It’s not every day that more than two-dozen Catholic priests show up in a single venue to hear confessions.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, the formal name in Catholicism for confessing one’s sins and asking for forgiveness, might just be the most overlooked element of the faith in most parishes today.
The overwhelming majority of Catholics report that they don’t go to confession at all or go less than once a year.
But when presented with ample opportunity Saturday evening to confess their sins, a few-hundred area Catholic teenagers lined up for the experience inside Adam’s Mark Hotel, where the multitude of priests gathered to dispense penance and absolve them of their wrongdoings.
The reconciliation service was part of the 62nd annual Diocesan Youth Convention, a three-day celebration of the Catholic faith for middle school and high school students from throughout the eight counties of the Diocese of Buffalo.
“It can be a difficult sacrament for a lot of people, and it is for a lot of young people,” said Kathryn M. Goller, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Buffalo diocese. “We give them the opportunity, and they take advantage of it. We make it easy for them.”
Amilia Wolf of Silver Creek welcomed the chance to engage in a bit of soul cleansing.
“I feel like it’s a good thing to do because it makes you feel renewed,” said Amilia, a high school junior who was part of a group of six teens from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
Not everyone was as keen on the concept, though.
“I don’t like to lay out all my problems. I can just do without it, you know,” said Jason Farrell of East Aurora.
But Jason and his older brother, Michael, both said the convention was a positive experience overall, especially because they met so many young Catholics from other parts of Western New York.
“It’s one of those things you go to that you don’t expect to be as good as it is,” said Michael.
The convention featured comedian and storyteller Doug Brummel on Saturday, as well as small-group sessions and a variety of theme tables and booths.
A life-sized cardboard cutout of a beaming Pope Francis stood in one section of the convention’s main lobby area, attracting a stream of photograph seekers for a “picture with the pontiff.”
Some of the convention attendees expressed deep affection for the affable pope.
“He speaks his mind. Not many popes do that,” said Sami Page of Silver Creek.
“He emphasizes more acceptance, rather than shunning people from the church,” said Amilia Wolf. “It really speaks to Christianity and our faith because God loves everyone.”