Archdiocesan reconciliation services cast a wide net
The archdiocesan-wide night of confession Sept. 14 attracted large crowds of Catholics, including many who had not availed themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation in many years, parishes across the archdiocese reported.
“We had some people who had been away from reconciliation for quite a few years who came and really expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have this time available,” said Oblate Father Tony Rigoli, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on North Rampart Street.
At Our Lady of Divine Providence in Metairie, confession was offered for two hours in Spanish by Father José Roberto Gomez and in English by Father Mike Mitchell, pastor. Our Lady of Divine Providence also offered eucharistic adoration in the church.
Father Gomez heard about a dozen confessions in Spanish, and Father Mitchell heard about 30. Father Mitchell said some of his regular penitents came to the special weeknight service, “which demonstrates how powerful the sacrament is.
“There were also a number who had not been to reconciliation in anywhere from four to 10 years,” Father Mitchell said. “That speaks volumes to me about God’s mercy in this sacrament, since I had been one of those people who was away from the church and the sacraments for about 30 years before God called me back and then called me to the priesthood.”
Father Joseph Benson, pastor of Blessed Seelos Parish in Bywater, said he was amazed by the turnout at his church.
“Simple response – from the opening of the doors to their closing, a constant stream of people, all very simple in their approach and not taking up other people’s time,” Father Benson said. “A total of two hours and 45 minutes nonstop.”
At Our Lady of the Rosary Parish on Esplanade Avenue, Father David Robicheaux, pastor, and Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre offered confession to about 40 people.
“From my perspective, there were more than a few who celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation who had not been to confession for many years,” Father Robicheaux said. He called the evening “a wonderful opportunity to set time aside to reconnect with the grace of God in the ministry of reconciliation.”
Father Richard Maughan, pastor of St. James Major on Gentilly Boulevard, said he was a bit concerned when there was just one person waiting in line at 7 p.m.
“But my worries were unfounded,” Father Maughan said. “Then there was a constant flow of people, one immediately after the other, until 8:10, when it slowed, but it picked up again as we were getting close to 9 o’clock. Overall, it must be viewed as an overwhelming success.”
At Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Chalmette, Father Danny Digal heard the confessions of nearly 50 adults and two children. He said some of the people “hadn’t been to confession in over 25 years” and that they had heard about the evening from a friend.
Father Mike Roberson, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Parish in Algiers, was among those amazed by the night. He heard 20 confessions.
“It can best be described by the words touching, powerful, meaningful,” Father Roberson said. “During the experience I was extremely grateful and joyful for being a priest. It would be great to do it again.”
Additional feedback from parishes across the archdiocese:
Father José Roel Lungay, St. Genevieve, Slidell:
I thought the response of our parishioners was commendable in spite of the fact that we hear confessions before all Masses on weekends. I thanked them specially for coming and responding to the invitation to join in the celebration of "lights on" program, which fits beautifully with the day's feast of exaltation of the cross. Based on my tally, we had around 20-25 who came that night – two or three in response to the Catholics Come Home Program.
Father Michael Schneller, St. Ann, Metairie:
Father Luke Nguyen and I heard confessions for almost two hours. He had about 10 to 12. I heard 19 confessions. Not all were ishioners of St. Ann. Some were regular penitents. A couple had not gone in five years or more. No one had been estranged or alienated from the church. Because we are home to the St. Ann National Shrine, we offer an additional hour for confession every Tuesday evening. One penitent was grateful for the time offered. I will be looking for the comments of other priests.
Father Damian Hinojosa, Immaculate Conception, Marrero:
Here at Immaculate Conception in Marrero two priests were in the confessionals for one hour and 45 minutes. We were surprised at the large turnout, since we had anticipated fewer people. About 40 percent of the confessions were in Spanish. We promoted the reconciliation service extensively in both languages. This was a very special day in the life of our parish community.
Deacon Jere Crago, St. Catherine of Siena, Metairie:
Approximately 75 confessions – two priests, extended beyond the two-hour period. Father Gene Jacques recommends that this be done at least twice a year.
Msgr. Christopher Nalty, Good Shepherd, New Orleans:
With permission from the archbishop, Good Shepherd Parish exposed the Blessed Sacrament and began confessions at 4:45 p.m. and continued them until just before Mass at 7 p.m. After the Mass, I went back to the confessional until after 8 p.m. I think I probably heard about 25 confessions. We had a number of people who stayed for a lot of the period of expostion, and Mass was what we expect for a weekday evening. Confessions were about what I'd expect from Saturday evenings, given the amount of time I was there. Overall, I greatly appreciate the archbishop calling people back to the confessional in this way. And I think the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross is a perfect occasion to do it.
