PHOTO | FR. MIGUEL IRIZAR
St. Joseph's Basilica already has a sign out front advertising this year's Day of Confession.
The Edmonton Archdiocese will again offer a Day of Confession for those who may lack time to seek the Lord's forgiveness during regular hours.
On March 18, priests in the Edmonton Archdiocese will be available to hear Confessions in their parishes all day, from morning to evening. The event was held for the first time a year ago as part of the Edmonton Archdiocese's centennial celebration.
"We had such a good response last year we decided to do it again," announced Bishop Greg Bittman. "I don't know if we made the decision to do it annually, but I think it's probably going to move that way."
The archdiocese didn't keep records but according to Bittman "all the priests that were involved last year were busy for as long as the church was open."
Bittman said Reconciliation Day provides priests an opportunity to welcome back people who haven't been in church for a long time.
Father Paul Kavanagh, now the pastor at St. John the Evangelist, was pastor at Assumption Parish during Reconciliation Day last year.
"It was a fantastic day, a great faith-filled day," he said. "I started hearing Confessions after 9 a.m. Mass and it was practically non-stop till 9 o'clock that night."
Kavanagh said some people waited quite some time in line to celebrate the sacrament. Some who came had heard about Reconciliation Day on the radio that morning. "I had a mix of parishioners and non-parishioners alike."
Asked about March 18, the priest said, "I think it's a wonderful thing that we are doing and I'm glad that we are doing it again. I do think it should be an annual affair."
Reconciliation Day was a total success at St. Joseph's Basilica as well. People flocked to the cathedral church all day.
"What a beautiful day!" exclaimed Father Miguel Irizar at the time. "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 for the lunch hour had to leave without confessing because the lineups were too long, Irizar said. At some point through the day the wait times were two hours.
The priests at the basilica heard Confessions for 12 hours non-stop. Half way through the day, they accepted an offer from Archbishop Richard Smith to come and help.
This year again there will be Confessions from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Irizar said excitedly. There is already a big sign outside the church announcing the event.
"A few people came last year because they saw the sign, others came because they saw the website of the archdiocese or heard about it in their parishes," he said. "Many people who work downtown came during their lunch break and we are expecting the same thing this year."
Making Confession Day an annual affair is a "brilliant idea," Irizar said.
"The teaching of the Church in paragraph 2042 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Catholics have to confess their sins at least once a year. So giving parishioners across the archdiocese an opportunity to approach the Lord in Confession one day of the year I think is very proper."
Many families have difficulties going to Confession at regular times because they are busy with hockey, school or other activities, he said. "But if we make ourselves available all day then they have more opportunities to go for Confession."
At St. Theresa Parish in Millwoods there were lineups of 20 to 30 people all day long last year, said Father Jim Corrigan.
Corrigan said from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. three priests were needed to handle the long lines. Some people waited more than an hour in line to confess. Many who came to Confession had been away from the sacrament for many years.
"It was really a grace-filled day in the Church," he said. "I think it's a great thing to do (annually) because we need to provide the opportunity for people to reconcile.
"Why not? Why wouldn't we offer it once a year? I think it's a great practice. It's one of the great gifts of God's love for us and we should make it available to people."