By Samantha Hilyer
Throughout September, a blue tent with white lettering labeling the temporary establishment the “Confession Tent” was visible in front of the chapel and on the lawn on the side of the Carey Center. The Confession Tent is one of the ways that Saint Vincent’s Campus Ministry has been offering alternative methods for students to receive the Sacrament of Confession while following COVID-19 guidelines.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B., director of Campus Ministry, said that COVID-19 restrictions meant seating in the Mary of Wisdom Student Chapel had to be reduced to 25% compacity in order to provide the proper amount of social distancing. The new seating arrangement then led to less space and privacy for students wishing to go to confession, so Loch and a group of other monks decided to form an outside version of the confessionals.
The tents being used during the confessions are 10 feet by 10 feet, allowing for more than 6 feet of distance between the priest and the penitent. All parties involved also adhere to the college’s mask guidelines, and at the end of each individual Confession, the student sanitizes the chair with the provided cleaning wipes.
The Sacrament of Confession is a major aspect of the Catholic faith community because, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the sacrament is the obtainment of pardon through God's mercy for the offense committed against him. The Sacrament is also the reconciliation with the Church, as an individual’s sins damage the connection between the Church and the individual.
“It is important to Catholics to experience the grace of God that comes through this Sacrament,” Loch said. “While there is no rule on how often to go to Confession, the time varies for Catholics from weekly to annually or longer.”
As many as 25 students in total attend the outdoor Confessions which are held at various times and days of the week, according to Loch.
Outdoor Confessions will proceed as long as the weather permits comfortable outdoor activity. Once colder temperatures hit, Confessions will be scheduled in Loch’s office and in the Bearcat Lounge, following proper social distancing guidelines.
Additionally, students can make appointments with priests on campus as another alternative to the usual practice of indoor chapel confessionals, if they wish to receive the Sacrament of Confession.