Friday, September 10, 2004

Success in a new pastoral initiative!
You have read Fr. Tharp's and my postings on the meeting of our deanery (a region of the larger diocese) back in June, at which we discussed an idea the Archbishop presented to the priests a couple of years ago. It is fairly common for a parish to have a large Penance Rite in Advent and again in Lent. Many visiting priests are brought in for those rites so that many, many confessions can be heard over the course of a few hours in one evening. The Penance Rites seem to be well-used by people, it seems to get people to come, especially those who don't make the effort to come at the confession times regularly offered by the parish each week. So, the Archbishop's suggestion was that we capitalize on the success of Penance Rites and have them more often, perhaps quarterly, rather than just in Advent and Lent. At the time of that suggestion, I remember filing it away for a day when I would be pastor. The other priests in this deanery also thought the Archbishop's suggestion was worth trying. So, last night was the first attempt at a quarterly Penance Rite. We did this experiment at one of the parishes in this deanery, with the view that later it could be duplicated in the other parishes if it showed promise or was a success from the get-go.

Well, I would characterize last night a pastoral success! Four of us priests in this deanery got together and at least 25-30 people showed up. Now that is far less than typically come in Advent and Lent, and no where near the number of people that should be coming to confession. However, if you consider that hearing about 5 confessions is average (at least in these parts) for any one priest in his parish on Saturday afternoon before Holy Mass, we basically duplicated 5 to 6 Saturday afternoons in one fell swoop last night. The whole rite took about an hour, with readings, songs, gospel and a brief homily, before the individual confessions began. I think it will be well worth trying in each parish of the deanery, and maybe it will take on throughout the diocese. I am thinking of writing a brief article on it for our diocesan newspaper so that other priests might hear of this and consider it again.

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