February 12, 2021

Confessions to be heard for 12 hours on Fridays in Lent in Batesville Deanery

By Sean Gallagher

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many parishes in central and southern Indiana are not scheduling penance services during the upcoming season of Lent.

But faith communities in the Batesville Deanery in the southeastern part of the state will make the sacrament of penance widely available to Catholics in the region in another way.

Each Friday of Lent, priests in rotating locations will be available to hear confessions for 12 consecutive hours from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (See the story here)

This has been a regular practice at All Saints Parish in Dearborn County for about 10 years. More than 100 people on average have gone to confession there on the first Friday of each month, according to Father Jonathan Meyer, All Saints’ pastor.

Although he did not start the practice at the parish, Father Meyer said it fits well with one of his phrases that “your best ability is availability.”

“If we want people to come to confession, we have to build a culture of availability around the sacrament,” he said. “The concept of 12 hours says exactly what we want people to believe about the Church. We’re there for you, and we’ll wait for you. It’s on your time, not our time.”

Father Michael Keucher has experienced the positive effect of offering the sacrament of penance for 12 consecutive hours at St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, where he serves as pastor.

It’s also happened in other parishes in the Batesville Deanery and in faith communities in other parts of the archdiocese.

As dean of the Batesville Deanery, Father Keucher helped arrange having 12 hours of confession on a weekly basis during Lent.

“I’m excited,” he said. “There’s so much beautiful piety in this deanery. There’s such a hunger for God’s mercy and the sacraments. There’s a generosity on the part of the priests and parish life coordinators. It’s opening wide the doors of God’s mercy.”

Both priests think offering 12 hours of confession each Friday of Lent is a good way for many Catholics who have been away from the sacraments for a long time because of the pandemic to return to a more active living-out of the faith.

“This is a great opportunity after so many months where many people needed to stay away,” Father Keucher said. “ … We’re at the point now where more and more people can safely return to church. This Lent has the potential to be a real powerful experience of grace for people who have had to be away from the sacraments for quite a while.”

At the same time, he noted that offering 12 hours of confession each Friday in the deanery is respectful of the continued need to take precautions to keep people safe from the virus.

“There won’t be many people in these churches at any one time,” Father Keucher said. “With 12 hours every Friday during Lent, there’s so much time in there for people to mosey on over whenever they’re able to.”

While he acknowledged that the pandemic has been a challenging time for the Church, Father Meyer said that it might also be a spur to view ministry from new perspectives.

“I hope this will pave a new way for the future in which we’ll serve our people better and more effectively,” Father Meyer said. “I’m genuinely excited to see what’s going to happen in the many people that will be able to go to confession and [in] my brother priests. What a grace for them to see their people reconciled to God and their hunger for the sacraments.” †

Batesville Deanery penance schedule

The sacrament of penance will be available from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. each Friday in Lent in the following locations in the Batesville Deanery. Camp RiverRidge in Franklin County is operated by the Legion of Christ religious order with priests from the order based in Cincinnati ministering there.

• Feb. 19—St. Joseph Church, 228 E. Hendricks St., in Shelbyville.

• Feb. 26—Camp RiverRidge, 6145 Harvey Branch Road, in Oldenburg.

• March 5—All Saints Parish, St. Martin Campus, 8044 Yorkridge Rd. in Guilford.

• March 12—St. Mary Church, 1331 E. Hunter Robbins Way, in Greensburg.

• March 19—St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville.

• March 26—St. Lawrence Church, 542 Walnut St., in Lawrenceburg.

• April 2—All Saints Parish, St. Martin Campus.

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