If you’ve been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation for awhile and are considering going back to Confession but are feeling wary or apprehensive, how would you feel if Confession came to you? This is a reality for people in the Acadiana area of South Louisiana. Fete Dieu du Teche – the Eucharistic Procession on Bayou Teche, Louisiana – has, in recent years, expanded its outreach to include the purchase of an old ambulance which has been converted into a mobile confessional.
Ministering to the Masses
The Spiritual Care Unit was blessed by Bishop Michael Jarrell of Lafayette on November 12, 2015, during the Year of Mercy, as proclaimed by Pope Francis. The SCU has been making rounds in the surrounding area ever since, bringing the sacrament out to people who might not ordinarily receive it. Fr. Michael Champagne of the Community of Jesus Crucified takes to the streets in the Spiritual Care Unit, going after the lost sheep in need of mercy and forgiveness. Since its conception, the mobile confessional has made over 338 stops with over 17,922 miles logged. There have been 827 hours of hearing confessions with 8,027 confessions heard. Fr. Champagne estimates that around 1 in 4 of those who experience Reconciliation through the SCU may be returning back to the Faith and Mass attendance.
Success of the Spiritual Care Unit
Bringing Confession out into the world is a unique and resourceful way to address the fears and concerns of many who are apprehensive or fearful of approaching the confessional. Fr. Champagne says one of the main reasons for the success of the SCU is the fact that confessions are offered at times which are convenient for many people. While some people are unable to get to the sacrament during the standard 3:00-4:00 p.m. on Saturday, the SCU is available at various opportune times during the week. A second factor that draws penitents to the SCU is the accessibility of the mobile confessional. Making rounds at supermarkets, doctor’s offices, festivals, and health clubs provides ample opportunity for Catholics to frequent the sacrament. Finally, Fr. Champagne travels with a team of sisters, priests, and brothers who minister and prepare the penitents to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation by providing an Examination of Conscience and handing out rosaries and other sacramentals. Establishing a rapport helps the penitents to feel at ease and comfortable with the experience.
Leaving the Ninety-Nine
The idea of going out to the masses is indicative of how God in his love and mercy constantly seeks us out in our sin and shepherds us back to the flock when we go astray. Jesus addressed the Pharisees in Luke’s gospel in this way: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4) Jesus loves us so much that he is constantly going in search of us through the action of the Holy Spirit and working to bring us back to the fold. Fr. Champagne, through the Spiritual Care Unit, is bringing this parable to life in a world starved for repentance and forgiveness and helping to make God’s mercy available in abundance to so many souls. Let us pray for his ministry and all of the people it is reaching now and will reach in the future.
(Images from Fr. Michael Champagne)