By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

Cardinal Justin Rigali is asking the pastors of the Archdiocese’s 268 parishes to provide the sacrament of reconciliation each Wednesday of Lent from 7 to 8 p.m. And he is inviting parishioners to partake of the penitential opportunity.

The Archdiocese’s Office for Worship has provided, through the archdiocesan web site,, resources to help Catholics deepen their understanding of the sacrament, ways to examine their conscience in preparation for confession and a review of how to receive the sacrament through a link titled “God is Rich in Mercy.”

It is important to contemplate Lent – and the sacrament of reconciliation and penance – within the context of a personal relationship with the Lord, said Father Salvatore M. Riccio, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield, Delaware County.

“The Lord understands us. He knows what makes us tick. His love is perfect.

“If we want to put God first, we need to see what we need to do for any kind of improvement,” said Father Riccio.

Wednesday evening confessions are offered at St. Francis of Assisi Parish from 6:30 to 7 p.m. from October through June. During Lent, after the Wednesday confessions March 16, 23 and 30 and April 6 and 13, the parish will host a speaker series on topics that include Lenten piety: prayer, fasting and almsgiving; forgiveness; and the seven last words of Jesus.{{more}}

Diane Hagy, 61, of St. Veronica Parish in the Tioga section of North Philadelphia, said frequent reception of the sacrament is promoted by the pastor, Father Eduardo Coll, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.

Hagy receives the sacrament weekly “to be closer to Christ,” she said. “It’s a great grace.”

“Don’t be afraid,” she added. “Our God is so loving and forgiving.”

What people usually fear is the reaction of the other person, said Father Riccio.

The priest confessor is there not to berate, but to reflect the love and mercy of the Lord, he added.

Where does one begin?

A thorough examination of conscience is crucial to making a quality confession, said Father Riccio. When one examines sins, it is important to ask, “Why did that happen? What caused that? What in me allowed that to happen? Looking at it through the eyes of the Lord, what is He expecting of me to change? What do I need to do?”

Those who have been away from the sacrament of reconciliation need not be overwhelmed by the length of time between confessions, said Father Riccio. “The priest can help guide them.”

While priests don’t keep a tally card, it is important for them to gauge the frequency of the sin. “Giving the number of times helps a priest to understand either how difficult or what kind of a problem a person is dealing with,” Father Riccio said.

Relaying the number of times one has committed a particular sin also serves as an admission of where one stands with the Lord, he said.

When the penitent departs the confessional, so does each sin.

“The Lord has forgiven it,” Father Riccio added. The penitent can then “continue to rest in the eternal love of our God” and enjoy “a clear table” or “clean slate.”

As Catholics prepare for confession this Lent, they should remember the sacrament’s relational aspect with Jesus, Father Riccio said.

“Down through the years, people have been talking so much about ‘getting the sacrament’ like it’s an acquisition or a toy,” he said. “They objectify it so that it becomes impersonal – it’s a thing that you do.”

In the contemporary culture, the sacrament is often sidestepped. Unfortunately, “a lot of people aren’t exactly knocking our door down to go to confession,” Father Riccio said. “There is an unwillingness to admit to personal things.”

If one feels estranged from God, an adage to consider, Father Riccio said, is, “If you think God is far from you, guess who moved?”

The mercy Jesus bestows through the sacrament of reconciliation amazes Father Riccio just as much today as it did 45 years ago, when he was first ordained a priest.

“I’m in awe.”

For more information about opportunities for confession during Lent, consult your pastor or contact the Office for Worship at 215-587-3537 or e-mail

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or