Confession initiative returning for Advent

BRAINTREE -- The Light Is On For You, a weekly Sacrament of Reconciliation initiative begun in Lent, is now being broadened into Advent -- this time with a new technological application that will enable Catholics desiring the sacrament to locate a church near them.

As part of the Lenten initiative, Cardinal O'Malley asked every church and chapel of the Archdiocese of Boston to be open Wednesday evenings for private confessions. This Advent season, every church and chapel will be open on Dec. 15 and 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Central Region Bishop Robert Hennessey is overseeing the archdiocesan-wide effort.

Jesus came into the world to save us because "He loves us so much and wants to help us now with whatever issues we face. He wants to fill us with love, joy and freedom. He wants you to know that light always triumphs over darkness," Bishop Hennessey said.

"During the Advent season, we also prepare for the coming again of Jesus in glory, when he comes on the clouds to be our judge," he added.

The bishop also emphasized that Advent is a time of vigilance, waiting for the return of Christ. "We want to be prepared. Making a good confession regularly is one of the many steps we can take to try to be ready," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley remarked on the success of the initiative during Lent in a November letter to pastors announcing an Advent rollout.

"Some parishes experienced high numbers of penitents throughout the Lenten season, others reported that participation increased each week and that many people came on the final nights," Cardinal O'Malley wrote.

And even parishes that had a lower turnout reported "the great spiritual value of hearing the confession of just one person who had been away from the Sacrament and the Church for a long time," the cardinal added.

He also pointed out the importance of having all parishes and priests join in the effort, saying that their participation is "essential to the success of this initiative."

Cardinal O'Malley also wrote that The Light Is On For You "provides us an important opportunity to fulfill one of the most sacred duties given us at ordination, absolving people of their sins in the name of Jesus Christ."

Although he asked priests to hear confessions on the final two Wednesdays of Advent, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22, he left the choice of hearing additional Wednesday confessions on Dec. 1 and 8 up to the discretion of each pastor.

Given pastoral considerations, Cardinal O'Malley did not ask for confessions on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day in the Church.

To help as many Catholics as possible participate in this program, the archdiocese's Pilot Media Group has developed, a website and iPhone application that will assist Catholics in locating churches around the archdiocese.

"Our research from Lent indicated that many of the 30,000 Catholics went to confessions at a parish different from their home parish," said Secretary for Catholic Media Scot Landry.

"We wanted to develop a tool for the website and for the iPhone that makes it easy for Catholics to locate any of our parishes, particularly those along their commute after work," he added.

"The iPhone app is wonderful, as a Catholic can push one button that can show all the nearby parishes immediately and then, after selecting a parish, push a second button to obtain directions to that parish from one's current location," Landry continued.

The web site is expected to launch Dec. 3 and the iPhone application is expected to be available the following week, according to Pilot Media Group president Antonio Enrique. A link to Pilot Parish Finder can also be found on the initiative's main site --

That site features tips for confession, guides for the examination of conscience, reflections on the value of the sacrament and parish resources for promoting the initiative. The site was launched in Lent and recently updated.

Bishop Hennessey said that the priests will be welcoming many penitents to confession this Advent.

"Please see to it that we are busy -- share this invite with family and friends by encouraging them to come with you," he said.