DERBY, Conn. (RNS) The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can’t say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.
The new confessional at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Church in Derby, Conn. RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values
For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They’d been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.
They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.
Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.
So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. “I told them I wanted a visible confessional,” he said.
He got one within a week.
Patrick Knott, who had never confessed in the private room, said a long line formed in February when Kukulka held the first confession in the booth. He was the first to try it out.
“I got celebrity status,” he said. “It wasn’t bad.”
Kukulka said confessions have been up ever since at the church.
Nicely positive story so of course they needed a killjoy.
But Thomas Groome, professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, doubts that an old-school confessional will be enough to keep the momentum going.
At the parish I came into the Church in they have two sets of the old style confessional and they have confession before every single Mass. There is always some kind of line.
I really think it is quite important to have confession “front and center” even if really it is back and center location wise. I love seeing people in line and I wonder how many people this encourages to also subsequently go to confession?
Frankly the “reconciliation rooms” kind of freak me out at some level. Whenever I see one of them I can hardly imagine wanting to go to confession there. The ones I have seen are so blasé that they could easily be converted to a janitors closet, if that is what they weren’t before. While certainly the location does not affect the sacrament, it does affect how we perceive the sacrament. Add the fact that these rooms are often apart from the main church (in my experience).
I do wonder what would happen if confession was available before every Mass everywhere?