By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Priests all over the Diocese of St. Cloud are preparing for the Festival of Forgiveness March 4.

The sacrament of reconciliation will be available at designated churches around the diocese for 12 hours from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. All are invited to participate in this special Year of Mercy celebration, including those who have been away from the sacraments.

festival-of-forgivenessOne of the priests who is gearing up for the event is Father Alan Wielinski, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Church in Fergus Falls.

“We hope it will be a moment of grace and conversion for many,” he said. “We are trying to advertise as widely as possible the availability of confessors at Our Lady of Victory. And I am in the process of scheduling priests from the deanery as confessors throughout the day, assuring one, two or three priests available at all hours.”

Similarly, Father Glenn Krystosek, pastor of the parishes of St. Louis in Paynesville, St. Agnes in Roscoe and St. Margaret in Lake Henry, has been discussing the Festival of Forgiveness in his weekly column in the parish bulletin.

“It is my hope that people who have been away from the sacrament of reconciliation for a long period of time will be courageous and return to the sacrament,” Father Krystosek said.

Crosier Father Jerry Schik is the pastor of the parishes of St. Rita in Hillman, Holy Cross in Onamia, St. Therese of the Little Flower in Vineland and Sacred Heart in Wahkon. He recalls how Pope Francis began his pontificate by acknowledging that he is a sinner.

Crosier Father Jerry Schik

Crosier Father Jerry Schik

Like Pope Francis, Father Schik is hopeful about what doors an event like the Festival of Forgiveness can open.

“Sometimes a person will say to me, ‘I am a sinful person and I cannot be reconciled with the church.’ To those persons I say, ‘The church is a community of sinners. That’s just who we are.’ The sacrament of reconciliation will help you get reconciled with the church,” he said.

Forming a social conscience

Both before and after the Festival of Forgiveness, many parishes including Our Lady of Victory in Fergus Falls, will engage in studying Bishop Donald Kettler’s pastoral letter, “Be Merciful, Just as Your Father is Merciful.”

A parish renewal on the topic of mercy took place in Fergus Falls the first week of Lent led by Father Michael Driscoll, who teaches theology at the University of Notre Dame.

“He had high praise for Bishop Kettler’s pastoral letter,” Father Wielinski said. “We have ordered a truckload to distribute to parishioners and use at our leadership meetings and study groups.”

Father Wielinski hopes that studying the pastoral letter, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Examination of Conscience in Light of the Social Teachings of the Church,” can help develop “a more social conscience so that people might be moved to come and confess our neglect of the poor, our carelessness with the environment, our inattentiveness to those who are hurting and struggling in our community,” he said.

“The Year of Mercy is a great opportunity for the formation of a better understanding of the communal dimensions of sin and of this sacrament.”

Festival locations

Reconciliation at these churches will be available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, March 4, unless otherwise noted.

  • St. Mary, Alexandria
  • St. Louis, Paynesville
  • Our Lady of Victory, Fergus Falls
  • St. Ann Church, Wadena
  • Christ Our Light, Princeton
  • St. Mary, Little Falls
  • Holy Cross, Onamia
  • Sacred Heart, Freeport
  • St. Paul, Sauk Centre
  • St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud (In addition to confession from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the cathedral, there will be morning prayer and solemn exposition at 10 a.m.; adoration from 10:30 a.m. March 4 to 9:30 a.m. March 5; and Eucharist March 5 at 10 a.m.

A guide to confession in six easy steps

  • Prepare. Before going to confession, start by doing an examination of conscience. This tool helps identify sins to confess. Often, the church will have a printed copy available, or, a simple Internet search will turn up additional resources. You can also find a copy at www.stcdio.org; click on “Festival of Forgiveness” and then “Festival of Forgiveness Resource Booklet.”
  • Feel welcome. The priest is there to help, not to judge, so don’t be afraid. When you meet the priest in confession, begin by making the Sign of the Cross and telling him how long it has been since your last confession. He will welcome you and invite you to share your sins.
  • Confess. Tell the priest your sins, all of them. Try not to be too vague or go into too much detail. Once you are done listing your sins, he will ask you to pray.
  • Be sorry. It is important to express your sorrow for your sins. The priest will ask you to pray an act of contrition (he will likely have a copy or card so you don’t have to memorize it.)
  • Receive absolution. Once you’ve prayed an act of contrition, the priest will extend his hand and offer a prayer of absolution, asking for God’s mercy to forgive your sins and to grant you peace. At the end of the prayer, you say, “Amen.” He will then give you a blessing and dismissal.
  • Pray. The priest will give you a penance or prayers to pray after receiving the sacrament. By completing your penance, it expresses your desire to make amends for the sin brought into the world and to remind us that we are always in need of God’s forgiveness.