In This Section:
“We have confessions every day from 10 to 10:45 a.m. and on Saturday we have extra time, from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m.,” he said. “Then on Wednesday evenings, following 5:30 p.m. St. Joseph devotions, we have confessions available for whoever would like.”
Since the Marian apparitions that took place here in 1859 were declared authentic by Bishop David Ricken in December 2010, more and more visitors are coming to the shrine. That means more people are there for confession.
“In the summer months, both Fr. Jewel and I hear 50 to 100 or more confessions in a single day,” said Fr. Stryker. “Very often, even when we don’t have a pilgrimage group scheduled, we can be in the confessional from 10 to 10:45 and there can be a steady flow of penitents.”
Since the Fathers of Mercy arrived at the shrine on July 7, 2011, several projects have been completed to accommodate the growing crowd of pilgrims. Coming soon to the list of new features will be a second confessional.
“The space where we have one confessional right now, there’s going to be a place where there can be two priests, so naturally two people can be receiving the sacrament at the same time in that space,” said Fr. Stryker, adding that the additional confessional should be ready by the end of April.
Eventually, said Fr. Stryker, two new confessionals will be added where statues now stand in the rear of the chapel.
While the present confessional does not allow for face-to-face confession, the new ones will. “There is going to be the option to open up the grill for somebody who wants face-to-face because that’s their personal preference or perhaps it’s a hearing situation where they feel better,” said Fr. Stryker.
He agreed that some people who receive confession at the shrine do so because they are more comfortable confessing their sins to a priest they do not know. “Sometimes people do prefer the grill situation, the aspect of anonymity,” he said.
Fr. Stryker does not know whether the new diocesan initiative for Lent, “The Light is ON for You,” will have a great impact on the shrine’s confession attendance, but he welcomes it.
“Here at the shrine, we’ve always heard a lot of confessions,” he said. “Maybe once the bishop’s program gets promoted and people become aware of it, maybe they will look upon the shrine again as a good place to take advantage of the bishop’s encouragement to receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. We might see an increase this coming Lent.”
Fr. Stryker said he sees the opportunity to administer this sacrament as a special gift of his ministry.
“I think all priests have great joy in hearing confessions and administering the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, especially when people might have some serious sins that they want to confess and leave behind in their life,” he said. “They really want to make a fresh beginning in their life, so they look at the sacrament as their opportunity not only to be reconciled with God, but also to be reconciled with the church and their fellow human beings.
“So people do correctly look upon this sacrament as a wonderful way for ongoing conversion, reconciliation and sanctification — and the way to be on the way to final salvation,” he added.