Pope Francis hears confession of a youth April 23, 2016 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Returning to the confessional takes 'a bit of courage'

By  Chris Berthelot, Canadian Catholic News
  • March 2, 2018
EDMONTON – Of all the sacraments, confession often appears to be the most intimidating, and most people tend to avoid it — sometimes for years, says Fr. Roger Niedzielski.

“I wasn’t a priest all my life, so I understand the shame of coming before someone else and admitting to your own faults and sins, and it does take quite a bit of courage,” said Niedzielski, one of more than 100 priests in the Edmonton archdiocese who took part in this year’s Day of Confessions event on Feb. 20. 

Similar events for Lent are held in dioceses throughout Canada. In the Archdiocese of Toronto, Days of Confessions are scheduled throughout the week of March 10-17.

Now in its sixth year in Edmonton, the Day of Confessions has been credited with renewing interest in celebrating the sacrament regularly, as well as with drawing penitents who haven’t been to confession in years. Priests were available to hear confessions throughout the day.

Archbishop Richard Smith, Bishop Gregory Bittman and seven priests — including Niedzielski — heard 353 confessions at St. Joseph’s Basilica. Niedzielski, who was ordained last June, heard 94.

Catholics are required to go to confession at least once a year, or if they have committed serious sin. But the benefits go far beyond religious obligation, Niedzielski said.

“The beautiful thing is that you see a lot of people who have been away from the Church and from God for quite some time, and they desire to have that refreshed relationship with God.”

Penitents have the option of confessing their sins to a priest face to face, or they can have the anonymity of a screen. Either way, the priest is obligated not to divulge what he hears. Some people may feel they don’t deserve redemption, but that isn’t true at all, Niedzielski said.

“God wants to be in a relationship with you, and confession is not only the removal of sins from yourself, but it’s also that reconnection of your relationship with God.”

No matter how difficult it may have been, penitents at St. Joseph’s Basilica said they found reward in the sacrament.

“There was a sense of peace and calm after I left,” said William Fersovitch, who hadn’t been to confession in more than six years.

confession de groot lent2018“I think confession gets overlooked and neglected as a practice in the Church, so I thought it was important to come,” De Groot said, adding that this year he invited his mom to participate as well. (Photo by Chris Berthelot) 

Connor De Groot’s last trip to the confessional was more than two years ago.

“I really felt like I could close my eyes and be in the presence of God,” Maureen De Groot said.

(Grandin Media)

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