Recognizing the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation, parishes throughout the archdiocese are finding ways to offer the sacrament while complying with guidelines on social distancing to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Many parishes have added times for confessions to eliminate lines of waiting penitents.
At St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville, associate pastor Father George Staley devised a plan for motorists to drive up to the parish rectory for confessions. The priests are devising ways to keep people connected to the Church while following guidelines for social distancing.
Plastic covers two windows, one clear for face-to-face confessions, and the other black for anonymous confessions. Instructions inform parishioners how to proceed. The priest is inside, and the window is close enough for cars to pull up. When the priest hears a car pull up, he opens the window.
During the fourth week of March, the parish had 45 penitents at the designated times: Monday through Friday from 10-11 a.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 2:45-3:45 p.m.
The priests at the parish are livestreaming Masses on Facebook with their smartphones. Of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Father Anthony Yates, parish pastor, said “anytime you have suffering or difficulty, it helps to bring our faith into it.”
Finding God in every situation is important, he said. He’s pleased to see other parishes as well working hard and being creative to stay connected with their parishioners and so they have resources to enhance their faith.
Priests at Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville are hearing confessions from 9-10 every weekday morning in the church (Holy Week and the Triduum has a different schedule). A couple mornings a week weather-permitting, the associate pastor, Father Clark Phillipp, sits outside by the gym so people can drive up and talk to him there.
Confessions also are heard on Saturdays from 4-5 p.m.
The indoor confessions are heard in the church cry room, with a screen and kneeler installed for anonymous confessions. The priest chair for confessions is set the appropriate number of feet away to maintain social distancing.
“It’s been working well,” said the parish pastor, Msgr. Patrick Hambrough.
The church is open all day, and Msgr. Hambrough reported that one or two cars are parked outside throughout the day as people stop in to pray.
He urged people to take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance “and get that grace of God. There’s a real hunger for the Eucharist. People are begging for Holy Communion. Right now we’re not able to do that. But this sacrament, likewise, brings so much of God’s love to us.”
Queen of All Saints has livestreamed Masses since before the pandemic. At each of the Sunday Masses, more than 1,000 households were watching Sunday, March 27, and a couple hundred at the morning Mass on weekdays, Msgr. Hambrough reported. It’s even gone worldwide, he said, noting that it’s seen by his cousins in Ireland.
At St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville, confessional screens are reinforced with extra fiber material and a plastic covering now is in place on the priest’s side of the screen. People are asked to receive the Sacrament of Penance behind the screen or anonymously.
At Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Washington, Father Jim Theby, parish pastor, also is making the sacrament available and safe. On March 20, he wrote in his parish bulletin that “these are difficult and uncertain times. Many of us will be left with unanswered questions, anxiety and a lot of time on our hands. As we go forward I’d like to suggest that we use that time wisely to grow in our relationship with the Lord.”
Father Theby suggests prayer, spiritual reading, Rosary recitation and putting trust in God.