About a year ago, an estimated 3,000 people in the Diocese of St. Cloud visited one of several locations across the diocese during Lent to receive the sacrament of reconciliation as part of a daylong celebration called the Festival of Forgiveness.
The event, similar to Pope Francis’ “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, is a penitential celebration that features 10 designated churches hosting 12 hours of confession. This year, the event is scheduled for March 31.
“We had a great response last year” as part of the diocese’s Year of Mercy commemoration, said Father Steven Binsfeld, pastor of St. Mary Church in Alexandria. “We had scheduled one confessor for blocks of time, but there were so many people I had to call other priests to come early and ask others to stay a bit longer. Many [of the participants] I had never seen before.”
The event is intended to welcome back those who may have been away from the sacrament or from the church.
Linda Harren, a member of the parish cluster of St. Wendel, Opole and St. Stephen, heard about last year’s Festival of Forgiveness from a friend.
“I just really felt the need to go to confession. It’s not always one of my strong suits and my friend said [the festival] was being held at her parish in Freeport and she invited me to come and try it,” she said.
Harren said she will attend again this year and encourage others to experience it for themselves.
“It was very quiet and calm, very peaceful,” she said. “It really pulled me closer to God.”
Father David Maciej, pastor of St. John Nepomuk in Lastrup and Holy Cross in Harding, said he talked about the Festival of Forgiveness in his parishes before the event.
“I really wanted to make people feel welcome,” he said. “I talked about the Lord’s forgiveness for all of us, about his great mercy. I also wanted to assure them of the total seal of the sacrament of penance. We, as priests, cannot share anything, under any circumstance.
“I also wanted people to know that we do not judge them. We are grateful when they come and nothing surprises us. We are glad they are there, we never look down on anyone because we are sinners ourselves.”
After 36 years in the priesthood, the one thing that has stayed constant is his love for celebrating Mass and hearing confessions.
“[Hearing confessions] also has an impact on me,” he said. “Especially those where it is really obvious that it is not routine, where they have really done some soul searching, where a real metanoia, or conversion, is going on inside of them. I know it affects me and our own spiritual lives as priests and how much we realize we need that same thing.”
Parishes hosting the sacrament of reconciliation
• St. Mary, Alexandria: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Sts. Peter and Paul, Richmond: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• Our Lady of Victory, Fergus Falls: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• St. Ann, Wadena: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Christ Our Light, Princeton: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• St. Mary, Little Falls: 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
• Sts. Peter and Paul, Gilman: 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
• Sacred Heart, Freeport: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• St. Paul, Sauk Centre: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The cathedral will also host additional prayer and other activities on March 31:
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Adoration
9 a.m. Morning prayer
12:05 p.m. Mass
2 p.m. Holy rosary
3 p.m. Chaplet of Divine Mercy
5:30 p.m. Stations of the Cross
6 p.m. Soup supper
7 p.m. Taize prayer
9 p.m. Benediction