WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Lineups for the sacrament of Penance were long throughout the day at St. Joseph's Basilica March 6 during the archdiocesan Day of Reconciliation.
Thousands of people lined up at confessionals across the Edmonton Archdiocese March 6 making the Day of Reconciliation a huge success in the eyes of priests who spent hours offering the sacrament of Reconciliation.
For many people, it was the first time they had celebrated the sacrament in decades.
"I was a very rewarding experience," says Father Jim Corrigan, pastor at St. Theresa Parish in Edmonton. "God rejoiced that day."
There were lineups of 20 to 30 people all day long at St. Theresa. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. three priests were needed to handle the long lines. Some people waited more than an hour to confess.
"I just thought it was very beautiful that they would be willing to wait," he said. "It was really a beautiful expression of their commitment."
Corrigan estimates between 200 to 250 people received the sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Theresa, including several who had not received it in years.
"In my five-hour shift I had a half dozen people who had not been to Confession anywhere from 11 years to 30 years," Corrigan said.
"These people probably knew what they needed to do for a long time and because we put it out there and we invited them, the Holy Spirit finally moved them to say, 'This is the day.'"
St. Theresa's offered a prayerful environment throughout the day, with liturgical music and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Sherwood Park there was a lineup of about 30 people when the WCR showed up mid-afternoon.
"I think the day went really well," said Msgr. Jack Hamilton, the pastor. "We started at 8 o'clock in the morning and with a break for Mass and a break for lunch, we were then steady right through till 9 o'clock at night."
OLPH did not keep track of the number of penitents, but Hamilton noted that "at one time we had three priests hearing confessions at the same time." The busiest time for the parish was the supper hour and afterwards until about 8:30 p.m.
A number of the penitents had not been to Confession in a long time. "I must have had seven or eight myself who were 20 years and more," Hamilton said.
"The impression I had from these people is that they had wanted to do this for some time and they had to work on their courage and this day, with all the publicity surrounding it, seemed to be the catalyst that got them going."
Three retired priests came to help Hamilton as his two associate pastors were away attending previous engagements. "We were very fortunate we were able to get retired priests to help us; otherwise I would have been in a real bind because there were so many (people) that came out."
Some of the people who came to OLPH on Reconciliation Day "were from outside the parish."
Hamilton said pastors he has spoken to since the Day of Reconciliation all seem very pleased with the day and surprised at the turnout. "I'm presuming from that we'll likely have this kind of event again next year."
At St. Joseph's Basilica, there was an air of solemnity as soft liturgical music was played throughout the day and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration.
People flocked to the cathedral church all day. "What a beautiful day!" exclaimed Father Miguel Irizar. "We had thousands of people coming. The lineups were steady from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It was amazing to see that."
Many people who came at the lunch hour had to leave without confessing because the lineups were so long. At one point in the day the lineups were two-hours long.
The priests at the basilica were confessing for 12 hours non-stop. Halfway through the day, they accepted an offer from Archbishop Richard Smith to come and help.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the priests had two confessionals going plus the reconciliation room.
"At 2 p.m. we had three confessionals and the Reconciliation Room. Then at 6 p.m. we had four confessionals and the Reconciliation Room (going)," related Irizar. "We increased the number of priests because we had too many people."
Speaking to his colleagues at the basilica, Irizar learned that all of the priests encountered many people who had not celebrated the sacrament of Reconciliation in 20 to 40 years.
"So for them this was the first time in a very long time," he said. "It was beautiful to see this moment of reconciliation for many people. God rejoiced at seeing so many penitents."
At the end of the day, Irizar was tired but at the same time, "I was very pleased to have done this for the people."
Father Nilo Macapinlac had to multiply himself to hear confessions in both Vegreville and Viking, his two main parishes.
He started the Day of Reconciliation at St. Martin of Tours Church in Vegreville with Mass at 9 a.m. He heard confessions until 10:30, after which he drove to Viking to do the same.
A few hours later he returned to Vegreville for Mass at the nursing home and to hear confessions from the elderly. Then he returned to St. Martin of Tours for more confessions.
Many people whom he had never before seen in the pews came to confession. "It was a good day for me and for the Lord."
Macapinlac said children and the elderly were the ones who best responded to the call for reconciliation. "They recognized the need for God's healing and forgiveness."