Catholics throughout the Diocese of Rochester are encouraged to receive the sacrament of reconciliation during the fourth-annual Day of Penance and Mercy, which is scheduled for March 9.
On that day, priests will be available to hear individual confessions at every parish in the diocese between 12:30 and 7:30 p.m., although priests at parishes comprising multiple worship sites are likely to divide their time among locations. Signs will be posted outside churches where priests will be hearing confessions inside, and Catholics wishing to receive the sacrament may stop into whichever church is most convenient for them, noted Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis.
"We live in a very mobile society. Wherever (Catholics) happen to be, they can celebrate the sacrament," Dundas said.
Although many people receive the sacrament on a regular basis at their own parishes, Dundas said this day is intended to emphasize the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation and to encourage regular reception of it.
She explained that presenting this Day of Penance and Mercy demonstrates that the church is eager to help people become reconciled with God.
During this Year of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis, people also may be more open to taking such opportunities for reconciliation, Dundas added. The Year of Mercy especially is a time to celebrate and give thanks for God’s mercy, according to a statement from Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.
"In contemplating God’s mercy and forgiveness, we begin with a very basic premise: We are God’s noblest creation conceived by His perfect love for us. In this love by which He binds himself to us, He lifts us up again and again when we sin. We experience this mercy and forgiveness most perfectly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession," Bishop Matano stated.
Diocesan officials hope the Day of Penance and Mercy will provide an opportunity for Catholics to rediscover the sacrament, Dundas said. She noted that on each of the three previous Days of Penance significant numbers of people availed themselves of the sacrament after being away from it for several decades, making the day a wonderful opportunity for diocesan parishes to engage in intentional evangelization. In previous years some parishes reached out to visiting penitents by inviting them to participate in Eucharistic adoration or prayer services.
Organizers hope the Day of Penance and Mercy will plant the seeds of conversion and reconciliation in participants, yet they realize they can’t predict the future fruits resulting from this day, Dundas noted.
"Only God knows that. We’re not called to make spreadsheets and figure all that out," she said. "We’re called to bring people to God, to extend that invitation from God himself."
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Day of Penance and Mercy or the sacrament of reconciliation, visit http://forgiven.dor.org.