“Bishop Ricken is the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis,” explained Fr. Tom Long, diocesan Vicar for Ministers. “This is an effort out of that committee, during the Year of Faith, to encourage people to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.”
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Every parish is being asked to promote the sacrament of reconciliation during Lent, with more times for the sacrament than just the usual Saturday mornings or afternoons.
“The advantage of this way,” said Fr. Long, “is a variety of days and times when the sacrament is offered, so that if the time at your parish doesn’t work, you can go to a neighboring parish.”
The Diocese of Green Bay has a web page devoted to “The Light is On for You” at www.gbdioc.org/lent on its website. The site will list times for reconciliation at all diocesan parishes, as well as times for Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 13. (Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent.)
“The Light is ON for You” is growing in dioceses and archdioceses across the country, noted Fr. Long. It began in 2007, in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote a pastoral letter on penance and mercy for Lent.
In it he told of meeting a young man at the airport who had “been more or less raised as a Catholic” and wanted to know more about confession, which he believed was a “Catholic way of getting rid of excess baggage.”
“The Light is On for You” includes an explanation of the sacrament and how-to instructions on preparing for the sacrament with an examination of conscience (for various age groups) and a step-by-step journey through confession itself.
Materials sent to parishes include the how-to guides as well as bulletin inserts and simple intercessions to be used at Masses during Lent.
There is a second dimension to the Lenten program.
“This is also an outgrowth of Bishop Ricken’s pastoral letter (‘Parishes: Called to be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive’), which begins with the call to holiness,” Fr. Long explained. “In being reconciled with God we are able to move forward on the journey of being wholly and fully engaged and fully alive.”
For those who are more familiar with the sacrament of reconciliation, Fr. Long suggests that they can play the role of prayer companions for others. One way to do this, he said, is that “parishioners come to church during the parish’s confession times and use this as a prayer time to pray for the people who are coming to confession and for other parishioners.”
All parishes will offer additional times for the sacrament of reconciliation and personal prayers during the Lenten season. Each parish is setting its own times for confessions, but 14 parishes in different areas of the diocese will offer the sacrament on the Wednesday evenings of Lent (Feb. 20 through March 27) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. (See list at left.)
“Bishop Ricken wants this to be a year of healing in our diocese,” Fr. Long said. “We need to seek healing for ourselves before we can ask forgiveness of others.”
The goal is for all Catholics to approach Easter with lighter hearts and unburdened souls. Then, together, they can all experience the joy of new life, together.