In his 2011 Lenten message, Pope Benedict described Lent as a “favorable time to recognize our weakness – and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance.”
After overwhelmingly positive feedback from priests and the faithful last year, the Archdiocese of Boston will continue its campaign entitled “The Light is On For You.” This year, the initiative will join forces with Boston's “Catholics Come Home” campaign, which is launching a new TV campaign in time for Lent.
Beginning on Wednesday, March 16, priests will be available to hear confessions in every church of the archdiocese – over 300 in total – on every Wednesday evening of Lent, from 6:30 to 8:00pm.
Bishop Robert Hennessey, who is is charge of the Confession initiative, especially hopes that those who have been away from the sacrament – and perhaps even the Church – will feel welcomed back. He estimates that up to 26,000 Boston-area Catholics returned to Confession last year, through the simple but effective initiative.
“Many of the priests had many people coming back, after being away for several years,” he said. “I would expect more of that, this year, because this is being done in conjunction with the 'Catholics Come Home' campaign.”
“I'm expecting it to be a great partnership,” said Bishop Hennessey.
The bishop recalled receiving a phone call from one archdiocesan priest who jokingly “accused” him of being responsible for an entire evening's worth of confessions during Lent of 2010.
“One priest called me up and left a message on my voicemail. He said, 'It's a quarter of ten, and I just left the confessional. It's all your fault!'”
“He had been there since 6:30, hearing confessions. He thought it was wonderful.”
Even if Confession seems intimidating, the bishop said, no one should pass up the experience of receiving Jesus' forgiveness through the sacrament.
“We are incapable of doing anything that is larger than God's capacity to forgive,” Bishop Hennessey explained. “Some people think, 'God won't forgive me' – or, 'It's been so long, God has forgotten who I am.'”
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“I remind them: no matter how long it's been, no matter what has happened, you can receive the forgiveness of Jesus.”