WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Fr. Jan Sobkowicz, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Stony Plain and Spruce Grove, heard confessions for 12 hours with only a short break.
As they did a year ago, thousands of Catholics across the Edmonton Archdiocese lined up to confess their sins to a priest March 18.
Many were regular parishioners who can't find the time during regular hours to confess their sins and find forgiveness through the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Ryan Dumas, a firefighter and member of Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove, was grateful the archdiocese offered the opportunity.
"I'm a shift worker so with the times that they offer Confession once a week at this parish it's hard for me to come, plus my children are so small," Dumas said. "This is much needed."
About 100 churches across the archdiocese opened their doors from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the second annual Day of Confessions.
Archbishop Richard Smith spent most of the day hearing Confessions at St. Joseph's Basilica. "It was steady throughout the day for sure," he said. "At the basilica we had up to seven priests who were involved there hearing confessions."
Smith said a number of people throughout the day made a point of thanking him for holding the Day of Confessions across the archdiocese.
"It was just an experience of God's mercy, of God's grace being poured out in abundance on a lot of people bringing healing, bringing a new start."
The archbishop believes the Day of Confessions will become an annual event "because last year when we had it for the first time the priests did not hesitate to say 'We need to do this again.' Given the fact that we've done it twice now and people have again responded is an indication to me that this should be an annual event."
Monique Shennan and her mother-in-law Elma Shennan came from Stony Plain to Holy Trinity Church for Confession because the time was convenient.
"Evenings and weekends are very hard for our family. I have three children and one on the way, and they are all in school and they all have stuff (to do)," Monique observed. "During the day is a lot easier for both of us."
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Long lineups for Confession, such as this one at St. Matthew's Church on Edmonton's north side, were common across the archdiocese.
Father Jan Sobkowicz, the pastor at Holy Trinity, and his assistant, Father Miroslaw Kostarzewski, started the day with Eucharistic Adoration and concluded with a Mass celebrating the Solemnity of St. Joseph. There were no big lineups but the flow was steady.
"A lot of people came before 9 p.m.," noted Sobkowicz. "I can't say how many people came, but we were planning to take a break from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. but we couldn't."
So the two priests took turns. When one left for a few moments, the other stayed hearing confessions.
Penitents at Holy Trinity included many people who came last year after 35 to 40 years away from the sacrament.
"It was interesting; last year many people came to talk to the priest. They didn't know what they wanted from the priest. Some were looking for advice; some for counselling, some for moral guidance, some had trouble with marriage," Sobkowicz said.
"Now the same people who came last year knew exactly what the sacrament of Reconciliation is about. They said, 'I come to receive God's forgiveness.'"
Holy Trinity even had a few candidates to join RCIA during Confession day. They were non-Catholics who wanted to join the Church. They spoke to one of the priests and promised to come back in September, when RCIA starts in the parish.
"This is an amazing evangelization tool," Sobkowicz said.
At St. Matthew's Parish in north Edmonton, Father Paul Moret was busy all day. The first six hours were non-stop. "I would say I was hearing Confessions for almost 10 hours," he said.
Moret said many people went because it is part of their practice to go for Confession during Lent "and this provided them with an opportunity." Others were reminded of their duty to confess through the media.
He got a few that had not been to Confession for more than 10 years. "I think this Day of Confessions is a great practice. I would be surprised if we didn't continue this."
Agnes Shoemaker joined the small lineup at St. Matthew's because she "could not miss this great opportunity to be face to face with Father Moret to explain my situation to him." She said she felt "full of joy" after her Confession.
At St. Albert Church, the day was "fairly steady," said Oblate Father Andrzej Stendzina, one of three priests who rotated throughout the day. "People knew they could come at any time so they did."
Pat Sheehan of Villeneuve came to St. Albert Parish for Confession because he could. He believes there should be more than one Confession Day in a year.
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Members of the Connolly family were among those who lined up for Confession at St. Albert's Holy Family Parish.
"The Western Catholic Reporter mentions there are lineups at the churches in Edmonton. If we had more than one day, there wouldn't be any lineups. It's a need."
St. Albert parishioner Stella Shewchuk came to Confession "because the pope has asked people to make an effort to come and have an individual Confession and it's a good thing."
"Confession," Shewchuk said, "gives you a new start and you get the forgiveness of God and it heals your heart."
Holy Family Parish in St. Albert experienced a steady flow of penitents.
"Our busiest time was in the morning; there were up to 15 people in a line," said office administrator Vera Fisher. She said about three o'clock in the afternoon it started to get busy again just like it was after supper from seven o'clock until about 8:30 p.m.
"I can tell you probably there weren't as many people as last year but the effect was just as good, if not better," Fisher said. "We had people who hadn't been to Confession for eight years. It was really edifying to know that if you do this, people will come."
Holy Family parishioner Sylvia Bilsky said she came for Confession because it was convenient for her.
Georgina Connolly, 11, and her brothers Benjamin, 13, and Joseph, 9, were in the Confession lineup for about half-an-hour at Holy Family.
Their mom Cynthia Connolly brought them to the church "because it's a day of Confession in the archdiocese and it's harder for us to get to the Confession they have before Mass."
Connolly, a mother of eight, thinks the Day of Confessions is a good opportunity for those like her that homeschool. "It's more convenient for us to come during the day when the family routine is not so busy."
Benjamin was relieved after Confession. "It feels good to have your sins relieved of you," he said matter-of-factly.
"Confession makes me feel cleaner," added Joseph.
Father Roger Rouleau, the new pastor at Vermilion and the missions at Clandonald and Derwent, had a lot of penitents.
"Maybe not as many as last year, from what everybody else tells me here, but it was a steady stream throughout the day," he said.
"There were a number of people who had not been to Confession in a long time but these were people who had still been coming to church."
People come to Confession on Confession Day "because it's available and it's according to their schedule," Rouleau said. "I know that some of the other times I have available here are not accessible to everyone so during Confession Day they can come before work, at lunch or after work."
Rouleau heard Confessions alone in Vermilion and another priest helped in the two missions.