By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
Cardinal Justin Rigali is calling on priests of the Archdiocese to schedule confessions in churches from 7 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday of Lent.
“The participation of every parish in this archdiocesan effort indeed gives fitting pastoral attention to the sacrament of God’s mercy,” the Cardinal said in a letter to priests.
Confessions are to be heard Feb. 17, Feb. 24, March 3, March 10, March 17, March 24 and March 31.
The 40-day period of Lent culminates on Easter, which is celebrated on April 4 this year.
In a letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese, the Cardinal said, “Our desire to conform ourselves more fully to Christ each day is given expression during this holy season through acts of penance.”
“I recommend to all of you the reception of the sacrament of penance, by which our Lord Jesus Christ personally offers His mercy and love.”
At St. Helena Parish in the Olney section of the city, the sacrament of reconciliation will be celebrated from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m. – and beyond if necessary – on March 31, Wednesday of Holy Week.
The sacrament is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. In addition, the Stations of the Cross are prayed in English from noon to 1 p.m. each Wednesday of Lent; on Fridays, the stations are prayed from 6 to 7 p.m. in Spanish and from 7 to 8 p.m. in Vietnamese.
Whether a penitent regularly confesses sins or has been away from the sacrament for many years, everyone is equally welcomed to the confessional, said Msgr. Joseph T. Trinh, pastor of St. Helena Parish.
“They fact is, they’re coming to confession – that’s all that counts,” he said.
Those who fear they may forget the format or even some sins should know that the priests are there to walk them through the sacrament, step by step.
“We have a lot of patience,” said Msgr. Trinh, who is 47 and was ordained a priest in 1991.
Those who are ashamed of their sins should know there is no reason to hide a sin. Chances are any sin a penitent might confess is one a priest has already heard from someone else. “Nothing would surprise us,” he said.
“We’re not judging people,” Msgr. Trinh said. “Priests are sinners as well. We’re not saints. We need regular confession. We understand where people are coming from.
“God is the one to forgive the sins – we are just instruments,” he added.
Penitents should remember the graces God offers through the sacrament. “He’s a Father. He just wants them to show up,” Msgr. Trinh said.
And once they make amends with God, absolution is assured. “People come out of the confessional relieved, more peaceful. They’re happier. That’s the beauty of confession,” Msgr. Trinh said.
In a letter to priests, Cardinal Rigali said the universal Church’s celebration of the Year of the Priest provides clergy a unique duty to promote the sacrament of reconciliation for the faithful.
He quoted from Pope Benedict’s June 2009 letter proclaiming the Year of the Priest and the 150th anniversary of St. John Vianney’s death:
“Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this sacrament. […] From St. John Mary Vianney we can learn to put our unfailing trust in the sacrament of penance, to set it once more at the center of our pastoral concerns, and to take up the ‘dialogue of salvation’ which it entails.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or email@example.com.