ROCKFORD – The Rockford Diocese is reaching out to Catholics during Lent with an initiative to make it easier for them to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The “Be Reconciled” effort has been launched throughout the diocese, which includes 105 parishes in 11 counties.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also known as confession or penance. In the Catholic Church, parishioners confess their sins to a priest and are given absolution through doing penance.
Bishop David Malloy asked all diocesan parishes to add April 9 to their regular confession schedules. Most churches will offer the sacrament from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on that day. Plans for a “Be Reconciled” day were announced this month during parish Masses.
Traditionally, Lent is a 40-day period of fasting and prayer that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. This year, that is March 5 through April 19.
Confession should be about honesty, not guilt, said the Rev. Bernard Sehr, parochial administrator at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Dixon.
“In a world where we tend to distance ourselves from any wrongdoing, this is a time to remember that we don’t do everything perfectly, but we always have the opportunity to come back to God,” Sehr said.
St. Patrick also invites people to come to the church on April 9 for adoration, a time set aside for general prayer.
“It’s a great time to stop by and pray, even if you don’t go to confession,” Sehr said.
At St. Mary Church in Sterling, confession has also been offered in English and Spanish after many of the 8:30 a.m. daily Masses and from 1 to 3 p.m. during Lent. Because St. Mary is the only area Catholic Church with two priests, it also will help other churches with confessions.
This is an opportunity to get people back to church and get those who never left in a better spiritual place, said the Rev. James Keenan, pastor at St. Mary.
“We want to show our presence in a very public way for people in need,” Keenan said. “It is a good time to seek out a priest, be reconciled, and feel good about the journey.”
Keenan also stressed the important of being honest with oneself. Lent and the Easter resurrection is a call to Catholics to always be prepared to meet God, Keenan said.
“The 40 days of Lent are preparation for that moment,” Keenan said. “We don’t know when we’ll close our eyes for the last time. This is a reminder to always be ready and forgiven so we can meet him in purity and honesty.”
In a letter to all Catholics announcing the initiative, Malloy stressed the importance of forgiveness as a Lenten theme.
“As Catholics, the primary way to seek forgiveness year round, but especially during Lent, is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” the bishop said.
Malloy also asked those in the diocese to reach out to each other.
“There are many people who have felt the longing for reconciliation, but because of fear or other reasons, have put off going to confession,” Malloy said. “If you know someone who has been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, invite them to ‘Be Reconciled’ on April 9 or anytime during Lent.”
For confession times at all churches in the Rockford Diocese, visit bereconciled.rockforddiocese.org.
The site also has information about the sacrament and listings for other Lenten activities, including parish missions, Stations of the Cross, and Friday fish fry events.