See below for a sample of the great content in this month’s Long Island Catholic Magazine.

  •  In preparation for Reconciliation Monday (March 30), editor Rick Hinshaw interviewed several people about their experiences with the sacrament.
  • Scroll down for Bishop Murphy’s column “Believe and Profess

To read the entire magazine, subscribe to the Long Island Catholic here. 

(cover story)

RVC0315The sacrament of reconciliation: personal stories of renewal and holiness

by Rick Hinshaw

“Beautiful.” “An awesome feeling.” “I cried.”

As we approach the annual Day of Reconciliation in our diocese on March 30, Monday of Holy Week, those are some of the feelings that filled the hearts of several women as they shared a particular personal experience with the sacrament of Penance.

Lisa Felice, a convert, was moved to tears of joy when she first experienced confession – something that had always intrigued her about the Catholic Church during her years as a very active, practicing Lutheran.

For Bowen Miller, also a convert – from the Episcopal Church – it was also her first confession that had a special impact, a “beautiful” experience to feel God’s forgiveness.

Iris Noya, on the other hand, is a cradle Catholic who has always gone to confession regularly. Yet two years ago, during a Mothers’ Day weekend women’s retreat at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, she experienced “such an overwhelming holiness” in confession that “tears came into my eyes,” and she now feels that she truly experiences all that the sacrament of Reconciliation has to offer.

“Sometimes in the past I would go to confession, and afterward still feel as though I wasn’t fully forgiven,” she said. “Something was always missing.

“But this time, sitting with this priest (whose name she did not even know), I really felt like I was talking (through the priest) to God. I felt so at ease, so peaceful.” Since that experience, she said, she has never again felt as though “something is missing” when she goes to confession.

Lisa said she was “nervous at first,” but comforted that her confessor was Msgr. Thomas Costa, her pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Hicksville and her spiritual adviser. “I felt comfortable enough knowing he would be a good listener,” she said. “I felt comfortable, revealing my soul, really. It was a little longer than probably most confession sessions would be. It was very easy, really.”

Lisa’s daughter, a student at Our Lady of Mercy parish school, made her first confession at the same time as her mother, something Lisa found very moving.

“I actually had her go first,” she said, “because I knew I would get emotional, and I didn’t want to frighten her. She looked so fragile. But she came back smiling, looking relieved and happy.”

Confession was also “a new experience” for Bowen Miller, who had spent her entire life as a very active member of the Episcopal Church.

“I was really grateful,” she said of her first confession, at St. Patrick Church in Huntington. “We spend a lifetime accumulating sins, and then to have the opportunity to go and confess them, it was beautiful.”

“In the Anglican, or Episcopal, faith,” she explained, “you are encouraged, if you would like, to go to confession to a priest,” but it is not necessary. “We were taught that we can confess our sins directly to God, we don’t need an intermediary.”

Now, as a Catholic, she said, “you actually are experiencing the Body of Christ” in the sacrament of Reconciliation. “Everybody has sinned,” she noted, “so the shame aspect of it is non-existent” – even in terms of confessing one’s sins to a priest.

“It’s good,” she said, “to be with someone who is also a sinner, but who, as a priest, has the power to forgive your sins.”

Receiving the sacrament of Penance regularly, Bowen said, has really helped her in terms of “examination of conscience.

“It’s more important for me now to be mindful of my sins,” she explained, “so when I go to confession I am aware of my sinful actions.”

That opportunity to engage in a good examination of conscience was critical, Iris said, to her transformative confession experience at the retreat at Immaculate Conception Seminary.

“When we go to confession it’s important to take time to reflect,” she said. “You don’t always find that so easy in church, people talking, other distractions.” But she found it in the Mothers’ Day women’s retreat.

“It’ a silent retreat,” she said. “I can’t tell you how spiritual it was, how calming.” She “took advantage” of that atmosphere in preparing for the sacrament of Reconciliation. “It was so spiritual, my mind was opened” to examining her conscience and receiving the fullness of grace from the sacrament.

Now, she said, when she goes to confession in church, “I look for the opportunity to do the same thing – prayer, reflection beforehand. I reflect not just on my sins, but on needing strength so I can be a better person.

