Michelle Duklas (right) visits with Fr. Daniel Utrecht at the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Pastoral Centre during the April 9 Day of Confessions. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Archdiocese opens up its confessionals

  • April 20, 2014

TORONTO - More than 200 churches in the GTA opened their doors to receive thousands of repentants on April 9 as the Archdiocese of Toronto held a Day of Confessions in preparation for Easter.

The archdiocese has picked up on a growing trend that seeks to make it easier for people to prepare for Easter by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent.

“We are aware that there are a lot of people who haven’t been to Confession in a long time in the Archdiocese of Toronto,” said Kris Dmytrenko, a spokesperson for the archdiocese. “(So Cardinal Thomas Collins) wanted to remove any and all (logistical) obstacles that are there to people experiencing the mercy of God through Reconciliation. One of those obstacles is that people don’t know where it is available, when it is available, or they might be lacking the resources to know how to go to Confession.”

Almost every one of the 225 parishes in the archdiocese opened its doors for Day of Confessions. Although the sacrament was not being offered around the clock, parishes were encouraged to hold extended and additional hours for Confession throughout the day.

While the number of participants was not tracked, Dmytrenko said “thousands will have celebrated the sacrament on this special day.” He called the day a success and said it will become a regular event.

“This is something that is going to be continuing indefinitely as a practice for Advent and Lent,” he said.

Michelle Duklas, a communications co-ordinator for the archdiocese, took advantage of the opportunity the archdiocese provided with its Day of Confessions at the pastoral centre. Doing so helped her connect with the meaning of Easter and the Lenten season.

“It helped me to focus and to appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made. He died on the cross and took away our sins,” she said. “It is kind of like preparation for getting ready for the Resurrection.”

Although Duklas goes to confession monthly at her home parish, St. Joseph in Streetsville, Ont., she said she understands why some people avoid the sacrament all together.

“If their parish only offers it once a month or by appointment, a lot of people aren’t going to seek it out; it is like one extra step for them,” she said.

Duklas continued by saying even those who have relatively easy access to the sacrament can stay away out of fear — something even she experiences.

“There is always the dread, you kind of drag your feet in and think why am I here, I should just turn around and leave,” she said. “For me that is always the hardest part, to walk in, but once I am there and I have kneeled down and I have done the sign of the cross I feel like it kind of flows from there. I kind of feel like I am just embraced by the sacrament and by Jesus.”

And while Duklas personally prefers to go to Confession when she knows the parish will be relatively empty in order to avoid waiting, she said seeing others seeking forgiveness for their sins could help subside the fear that keeps some away.

Mark Adkinson, director of communication and development for the Diocese of London, said promoting that sense of community was part of the reason a Day of Confessions campaign was initiated in London 2010. Since then Adkinson said parishioners of the diocese’s 120 parishes have embraced the campaign, and thus the sacrament of Reconciliation, in large numbers each time the diocese hosts a Day of Confessions.

“We’ve had overwhelming success,” he said. “It has been incredibly popular every year that we have done it. We don’t keep tabs but we estimate that 10,000 people go to Confession every time we have this.”

Adkinson credits the idea to his former employer, the Archdiocese of Washington, where the campaign had been running for a number of years before he migrated to London, Ont.

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