Diocese plans Day of Penance

Would you like to experience God’s grace, forgiveness and healing?

If so, you’re invited to participate in the diocesanwide Day of Penance, which will take place March 26 from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m.

During that time, priests will be available to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in every parish in the Diocese of Rochester. All Catholics are invited to receive the sacrament at whatever parishes they happen to be near that day, said Maribeth Mancini, diocesan director of Evangelization and Catechesis.

"Wherever you are, you will have the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. A day like this brings to light the opportunity that we all have to celebrate the sacrament and take advantage of God’s healing," she remarked.

The Day of Penance is one of several diocesan activities planned to commemorate the worldwide Year of Faith, which was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI and began Oct. 11, 2012. The one-day reconciliation event was planned to address the Year of Faith’s emphasis on reconciliation and the sacrament of penance, Mancini said.

Diocesan priests will be available to hear confessions in every parish during the specified hours on the Day of Penance. In a parish with only one worship site, one or more priests might be available at that church throughout the entire seven-hour span. In parishes that have more than one worship site, priests will probably divide their time between the worship sites, Mancini said. A complete listing of the times and locations of priest availability will be printed in the March issue of the Catholic Courier and will be available online at http://forgiven.dor.org, a special website devoted to the sacrament of penance and the March 26 event.

It’s important for individual Catholics and for the Catholic community in general to have a specific time dedicated to the sacrament of reconciliation, noted Bernard Grizard, director of the diocesan Department of Parish and Clergy Services, which worked with Mancini’s Department of Evangelization and Catechesis to plan the Day of Penance.

"We are all broken people somehow, and we are all in the search for healing and reconciliation. If people and individuals are more reconciled with God, I think our local church and even our church as a whole is being changed … and will be enriched by these restored relationships with God," Grizard said.

People say our world has never been more broken, but if more people around the world repaired the relationships with God that have been ruptured by sin, the world might start to heal, he added.

Mancini said she’s heard feedback from a few skeptical people who aren’t sure whether the Day of Penance will draw the crowds expected by organizers, but she’s also heard from a number of people who are really excited about the idea. These supporters see the event as "a wonderful way to invite people to deepen their relationships with Jesus Christ, and another way to invite people to come to church," she said.

"I think we could be surprised by the response. I’ve heard from young people that they think this is just a great idea. They’re looking forward to it, and I think that is interesting," she said.

Many young people have had very positive experiences with the sacrament of reconciliation through diocesan youth events and retreats, Catholic schools and parish faith-formation programs, Mancini added. She said she hopes the Day of Penance will make the sacrament accessible and attractive to those who regularly celebrate it and to those who haven’t been to confession recently. The diocesan website devoted to reconciliation includes a list of commonly asked questions about the sacrament, as well as a list of people in each county who are willing to assist individuals with any questions they may have.

"When people participate in the Day of Penance, I hope they’ll experience that as an invitation to experience that sacrament again. It’s a wonderful opportunity to experience God’s love in a special way," Mancini said. "A sacrament is always a chance to encounter God. Why would you turn that down?"

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