“It’s very important not just to walk into church five minutes before confessions start and just go right in,” she said. “We need to spend some quiet time with ourselves in prayer, and lots of meditation. We can do it at home or in church,” she emphasized. “It’s just important to put yourself in a situation where there is quiet all around you. If there is noise around you you’re not hearing it, you’re focused on you and God. Let the Holy Spirit work, give you the thoughts you need to make a good confession, so you feel as if you are truly forgiven.”

Cathy Calonna, a transplanted Long Islander now living in South Carolina, received some critical help in preparing for her first confession from a deacon she met in Church as she waited to see the priest.

Cathy had been baptized Catholic as an infant, she told TLIC, and her grandmother had taken her to church when she was little. But her parents had not been very religious, she explained, and so she did not make the sacraments as a girl. Then in adulthood, she would go to Mass “on the big Holy Days,” like Christmas and Easter, she said, and in recent years began to prepare to make the sacraments. She went through the RCIA program at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Hicksville, and “they really held my hand throughout the process,” she said.

Still, she was “very apprehensive,” going to confession, she said, “never having done it before,” and thinking, “all the things I’ve been carrying around within me my whole life, I’m now going to start unburdening.”

Arriving at St. Brigid’s in Westbury, she recalled, she found herself seated next to “a deacon from the parish in Oyster Bay (St. Dominic). I told him it was my first confession, and he just talked me through it,” she said. “He was obviously meant to be there for me.” Her confessor that day was Father Greg Rannizzisi, who “couldn’t have been better,” she said. “It was very emotional for me,” but as Father Greg realized it was her first confession, she said, he was very warm and supportive.

“He told me, ‘God forgave you a long time ago. You just have to learn to forgive yourself,’” she recalled. “When I walked out of there I felt 20 pounds lighter, really unburdened.” She went back to work at the hair salon where she was employed, “and I just told everyone about it. It was such a positive experience.”

Growing up Lutheran, Lisa said, she never found anything “frightening” or sinister about the Catholic practice of confession. Rather, she said, she was always “curious about it,” and wondered, “Why can’t we do that?”

Now, as a Catholic, she finds it “a gift greater, I think, than just that initial relief” of being freed from one’s sins. “There’s a sense of renewal, of being refreshed, having the opportunity to re-connect, re-commit, to start over, to live again.

“It’s a shame,” she said, that more Catholics “don’t take advantage” of the opportunity for reconciliation on a more regular basis. “Perhaps people are afraid of the feelings it might provoke,” she said; and “the longer people stay away, the more intimidating perhaps it becomes.”

She finds the sacrament particularly important for young mothers like herself.

“Nowadays there is so much going on, there are so many expectations placed on us,” she said, “that it’s really important for me to take advantage of the opportunity” for that spiritual renewal.

At the other end of the life spectrum, Iris told of an elderly woman who was part of a woman’s prayer group Iris belongs to, who confided to the group that she hadn’t been to confession in 40 years. “We encouraged her to visit with a priest in the parish rectory,” Iris recalled. “It took her about a year. She was scared. Finally she went to confession,” and the next year she became ill and passed away. The priest to whom she went to confession, Iris said, was able to visit her in the hospital before her death.

“It was such a blessing,” Iris said, “that we were able to help her, to give her that little push, and that encouragement, when she needed it. Look what happened. When I visited her in the hospital, she told me, ‘I’m so glad I went to confession.’”

“You could not possibly lose by going” to confession, Cathy said. “You can only gain by going.”


believe and profess

by Bishop William Murphy

 

Celebrating Consecrated Life

 

Last November 30, Pope Francis inaugurated the Year for Consecrated Life. On February 1, at St. Agnes Cathedral and in our parishes, we celebrated the World Sunday for Consecrated Life. Many of the leaders of the congregations that offer so much to our diocese joined me and our parishioners, as well as the Telecare parish, to observe this annual act of thanks to God for the gift of consecrated life and the many gifts of the sisters, priests and brothers who serve the Church here in countless ways. During the year, the diocese will continue to sponsor events under the aegis of this papal initiative. I am grateful to the co-vicars for Religious, Franciscan Brother James McVeigh and Infant Jesus Sister Patricia Moran, for their many efforts in this important moment in the life of our Church.

