Priests see increase in people seeking sacrament of reconciliation

Many inspired by the Year of Mercy
By Jill Kruse

Witness Editorial Assistant

DUBUQUE — During the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the faithful were encouraged to not only extend mercy to others, but also to personally experience the mercy of God in their own lives. A powerful way for Catholics to do this was through the sacrament of reconciliation.

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In “Misericordiae Vultus,” the document through which he officially declared the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said, “Let us place the sacrament of reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands.”

Many Catholics in the Archdiocese of Dubuque heeded the pontiff’s words and sought out the confessional during the jubilee year.

At the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque, both the parish’s pastor, Msgr. Thomas Toale, and associate pastor, Father Alan Dietzenbach, said they noticed an increase in the number of individuals approaching the sacrament.

Since the cathedral was a designated site for pilgrims to visit and pass through the Holy Door during the Year of Mercy, many people from around the archdiocese – and in many cases, from well beyond the archdiocese – made their way to the cathedral during the past 11 months. While there, many chose to attend Mass and go to confession.

Confession was regularly available at the cathedral on Friday mornings, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings before Mass. Groups of pilgrims who wished to celebrate the sacrament at a time outside of those scheduled hours could arrange to have another priest present in order to help accommodate their needs.

Msgr. Toale said there were many occasions over the past year when he or Father Dietzenbach or a visiting priest encountered a steady stream of people at the confessional. Often, those coming to confess their sins were men and woman who had not been to reconciliation in quite some time.

“For many, it had been a number of years, some decades, since they had last celebrated the sacrament,” said Msgr. Toale. “For many … the burdens of years were lifted and replaced with tears of joy.”

Msgr. Toale said he was deeply moved by the number of people who went to confession this past year and by the impact the sacrament had on them.

“The message of God’s unconditional love and mercy was repeated over and over,” he said. “As a priest confessor it was humbling and inspiring to witness the joy that God’s forgiveness brings.”


The main confessional at St. Raphael Cathedral. (Photo by Jill Kruse/The Witness)

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