April 11, 2014

‘The Light Is on for You’ shines across archdiocese

By John Shaughnessy

The Light is on for You campaign logoIn leading “The Light Is on for You” initiative across the archdiocese, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne believed the spotlight focus on the sacrament of penance would be a success if it deepened the faith of just one person.

So he was obviously pleased when he approached St. Simon the Apostle Church in Indianapolis on April 2 and found 20 people already lined up to confess their sins—15 minutes before the scheduled starting time.

“As the night progressed, I was worried that there were people waiting for over an hour to see me,” Bishop Coyne said. “I started to apologize because they had to wait. They said, ‘No, that’s fine. I prayed for an hour. It was just great.’ They didn’t seem to mind waiting.”

That scene and that reaction were repeated across the archdiocese on April 2 as priests were available in most parishes or parish clusters across central and southern Indiana to share the sacrament of reconciliation. “The Light Is on for You” effort represents the light that stays on in a reconciliation room when a priest offers the sacrament.

While confessions were scheduled to be held across the archdiocese from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., a number of priests stayed much longer to accommodate people.

At St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg, Father Joseph Feltz and Father Michael Hoyt continued hearing confessions until 9 p.m.

“We went an extra hour for the demand, and it was without a break,” said Father Feltz, the pastor of St. Malachy Parish. “It was very well-attended and very appreciated by the people.”

At St. Pius X Church in Indianapolis, Fathers James Farrell, John Kamwendo and Keith Hosey stayed 30 minutes longer to be there for people who began to line up outside the church 10 minutes early.

“We were able to spend a little more time with each person,” said Father Farrell, pastor of St. Pius. “There were several folks who hadn’t come for a long time. It was a very fruitful sacramental experience for them.”

That deeper connection was also experienced by Father Eric Augenstein as he heard confessions “for two hours straight” at St. Agnes Church in Nashville.

“The fact that all the parishes were doing it at the same time reinforced the unity of the archdiocese,” said Father Augenstein, the sacramental minister at St. Agnes Parish and director of vocations for the archdiocese. “It reinforced that this is important for the whole Church.”

Priests also were pleased that the people seeking the sacrament of penance represented a cross-section of ages—children, young adults, middle-aged people and senior citizens.

Some parishes also used the confession initiative as an opportunity for parishioners to focus on other rituals of Lent.

“The parish life coordinator, Providence Sister Joan Slobig, led the parishioners in the Stations of the Cross while I heard confessions,” said Father Stephen Giannini, sacramental minister and priest moderator of St. Mary-of-the-Woods Parish in St. Mary-of-the Woods.

He also noted that people who received the sacrament that evening made thoughtful confessions.

“They were ready,” said Father Giannini, who is also the vice chancellor and the vicar for clergy, religious, and parish life coordinators in the archdiocese. “Whenever we give people a special opportunity like this, it gives people pause to think about the sacrament. I found people very well prepared.”

So did Father Patrick Beidelman, who heard confessions at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. He was moved by the turnout and the approach that people brought to receiving reconciliation.

“My heart is full of gratitude when I hear the stories of so many people coming to receive God’s gifts in this sacrament as part of the season of Lent,” said Father Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship. “To be the people God created us to be, we need his grace and his mercy, which is offered in such abundance in confession.”

Bishop Coyne was gratified by the reviews of the confession initiative.

“It did what it was intended to do, which is to celebrate the sacrament for a couple of hours on a Wednesday night in Lent,” he said.

He also believes the confession initiative was embraced by some people as an opportunity to reconsider and even return to their faith.

“If ‘The Light Is on for You’ is seen by some as that door opening for them—here’s something I can participate in as a start back—it’s a very successful celebration.”

(For more opportunities to receive the sacrament of penance, see our listing.)


Related story: Coming home: Woman’s return to the Church is a story touched by tragedy and love

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