CLIFTON The holy season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, and on the following Monday, Feb. 23, the Diocese of Paterson will begin its annual “Welcome Home to Healing” program.
In the “Welcome Home to Healing” program, every church in the Paterson Diocese will open its doors from 7 to 8:30 p.m. each Monday evening from Feb. 23 to March 23 during Lent for penitents to go to confession.
Bishop Serratelli invites all to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Nothing is more startling and, at the same time, more consoling than the truth for which Jesus lived and preached and died. It is this: God is love,” he said.
The “Welcome Home to Healing” program began in 2009 and thousands upon thousands of Catholics from around the diocese and beyond have “come home” and experienced God’s healing love. The purpose of the program is to draw the faithful closer to a call of conversion as they prepare for Holy Week and the Easter season.
Father Kevin Corcoran, vice chancellor and coordinator of the program, said, “This is our 7th year reaching the faithful through the ‘Welcome Home to Healing’ program. It seems to be effective in bringing back so many to the sacrament. Many priests have said it’s been common to hear about people coming to confession for the first time in 30 or even 40 years.”
Since the program began, parishes have welcomed many Catholics back to the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Often, churches have been kept open longer to accommodate all those seeking to go to confession. According to several priests in the diocese, the program is reaching people who otherwise might not have thought about going to confession.
To spread the message, billboards have been placed at busy intersections throughout the Paterson Diocese with dates and times fro confession. Advertisements can also be found in some of the secular newspapers. Because the program largely aims toward Catholics that have been away from the Church or the sacrament, the Paterson Diocese set up a website for the “Welcome Home” program with resources for people on how to go to confession, frequently asked questions and an examination of the conscience to ease fears or answer questions about the sacrament. A Spanish-language version of the website is also available. Priests may also visit the site for parish resources.
Even in today’s fast-paced and busy society, Father Corcoran thinks it is important Catholics take the time to go to confession. “Confession is one of the two sacraments of healing, the other being the Anointing of the Sick. Pope Francis has talked about how we can tell God our sins one-on-one but we need the priest to bring us healing. Part of being human is the need to reach out in person to others. Confession allows us to heal our relationships with God, each other and the Church.”
With all 111 parishes of the diocese open for confessions on Monday evenings, people who may not feel comfortable to got to confession to their own parish priest can simply head to a nearby church or even visit a parish on their way home from work.
“As part of our continuing call to conversion, priests also go to confession,” said Father Corcoran. “So we know what it is like to be on the other side of the fence.”
In addition to the Welcome Home program, every parish will continue to celebrate their regularly scheduled times for the sacrament.
Father Corcoran said, “Pope Francis talked about how we find freedom and joy when we confess our sins. God wants to give us his love and mercy.”