Father Gerard Stapleton, St. Patrick, Port Sulphur:
I began hearing confessions at St. Ann, Empire, at 5 p.m. In one hour, I had three for the sacrament. I celebrated Mass at 6:30 p.m. at St. Patrick in Port Sulphur, with confessions from 7 to 9 p.m. Ten came to celebrate the sacrament. I like the idea. I have tried it several times over the years, taking and devoting a weekday evening for confession or simply inviting parishioners to visit and chat. I will continue to offer it about four times in the course of the year. Thank you.
Msgr. Frank Lipps, Our Lady of Lourdes, Slidell:
Reconciliation on Wednesday, Sept. 14 was very successful. We had three priests and it was continuous from 7 to 9 p.m. It was well received. I would estimate 125 people.
Here at Annunciation, the reconciliation service went well. Our attendance was about 20 parishioners, which is good for us. The Catholics Come Home program was also successful for us. We have had several families return to church as a result of this program.
Father Paul Hart, St. Andrew the Apostle, New Orleans:
I was busy from 7 till a little after 9 p.m., with almost always someone waiting. It was an excellent turnout. We had also offered reconciliation during the Catholics Come Home Campaign during Lent every Wednesday night for an hour. We had an average of about eight people each Wednesday.
Raymond Ferro, administrative assistant, Most Holy Trinity, Covington:
We had approximately 75 to 100 people who came for reconciliation. Father Rodney Bourg and Father Dean Robins were the only two priests who heard confessions. We thought since all the churches were doing the same that attendance might be low, but we were pleased. We had no idea of what to expect.
Deacon Steve Ferran, Sacred Heart, Lacombe:
At Sacred Heart Parish in Lacombe, the evening began with the recitation of the rosary led by pastor, Father Kyle Dave. Following the rosary, parishioners and visitors heard a presentation entitled, “A World in Crisis,” given by Father Van Constant. This presentation reminded all present of the evil in the world and how our values are under attack by the culture of death, which is spreading throughout our society. Father reminded those present that the sacrament of reconciliation calls us to union with our loving God who is good always, who loves always and who is always ready to forgive. Through reconciliation, we are freed from sin and brought closer to our God. There were approximately 80 people present. Confessions continued until 9:40 p.m.
Msgr. Lanaux Rareshide, St. Margaret Mary, Slidell:
Two priests heard confessions for almost three hours without a break. We heard approximately 120 confessions. For many, it had been more than a year since their last confession. Some people may have come and not been able to wait long enough.
Father Ronald Calkins, Mary Queen of Peace, Mandeville:
There were two priests hearing confessions, Msgr. William Bilinsky and myself. We estimate that there were about 90 people who came for the sacrament. Many of them expressed gratitude that the sacrament was being offered on a weeknight. There were a few penitents who had been away from the sacrament for a number of years; however, the majority were regular penitents.
Msgr. Earl Gauthreaux, St. Maria Goretti, New Orleans:
The confessions were busy for about 1 1/2 hours. Those who came were appreciative; however, many were our regulars.
Father Mark Lomax, St. Luke the Evangelist, Slidell:
There were about 40 penitents. Two priests in the reconciliation rooms. It was worth it.
Ruth Prats, pastoral associate, St. Peter, Covington:
St. Peter Parish had an estimate of 50 to 70 people for confession on Sept. 14.
Most were our parishioners who receive the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis.
Jesuit Father Stephen Sauer, Immaculate Conception, New Orleans:
We had about 10 people come to Baronne Street or confessions. Two hadn't been for over 30 years.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Westwego:
Sept. 14, 7 to 9 p.m., approximately 25 confessions.
Pat Mastio, secretary, St. Joseph's Abbey, Covington:
The reconciliation session on Sept. 14 was well attended. Confessions were heard for the two hours. Many had not been to confession in years. So, we feel that some were as a result of the Catholics Come Home program.
St. Martha and Infant Jesus of Prague Mission, Harvey:
We were combined as we only had one priest. We had 15 people.
Father Mike Kettenring, Visitation of Our Lady, Marrero:
I was blown away. Father Bryan Howard and I started hearing confessions at Visitation of Our Lady Church at 6:30 in the evening. People came and came and came. Many were coming for the first time in years. A few cried after receiving God's forgiveness. We finally closed-up shop shortly before 9 o'clock. Father Bryan and I went back to the rectory emotionally and spiritually filled.
Father Jimmy Jeanfreau, St. Jerome, Kenner:
I was very surprised by the evening of reconciliation. I brought some reading material, figuring I’d have at least an hour out of the two for reading. Instead, I heard confession for over two hours. I was very pleasantly surprised.
St. Alphonsus, New Orleans:
We had 21 people for reconciliation. Father Thibodeau was pleased with the turnout.
St. Jane de Chantal, Abita Springs and St. Michael the Archangel Mission, Bush:
St. Jane de Chantal had 24 for reconciliation and St. Michael the Archangel Mission had 10. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Norco:
Sacred Heart of Jesus in Norco had a good turnout and was well received. Father Terry Becnel asked to pass on that it was so well received that we will be offering a night for confessions each month.