CLIFTON As the universal Church celebrates the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation takes on a new and special meaning and throughout Lent, every church in the Paterson Diocese will be open for confessions from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday evenings from Feb. 15 to March 14.
Marking its 8th year, the Diocese is again offering the Welcome Home to Healing Initiative to give Catholics the opportunity to experience God’s forgiveness and healing love. The purpose of Welcome Home to Healing is to draw the faithful closer to a call of conversion as they prepare for Holy Week and Easter.
In his pastoral letter, “Individual Confession: The Embrace of God’s Mercy,” issued on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, Bishop Serratelli writes: “Our priests’ participation in our Welcome Home to Healing Initiative is ample witness to their commitment to this sacrament. Beyond the times scheduled in their parishes for confessions and beyond the readiness to hear confessions when requested, they have been available for hours every Monday during Lent for individual confessions. As a result, we have witnessed a reawakening of the rich treasure of individual confession.”
Father Kevin Corcoran, diocesan vice chancellor and priest-secretary to the bishop, who is coordinator for the Initiative, said, “Pope Francis makes it absolutely clear that the Jubilee of Mercy is a time to go to confession. The sacrament is at the very center of this holy year. The pope said, ‘It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection of mercy.’”
To emphasize the important role of the Sacrament of Penance during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis commissioned hundred of priests from around the world as Missionaries of Mercy at Mass on Ash Wednesday in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The diocese has seven priests whom the Pope designated as Missionaries of Mercy — Father Paul Manning, executive director of St. Paul Inside the Walls, Madison; Msgr. John Hart, pastor of Assumption Parish, Morristown; Father Dariusz Kaminski, pastor of St. Stephen Parish, Paterson; Father Jhon Madrid, parochial vicar of St. Thomas Parish, Oak Ridge and St. John Vianney Parish, Stockholm; Father Hernan Arias, pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Morristown, Father Stanley Barron, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Flanders, and Father Geno Sylva, currently serving at the Vatican as the English language official for the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. The Holy Father called on these Missionaries of Mercy to be “inspiring preachers of mercy; heralds of the joy of forgiveness, and welcoming, loving, compassionate confessors who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.”
In past years during the Welcome Home to Healing Initiative, many parishes had to keep the church doors open longer than 8:30 p.m. to accommodate the large number of penitents waiting in line to confess their sins.
Because of the Jubilee Year, the Diocese is hoping that a record number of people will avail themselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent. “The hope is that the Year of Mercy brings people back to the sacrament, especially those who have not gone to confession in years,” Father Corcoran said.
Since every parish in the Diocese will be open at the same time on Monday evenings, those who may not feel comfortable going to confession to a priest they may know in their parish, can simply go to the church of their choice.
In addition to the Welcome Home Initiative, each parish will continue to celebrate their regularly scheduled Penance services and many parishes may host their own individual Lenten reconciliation services and activities.
“God wants us to experience mercy like the prodigal son. The sacrament, at times, may seem so ordinary but it is actually very extraordinary and a great way for us to experience God’s love for all of us,” Father Corcoran said. “Once we experience that love, we are called to be merciful to others and to let others know about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
[To learn more about the Welcome Home to Healing Initiative in the Diocese of Paterson, go to www.rcdop.organd click on Welcome Home to Healing on the home page.]