Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
While we are only in November, I want to put something on your radar for the upcoming season of Advent. If I don’t mention it now, it may come upon us too quickly and catch us unawares. There is going to be a slight change to one of the annual parish events in Advent.

For many years, St. Charles has hosted Penance Services in Advent and Lent. These are typically an evening set aside for members of the parish to come out, join in prayer, song, and reflection, and thereafter receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation through individual confession. These services provide a valuable opportunity to express our sorrow for sin and to experience God’s healing mercy. However, I wonder whether it is perhaps time to tweak this parish tradition to better meet the needs of the community.
One major limitation with a Penance Service is that such events don’t work with everyone’s schedule.

Sometimes it’s a Monday evening, sometimes it’s a Tuesday, but if the particular date or hour doesn’t work for someone, then it is up to them to get to confession at some other time or place. While it is impossible to get a date that will work with every parishioners’ schedule, is there perhaps a way of extending the opportunity for
more people to receive God’s mercy? I think there may be.

As such, the Advent Penance Service will be replaced this year with a Day of Confessions. What does that mean? Well, on December 8th, following the 9:00 AM Mass for the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation) and through 5:00 PM, at least one priest will be available in church hearing confessions. An examination of conscience will be available so that you can prepare before heading in, and a list of the priests will be posted a week ahead of time in case there is a particular one you wish to celebrate the Sacrament with or perhaps others you’d like to avoid.

I know that this is something new and different, but this style of Penance is done in other places to a good deal of success. Seton Hall University used to offer confessions this way when I was an undergraduate. The Archdiocese of Washington has for several years now had a similar initiative called “The Light Is On” which is designed to give people better access to confession. Even our own Diocese offered something like this in several locations for the Year of Mercy two years ago.

I’d like to see how this goes. Depending on the response, we may either go back to a Penance Service for Lent or possibly try this again with expanded hours. I hope that you’ll prayerfully consider making a good confession this Advent season through our Day of Confession, Saturday, December 8th.
Peace and Goodness,
Fr. Dan