When Anne Froelich, RCIA coordinator at St. Matthew Parish in Allouez, explains
the sacrament to catechumens and candidates, she understands that telling one’s
sins to a priest can be somewhat frightening. That is because they are unfamiliar with
the reasoning behind it.”I always tell them that we are all broken and need healing
and this allows God’s healing touch to be with us,” she explained. “Just like in human
relationships, we feel broken and seek reconciliation with one another in so many
different ways. God is loving and forgiving and we are so precious to him.”
In addition to explaining the meaning behind the sacrament, Froelich, who has
five candidates this year, also provides a reconciliation service before Easter
to give the opportunity for candidates and catechumens to talk with the parish
priest about the sacrament and to ask for God’s special blessing.
Because catechumens receive baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist at the
Easter Vigil, they do not participate in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation
until after Easter. However, the candidates, who have been baptized, will participate
in the sacrament of reconciliation before the Easter Vigil.
“This reconciliation service helps them all to feel that it is not a frightening
thing and that they are not merely confessing to another person, but they are
building a deeper relationship with God,” said Froelich. “This can be such a
comforting, healing presence in a person’s life.”
With a team of four to assist her, Froelich uses “Journey of Faith” by Liguorian
Publications, copies of “Catholic Update” by American Catholic and sacramental
materials written by Servant of Mary Sr. Sandra DeGidio.
“I have always had the team share personal experiences of the sacrament
of reconciliation, which is helpful,” she said. “I think they are more understanding
of reconciliation with the interactions from my team than with any other method.
We also spend time going through what it is like going into the room, going
face-to-face or behind the curtain. I find it very rewarding to share my faith
journey and walk with them on theirs — it is such a gift.”
In Rosemary Baloun’s seven years as RCIA coordinator at Resurrection
Parish in Allouez, no one has said they were frightened of the sacrament of
penance and reconciliation.”There is always more discussion around the Eucharist
than reconciliation,” she said. “For example, they don’t understand why they
can’t receive the Eucharist because they did it in their Lutheran background.”
To prepare the participants to receive the sacrament, Baloun uses “The
Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to Catholicism,” a video on reconciliation
by Fr. Michael Himes (Franciscan Media).”He does an excellent presentation
and explanation of the sacrament along with ‘The Journey of Faith’ and
‘Catholic Faith Handbook’ (St. Mary’s Press),'” she said. “These are all great
resources and it varies each year as I meet the needs of each group in a
way that brings understanding for them.”
In addition, Sheila De Luca, pastoral associate and family life director
at Resurrection, presents a session introducing the sacraments to the group.
In the introduction, she explains how each of the sacraments came from Jesus.
“Jesus gave us many examples of forgiveness in the Bible,” said Baloun.
“Then I share the history of reconciliation so they have an understanding of how
we arrived at confessing with a priest. We then talk about the rites and walk through
them in detail. This, along with the video from Fr. Michael brings great
understanding to them. Our candidates then celebrate the sacrament at
our retreat and I have never had a situation where they didn’t celebrate.”
Utilizing information from the USCCA (U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults),
RCIA director Debra Brandt of Four Parish Catholic Family
(St. Anthony, Tigerton; St. Mary, Marion; Holy Family-St. William, Wittenberg;
and St. Mary, Leopolis) prepares catechumens and candidates
for the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.
“We use the section on reconciliation and other resources as they pertain to it,
along with the Catholic witness of the laity present in the meetings,” she said.
“The witness of the effects of the sacrament is very powerful to their own
understanding in the effects that will be brought to their own lives. We also use
a good guide to the sacrament, so they know what to expect in the
While she is unsure how many return to the sacrament after receiving it
for the first time, Brandt admits that most are frightened until it is explained
“We cover this quite extensively and try to incorporate the parish priest
into one of our sessions,”she said. “After they have heard it once, they
need the time to first grasp it. The second time,they need to bring it into their daily life
and finally come back with their innermost questions about it, so they can
internalize it and embrace its grace that flows from it.”
While frequent reception of the sacrament of reconciliation is encouraged,
Brandt assumes that the new members probably receive it once or
twice a year.
“From what our parish priest says, there are not many frequenting the sacrament
on a regular basis, and this is quite sad, since we are all called to this so we can
be cleansed and lead holier lives within our community,” she said.
“To think that we, who are sinners, do not see the need or fail to see our failings,
only tells me that we need to get back to our roots and learn
more about this wonderfully glorious God of ours.”