By Sean Gallagher
Catholic News Service
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — The happiness of Rachel Moos shone out clearly through the smile on her face as she left a conference room where dozens of priests and bishops were hearing confessions during the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 21-23 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"We were going to go to another (session), and it was full," said Rachel, 16, of South Vienna, Ohio. "So I decided that I wanted to go to confession. Here was God giving me the chance. And it was a relief because I hadn’t gone since my first Communion.
"I had wanted to for quite a while. I needed to get this stuff off of my chest."
She paused and added, "I feel really happy right now."
The joy that was the fruit of the sacrament of reconciliation at the conference wasn’t experienced by the teenagers alone.
Father Clement Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, drove an hour to Indianapolis to hear confessions Nov. 22.
"It’s great to see people in this number, and having a really close encounter with Christ," he said. "They really are coming to grow closer in their relationship with Christ. And the sacrament helps them with that. It’s inspiring. I get goose bumps when I think about it because I’m there. I’m part of that process."
Bishop John B. Brungardt of Dodge City, Kan., signed up for six hours of confession during the conference.
"It’s great," Bishop Brungardt told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "Mercy and forgiveness is a beautiful gift for the young people. It gives them great hope. All are welcome."
Luke Hassler, a seminarian for the Evansville Diocese and a sophomore at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis, assisted conference participants make their way to priests and bishops in the confession room. The regular flow of teens preparing to confess their sins encouraged him in his vocational discernment.
"It reflects how our young church responds to God’s mercy," said Hassler. "It’s amazing seeing everybody come together and seeing what the young church is like."
The numbers of teens availing themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation during the conference was a help to Luke Santiago of Kualapuu, Hawaii.
"I felt intimidated at first," said Luke about the idea of going to confession. "But then it made me feel more comfortable because there were kids my age (going to confession). It’s (also) really encouraging to see all of those priests giving time to help students like myself to confess to them."
The hushed conversations in the confession room stood in contrast to singing, laughter and cheers that filled other conference rooms. A similar quiet atmosphere pervaded a nearby chapel where a holy hour of eucharistic adoration took place Nov. 22.
Many teens who received sacramental absolution in confession made their way to the chapel, a converted conference room, where they prayed and did their penance.
Devin Gutierrez of Dallas appreciated the quiet of the chapel.
"You’re praying to Jesus," she said. "You’re kneeling before him and giving your thanks to him, giving him all that you are. It’s quiet. You can think. You can pray without all the noise, the laughter, the screaming."
Wearing an "I’m forgiven" sticker, Rachel Moos reflected on how the outwardly intense general sessions in Lucas Oil Stadium flowed to the inwardly profound experience in confession.
"You’re coming down from this crazy high," she said, "and you’re getting back down to the part where (you say to yourself), ‘This is what I have done. I need somebody to listen and forgive me and help me get back to where I was.’"
Having experienced the power of confession after being away from it for a number of years, Rachel said there was more to the numbers of teens going to confession at the conference than just a form of positive peer pressure.
"We’re all similar. We’re all in this Catholic faith. It’s so empowering," she said. "We all have sins. And we all want to feel that we can be forgiven. Sometimes it’s hard to feel that way. And to be forgiven and know you are being forgiven is really great."
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Gallagher is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
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