Editor’s note: Last year, Father Bill Pomerleau wrote a wonderful blog about confession. He has graced this page with another wonderful entry…enjoy
By Father Bill Pomerleau
Pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield
Tuesday and Wednesday are Confession days in much in Springfield.
That’s the message we at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) Parish and St. Jude Mission are trying to promote in our surrounding communities.
When the newly-ordained Father Tomasz Parzynski joined our clerical team here at OLSH-St. Jude last summer, I started to think, “Why not, as an experiment, build on the success we had with the Wednesday night Reconciliation hours during Lent?
Luckily, our rectory also houses a third priest, Father Paul Archambault, a chaplain at Baystate Medical Center who also assists with the weekend liturgies at St. Mary Parish in Hampden.
Father Paul also celebrates the First Friday and First Saturday Masses here at OLSH, and has also had some success with a Tuesday evening prayer hour from 6 to 7 p.m. in our parish chapel. Each week about15 to 20 people, a loyal congregation, pray various devotions, which Father Paul introduces on a rotating basis.
During Advent, we moved the devotions from our Rosewell Street chapel to our main church on Boston Road, and scheduled a priest to hear confessions in English until 7:30 p.m. (After Christmas, we returned the evening confessions to our chapel to make maneuvering through the snow banks easier).
Meanwhile, we scheduled an hour of confession, in English or Spanish, at our mission church on Main Street in Indian Orchard from 6 to 7 p.m.
Finally, we added mid-day reconciliation hours from noon to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays.
The impact was immediate, and powerful.
No, we haven’t had hundreds of people lining up on Boston Road and Main Street in Indian Orchard clamoring to confess when we open our churches. But we have had a steady stream of penitents, making our experiment justified.
Canon law, of course, prohibits priests from talking about the content of any confession. But I can say that we have spoken to a number of persons who have not participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for months, if not years.
A few weeks ago, the Vatican announced that it was sponsoring a cell phone “app” that guides potential penitents through the confession ritual. I was asked about this at a parish council meeting, and explained that some news account that erroneously implied that Rome was on the verge of promoting confessions by text.
We had a good laugh about this, but I reminded my council members that, in fact, apps, printed pamphlets or any other means we can use to make confession less intimidating for folks is a good idea.
The days are long gone when Saturday afternoons are reserved for confessions by most Catholic families. And while there are exceptions across the diocese, the “traditional” communal penance service on a weekday evening or Sunday afternoon also seems to be losing its popularity.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is strategically located on a busy commercial street. (I habitually ask, “Do you know how to get to the Eastfield Mall?” when giving directions to our church). This gives us a unique opportunity to promote “drive-in” confessions by penitents from several different parishes, or no parish.
Beginning Tuesday, March 15, we are returning our Tuesday evening devotions and confessions to our Boston Road Church for the Lenten Season.
Our neighbors, St. Catherine of Siena Church on Parker Street, will offer Wednesday evening confessions from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. during Lent. These hours, which we have agreed to mutually promote, replace our traditional, one-time only communal penance service.
Finally, the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance, an ascetic religious order who will conduct a parish mission at OLSH March 12-18, will help us staff a “Confess-a-thon” on Tuesday, March 15 from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Spread the word! Your sins can easily be downloaded to a priest, and uploaded to God, in Springfield these days.