People came early on the Day of Confessions to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Joseph's Basilica.


People came early on the Day of Confessions to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Joseph's Basilica.

March 9, 2015

Doors of the Edmonton Archdiocese's Catholic churches opened all day Feb. 24 – some even into the evening – to invite people in to partake of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

"From what I hear, it went very well," said Father Paul Kavanagh, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish and director of the office of divine worship. "People heard about it from radio interviews, print media and even signs out in front of the churches."

At St. Joseph's Basilica, the faces of people climbing the steps to go to confession displayed a myriad of emotions. Some smiled; some were creased with worry.

When I asked one older man waiting to see the priest how he felt about going to confession, tears flowed down his cheeks and he said he'd rather not answer.

One young woman sat in a pew. "I am here because of drugs, and I'm in a 12-step program. I have never really believed in God because my parents don't."

She lives downtown, was walking by the basilica, saw the sign and thought, "I'll just try it.

"It's hard to believe something you can't see. It's nice to have someone pray for you. I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders."

As if to underline her words, a door opened to one of the confessionals, and a woman garbed in a smart business suit stepped out. Relief flooded her face as she hurried down the aisle.

Farther Martin Carroll, rector of the basilica, noticed a difference in the penitents this year. Many had been away from Church for some time.

"I asked a few people why had they come," he said. "They came because they had seen our sign outside of the basilica which had been there for three and a half weeks or so."

Carroll said priests at the basilica heard many confessions. "During the lunch period, we had two priests hearing confessions, then four priests when we were busy."

This is the third year for the Day of Confessions. Kavanagh said the archdiocese borrowed the idea from the Diocese of London, Ont.

"It's a good opportunity to welcome people back to the sacrament of Reconciliation," explained Kavanagh. "Also it is the grace of the sacrament itself. We have a lot of people who have not been to confession in a great number of years.

A sign on Jasper Avenue drew in passersby to be reconciled with the Lord.


A sign on Jasper Avenue drew in passersby to be reconciled with the Lord.

"Too, it is time for all of our parishes to open throughout the day, and get all of our priests involved."

A young woman who was waiting for the penitents' door to open said when she comes for confession at Easter and Christmas "it is kind of like a restart."

The woman, Linda Telgarsky, said, "I try to come and start over and it doesn't always work. But when I come again, that new opportunity is always fresh and new.

"I feel positive about starting again. It gives me a chance to reset my goals again and feel good about it. It helps me to try each time to be a better person."

Kavanagh said although this was a good opportunity to return to the sacrament of Confession, the experience might also be a catalyst for some to attend Mass.

That churches were open throughout the day and into the evening helped, allowing working people time to attend, he said. Retired priests also volunteered their services to hear confessions.

"It is God who calls us to himself, God who forgives our sins. God's mercy is a beautiful gift," said Kavanagh.

At Leduc's St. Michael Parish, Father Leo Hofmann said he believes the number of penitents dropped from last year.

Hofmann said a session he led prior to the Day of Confessions to help parishioners celebrate the sacrament well bore fruit. "I found I was able to spend more time with people because some of them had some big issues to talk about.

"So it wasn't a quick give your sins and get an absolution for your penance. It was a chance to sit down and talk about how life was going with people. There was no big lineup, so I was able to sit and really celebrate with people."


What were they looking for?

Said Hofmann, "I think people are looking for someone to talk to. There are so many people who need someone to sit and listen and ask the right questions at the right time. I never rushed anyone.

"I wanted to remind them that no matter what, God loves them, and that God forgives them."

Some people he would ask, "How are you going to save your life?"

"Was I successful all the time?" he asked. "I am not sure. It was certainly the way to celebrate the rite the way it is meant to be celebrated. . . .

"I came out at the end of the day thinking 'Boy, were there some powerful experiences.' I can't talk about them, but they were powerful experiences."

If Hofmann had a wish, it would be for people to know they can make an appointment for him to hear their confession.

"Some of the issues need more time than we can spend. The issues might not be all that sinful, but they need someone to listen."

Back in Edmonton, at St. Anthony Church, Grace Marzantowicz's eyes filled with tears as she says she came to confession to find "peace." Her husband recently died and she has health complaints.

"I try to avoid sin, live a holy life and pray for many people," she said. "But we are only human."


Father Joby Augustin, pastor of St. Anthony and St. Agnes parishes, said, "People want to pray. People want to get their prayers answered. They want to know there is someone they can go and spend time with and their prayers will be answered.

"Their troubles are many. They don't have peace of mind. Battered by the power of evil, they want consolation and peace.

"They find this peace in the sacrament of Confession," said Augustin.

Father Andrew Lukaszewicz, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Wainwright, heard Confessions from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. "That was good. It gave them time, privacy."

Lukaszewicz found that most of the people who came to Confession were seeking a "connection with Jesus in their hearts."

The pastor smiled and said when he is seeking the same connection, he visits another priest and goes to Confession.