November 25, 2011

Youth conference attendees make sacrament of reconciliation a priority

Priests listen to teenagers’ confessions in a room at the Indiana Convention Center on Nov. 18 during the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. (Photo by Rich Clark)

Priests listen to teenagers’ confessions in a room at the Indiana Convention Center on Nov. 18 during the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. (Photo by Rich Clark)

By Sean Gallagher

While Lucas Oil Stadium and the many conference rooms and exhibit halls in the Indiana Convention Center were buzzing with laughing, singing and cheering during the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), there were some rooms in which the only sounds that could be heard were quiet whispers.

It was where some 100 priests and bishops heard confessions from a steady stream of youths and chaperones for 12 hours over two days.

As each penitent left those areas, they were given a sticker that read, “I’m forgiven.”

Countless conference participants could be seen wearing the sticker on their clothing.

The group included Logan Patrick, 18, of Des Moines, Iowa.

“It’s really inspiring,” he said. “It’s great to see so many Catholics get together to have their sins forgiven before the Eucharist on Saturday.”

Madison Beagley, Janna Schulte and Alexandra Ptacek are three friends from Russell, Kan., population 4,280, who attended NCYC. They were impressed by the lines of people waiting to go to confession and then showing everyone, by wearing their sticker, that they had been forgiven.

“Nobody is being forced to do it,” Madison said. “Kids are doing it all on their own without them being told that they have to. It shows how strong our faith is, and how it’s going to continue.”

Janna was in part moved by the sheer numbers of Catholics her own age—more than 20,000—approximately five times the population of her hometown, at the conference who practiced their faith, including going to confession, so openly.

“In our town, there’s not a lot of Catholics that are around our age,” Janna said. “To see so many people go to confession and going to adoration is a great experience.”

“Everyone is open about it [faith] here,” Alexandra said. “No one’s going to get made fun of for praying. Hopefully, that will travel back with us when we go home. Maybe we can say a prayer before we eat lunch in our cafeteria or something like that.”

The youths were not the only ones impressed by the lines of NCYC participants waiting to go to confession.

So was Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

“I was amazed to see the long lines waiting for confession,” Bishop Zarama said during Friday night’s general session at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The 23,000 attendees at the conference, including volunteers and chaperones, cheered in response.

“And why were you making a line for confession?” Bishop Zarama asked. “For one simple reason. When you make a confession, you see and have that experience of connection with [Christ]. It’s how you experience love, the love that forgives you, the love that holds you. That is why you were making a line—to put aside selfishness and sin, and taste and see the love of God in Jesus.” †

 

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