Return of Be Reconciled Draws Diocesan Catholics to Confession
By Lynne Conner and Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondents
April 1, 2021
DIOCESE—One of the first innovations Bishop David Malloy brought to the Rockford Diocese when he arrived was an annual day of confessions during Lent. 
He envisioned a day when Catholics would be able to go to any parish near their home or workplace at a time convenient to them to receive the sacrament.
Be Reconciled Day became part of the diocesan calendar in 2013. But like other activities last spring, it had to be cancelled as the entire state went on a coronavirus-caused lockdown.
The eagerness to heal spiritually was evident at St. Mary Parish in Huntley when Be Reconciled Day returned March 24. Pews were filled with people attending the noon Mass and steady lines for confession formed during the day. 
“I absolutely support Be Reconciled returning this year,” said St. Mary parishioner Brad Lauinger. “Our parish always has a long line for confession, but with Be Reconciled, this gives people an opportunity during expanded times to go and fit it into their own personal schedules.”
At Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Aurora, the church was filled with a steady stream of parishioners. 
“We were ready to help anyone and directed them on where to safely sit and if they were looking for either English or Spanish confession,” said parish secretary Alicia Liprenta. “With so many people here today for Be Reconciled and many people returning to Mass, it is a good sign.”
Marcie Girolamo, director of evangelization at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Crystal Lake, said, “The response has been wonderful for Be Reconciled as we have had long lines all day. We promoted it everywhere, from our bulletins, website, Facebook, and Flock-note. I really felt with so many people here today that the term ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ was in full affect.” 
Confessions were held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in two meeting rooms which included a privacy area for confession. 
“We also had chant music that could be heard in the halls and the meeting rooms, which provided an extra layer of privacy,” she said. “You could feel the peace of the Holy Spirit.”
Girolamo added that attendance at their Masses has been steady and increasing each week. 
“I am looking forward to Easter and so excited that we will have our new touchless automatic holy water fonts in the church. I’ve really missed not having the holy water this past year because of the safety precautions. I saw the touchless fonts at another parish and couldn’t wait to tell our pastor, Father Brian Grady, about them. Now we will have them, too.”
Jill Ballard said she and husband Gerald, parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena in West Dundee, took part “mainly as ‘ushers’ to help other people find the confessionals (if needed) and make sure the ‘safety protocols’ were followed.”
She “definitely” felt safe at the church on Be Reconciled Day. “There were markings on the floor where people stood, so we were six feet apart and (had) plenty of room in the confessional. Also, people were asked to wipe down the wooden part of the pew if they sat in the chapel afterwards.” 
“I think a lot of people were delighted to hear about the return of Be Reconciled Day this year as they haven’t been able to get out to confession due to COVID-19 concerns,” said Father Phillip Kaim, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Rockford. 
To accommodate an increased number of people on Be Reconciled Day, the parish had two priests available during the day with an additional priest hearing confessions in the evening, he said.
At St. Bridget Parish in Loves Park, confessionals were set up in two rooms off the church’s narthex to allow for COVID-19 safety protocols. 
“Normally, our confessions take place in the adoration chapel where the confessionals are located, but that wasn’t possible this year,” said St. Bridget pastor Msgr. Steve Knox. 
“In order to handle an increased number of people coming to confession and to maintain social distancing, it made sense to use the meeting rooms for the sacrament,” he said.
“In hearing people’s confessions throughout the day, I really got a sense of how the pandemic has impacted people spiritually,” he added. “Having Be Reconciled Day prior to Easter catches those who have been disconnected from the faith and offers them an opportunity to come back and experience God’s grace and mercy. I think everyone is very grateful to once again participate in all the sacraments with their parish community.”
Connie Mangiardi, served as an usher on Be Reconciled Day at St. Peter Cathedral. “I’ve always thought that the flexibility of having confession at all the parishes in the diocese on the same day offers the best opportunity to participate in the sacrament,” she said. 
“Some people come to confession on their lunch hour, parents can come before or after school drop off and some people come after work. Be Reconciled Day is a great way to get your spiritual house in order,” she added.
Chris Mattoon, administrative assistant at St. Mary Parish in Elgin, said, “We have a steady flow the whole day. ... Some after they go to confession, they have asked to register for Mass, so people are coming back.”
She said she was able to help several senior citizens who aren’t comfortable with online technology to get signed up for Masses.
Mike Watrous, a convert who attends St. Mary in Elgin, said, “I just joined the church here. This is the second time I’ve been into confession. The first time was when I was confirmed. It is different, but rewarding, from last year.” 
“I was an Episcopalian a few years ago,” said Dan Stearmer, another convert at St. Mary in Elgin. “It is not as scary as it seems. I mean they are here to listen to you. They care about you, and they are here to help you too. It is very inspirational but is also helpful. A lot of relief, definitely.”
John Lindblade, a St. Bridget parishioner, attended his first Be Reconciled Day this year. 
“Depending on how long it’s been since someone has participated in the sacrament, you may feel nervous about going. But it’s best to just go, do your penance and put your sins behind you. It’s wonderful to know that your sins are forgiven, that your soul is clean again,” he said.
— Margarita Mendoza contributed to this story


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