 

Education Tax Credit: After much effort on the part of many of you, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included the Education Investment Tax Credit in his budget proposal. This is very important for the future of Catholic and other non-governmental schools in our state. This still is but a proposal until the budget is passed. The NY State Catholic Conference is coordinating our statewide efforts to hold the governor to his promise and to urge all members of the State Assembly and State Senate to support this.  Sen. Dean Skelos has been a great ally in this effort. But from now until the budget is passed, the one item before our eyes in Albany is passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit bill, on its own merits, to be enshrined in law and funded by the state budget. Please keep thanking our Long Island legislators who have supported us and urging all legislators to support our effort by their votes.

 

Public policy advocacy: March has always included Public Policy Day, when Catholics from all the dioceses of New York came to the Capitol in Albany to urge our elected leadership to support a variety of bills and proposals that benefit the common good. Our positions are always based on the principles of Catholic social doctrine and we seek to protect and advance the human dignity of every citizen and the best interests of citizens as a body. This witness has done much good. And we bishops are ever grateful for your witness. In our discussions, the bishops of the state came to the conclusion that at times we have been trying to combine too many parts and address in too many ways a wide variety of concerns on this one day in Albany. For this year, we have decided, as an experiment, to change our approach.

Instead of one Public Policy Day, we are asking the diocesan leaders to move forward on issues specific to one or another area of concern. For example, the Catholic Charities leaders will organize their efforts and make the case for our social outreach with whatever aid they need from the rest of us. The diocesan leaders in Catholic education will do the same. The Respect Life constituency will do theirs. But we will not try to do all this in one day. Meantime, the bishops will go to Albany on March 9 to meet with the governor and the leadership of the Senate and of the Assembly. We will seek to be open to all the legislators with a reception that will express our support for them and our interest and commitment to specific legislation without, however, soliciting specific responses. In this way, we hope to continue to build bridges while, at the same time, making clear what the Church teaches and what we seek to promote for the good of the state and all her citizens. Keep this in your prayers.

 

Holy Triduum: The Holy Triduum begins April 2 with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in all our parishes. That morning, I will celebrate the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral of St. Agnes. At that Mass I bless the sacred oils, the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens and, especially, the Sacred Chrism which will be used in all our parishes to heal the sick, to anoint catechumens and those about to be baptized and to anoint the baptized, those to be confirmed and those to be ordained to the priesthood or the episcopate this coming year. At that Mass all our priests renew priestly promises and re-affirm priestly lives in union with their bishop.

Then the Sacred Triduum celebrates step-by-step the saving acts of Jesus, our Savior and our Redeemer. At the Mass of the Last Supper, in all our parishes, we celebrate that night when Jesus gathered His disciples, the apostles, to share a last meal at which He washed their feet as an example to them and their successors. He instituted the Eucharist, the greatest gift He left to His Church, and He established the foundation of the continuing life of the Church by charging these, His chosen ones, to be His apostles to celebrate the Eucharist to make the Church one in life and in love from then until the end of time.

On Good Friday, we observe the moment of His Passion and Death. We meditate on those last hours leading up to His Crucifixion. We adore the Cross, Our Only Hope, the instrument of our salvation and we receive His Sacred Body as the “journey bread” to nourish us as we await His resurrection.

The Easter Vigil brings all of this to an awesome and beautiful climax and fulfillment: the new fire, the lighting of the Paschal Candle, the singing of the Exultet, calling us to rejoice that we have such a Savior, the conferral of baptism and confirmation and the celebration of the Eucharist, the eternal proclamation that Christ is risen.

On Easter Sunday, may we all be together as one proclaiming the resurrection of the Lord, sharing at Easter Mass the Word of God, which announces Christ’s triumph over sin and death and bids us go out to tell the world: He is Risen. Yes. It is true. He is Risen. Alleluia. Alleluia!