their faith more deeply. In these very busy times we tend not to think of confession. Confession can take us out of our comfort zone because we go before God and another human being, who is representing Christ and the church, and we recount our wrongdoing. But confession is a rich sacrament where we experience God’s mercy.
By providing this evening of confession across the archdiocese are you indicating its importance?
Yes. In recent years, some dioceses during Lent have had at least one church in a deanery offering confession one night of the week. The Archdiocese of Washington has a program called “The Light is On.” It’s an excellent idea. The idea is that the confessional light is on each Wednesday of Lent, and the forgiving Christ is waiting to bring light into a person’s darkness. The sacrament of penance provides an opportunity for that light to shine through.