By RENEE WEBB
It’s not uncommon for people to strive for a little happiness in their lives.
According to the associate director of worship for the Diocese of Sioux City, people just might get a little help in the confessional.
Sister Esther Mary Nickel, a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Mich. who recently joined the chancery staff, said there is a sense of joy that comes with confession.
“The sacrament of confession opens a world of grace to us where God gives us the grace to help us do what’s good in love of God and love of neighbor,” she said. “It is really a great gift that we should take advantage of.”
Light is on
To enable more parishioners to access the sacrament of reconciliation, parishes in the diocese are once again participating in The Light is On for You campaign.
Father Brent Lingle, director of worship said this is the third consecutive year the diocese has participated in The Light is On for You to allow more Catholic faithful the chance to experience the healing love of Christ through confession.
Many parishes in the diocese will be open for confession and silent prayer from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 14. Set for a Tuesday evening, it offers a time for reconciliation outside of the traditional Saturday afternoon before Mass. Given that many pastors serve more than one parish, Father Lingle encourages parishioners to check parish bulletins for times and locations in your parish or cluster.
“The first year we had a really good response from our priests. Everyone said it worked great and people took advantage of it,” noted Father Lingle. “Almost immediately after we had done it the first time, priests asked us to get the date on the calendar for the next year.”
The diocese continues to participate in the confession campaign because popularity for the event remains.
“The idea for the campaign is to have more opportunities for confession to be available throughout the diocese,” he said. “During Lent, it is especially nice to go to confession to receive God’s forgiveness and mercy. It’s a chance to start again in our Christian life and journey.”
Plus, the priest said, the timing during Lent makes sense because Catholics are aware of the need for repentance, which Lent calls us to.
Sister Esther Mary explained if people have committed a mortal sin, then they are not in a state of grace and can’t receive holy Communion until they have been forgiven of sin. But even when people do not commit mortal sins, she noted everyone commits venial sins that can stack up and lead to a life that is not virtuous.
She reflected on the significance of the name of the campaign as it tied into the theme of “light.”
“The first reference is the light in the confessional – the light of the church is on for you, but we can also see it as the light of Christ,” Sister Esther Mary said. “With the sacrament of reconciliation, it’s like cleaning the glass so we can see more clearly.”
Father Lingle said priests of the diocese, whom he described as “merciful servants of the sacrament,” have been good about offering reconciliation services during Advent and Lent as well as providing regular times such as on Saturdays before Mass throughout the year.
Father Lingle explained The Light is On for You campaign is a national campaign. Created by the Archdiocese of Washington, it has since been promoted by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops and implemented by many dioceses throughout the country.
“As we see in our life and world today, there is a lot of hurt and sadness. Confession for us is one place where we can go to be made whole again, healed and cleansed from sin,” he said.
This campaign, noted Father Lingle, is not only a chance for those who regularly go to confession to be offered more time, but for those who have not been to confession in a while to receive the sacrament.
“We may get people who walk in and say it’s been 30 years since my last confession,” he said. “The beauty about this particular event is that we will get people who are regular users of the sacrament and people who haven’t been to confession in 20 or 30 years. That’s a great gift. Even if you sit in a confessional for two hours and only one person comes in, it’s worth it.”
For those who haven’t gone to confession in a while, Father Lingle noted anxiety about not remembering the process shouldn’t keep anyone away.
“The priest will help you. You can ask questions, if you need help,” said the priest, who noted they will be welcomed and greeted in the same way the Lord himself would receive the individuals. “Some people say, ‘I haven’t been to confession in 10 years because I had a really bad experience.’ If it’s been a while, give it a chance again. God might be touching your heart in a different way and also the priest’s.”
Along with assistance from priests, there are various resources online to assist with making a confession and there’s even a mobile app. For those who have been away from the sacraments for a number of years, Sister Esther Mary recommended checking out www.catholiccomehome.org.
You can find a listing of parishes participating in the campaign – although it may not be complete – at scdiocese.org/the-light-is-on-for-you. There are also assorted resources in English and Spanish.