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Drive-thru confessional in western P.E.I. attracts line-up

Father Danny Wilson, Pastor of St. Anthony's Parish in Woodstock.
Father Danny Wilson, Pastor of St. Anthony's Parish in Woodstock.


WOODSTOCK, P.E.I. — Citing the Seal of the Confessional, Father (Rev.) Danny Wilson said he could not comment on the reactions of anyone who stopped at his drive-thru confessional on Saturday.

But he has heard from people outside of the confessional. “People thought it was a great idea and they were grateful for it,” he said.

The parish priest for St. Anthony’s Church in Woodstock and for four other local churches, posted on social media that he would be setting up a drive-thru confessional in the rear parking lot of St. Anthony’s Church for anyone who wanted to go to Confession or to have a prayer said.

“I started at twenty to two (1:40 p.m.) and was there until 4 (p.m.) and it was busy most of the time,” he disclosed.

At one point, when a line started to form, he said he considered calling in another priest he had on standby.

“I plan to do it, at least on Saturdays, for the time being at the same time,” he said, adding he might add additional time slots during Holy Week (April 5 to 11).

“It only seems unusual because it is offered from a car. You can actually hear confessions just about anywhere if you have to.”

Priests from the West Prince deanery ordinarily schedule joint confessional services leading up to Holy Week but, with the social distancing precautions now in place, none of that is happening.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown, Bishop Richard Grecco, applauds Rev. Wilson’s initiative and phoned him up to tell him so. “I told him, ‘Danny, there is no diocesan award for priestly and pastoral creativity, but,’ I said, ‘if there were one, I’d give it to you.’”

Bishop Grecco said priests can continue to hear confessions in their churches during this time of social isolation, as long as there is a room where the priest and the confessant can be at least six feet apart and provided there are signs in the church advising people not to sit within six feet of each other.

Rev. Wilson thinks some variation of drive-thru confessions might catch on if the precautions remain in place.

But he insists what he offered Saturday is not that unusual.

“When you go to some of those large gatherings, like World Youth Day or Steubenville Atlantic, for instance, in Halifax, priests could be sitting outside under a tree, hearing confessions for most of the time,” he noted.

“It only seems unusual because it is offered from a car,” he suggests. He had pylons set up in the parking lot for cars to drive in between and stop once their driver’s window was even with the open window of his car, parked six feet away.

“You can actually hear confessions just about anywhere if you have to.”


Bishop Grecco hopes more Masses will be live-streamed this Sunday

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — The Bishop of Charlottetown is pleased priests of his diocese are finding ways to respond to the needs of their congregation during the current period of social isolation.

Bishop Richard Grecco.
Bishop Richard Grecco.

Last Sunday, in the first week of imposed social isolation in the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic, three priests in the diocese, Rev. Andrew Handrahan in Wellington, Rev. Frank Jay in Kensington and Rev. Maurice Praught at St. Pius X in Charlottetown live-streamed their Sunday Masses, and Bishop Grecco was the celebrant for a Mass that aired on Eastlink Community Television. He believes it was the first time in about 10 years for a Sunday Mass to be televised in P.E.I.

“I am most pleased with the priests who have taken the initiative to live-stream their Masses,” said the bishop. He said he plans to reach out to all his priests by letter this week about the initiative, and he is hoping more Masses will be live-streamed this coming Sunday. He describes it as a good outreach to the people.

The televised Masses will continue, he said as long as the restrictions on group gatherings are in place.

“My prayers are that people can go to Church on Easter Sunday but sometimes your prayers are answered and sometimes they’re not. God has God’s own reasons for that,” Bishop Grecco commented.

In a recent letter to the priests of the diocese, Bishop Grecco reminded them they are spiritually committed to pray the Mass daily, even if it is in private, and for them to remember the needs of the people during the Masses.

Some churches are also holding Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament but with limits in place regarding the number of people who can be in attendance at one time.

It is also common during the season of Lent for many churches to pray the Stations of the Cross. Bishop Grecco said the people are welcome to make the Stations of the Cross individually in the church.

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