GILBERT – While most people are asleep at 3 o’clock in the morning, St. Anne Parish in Gilbert opened its doors to those night owls seeking refuge in the Lord through Adoration and the sacrament of Reconciliation. The parish was one of several throughout the Diocese of Phoenix — at least one in each deanery — participating in the worldwide “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative March 4-5.
“That’s the beauty of the Catholic Church. Participating with everybody around the world adoring the Lord, begging for mercy and forgiveness,” said Fidelia Ndolo, a native of Nigeria and St. Anne parishioner. “We’re all just praying for each other, being present together.”
In Misericordiae Vultus, the papal bull announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called for the Church-wide initiative to take place this year during the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent.
“So many people, including young people, are returning to the sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives,” the Holy Father said in his papal bull. “Let us place the sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.”
Ndolo said being able to go to Confession was the highlight of her night. She had initially come to pray in Adoration, but decided to take advantage of the sacrament.
“How beautiful it is to confess your sins to the Lord in the middle of the night,” she said. “So peaceful and quiet, that a priest is willing to let you dump your sins on him, giving you advice, telling you how much God loves you. I was in tears by the time I came out reflecting on all he told me.”
Several priests from throughout the East Deanery heard confessions through midnight, and pastor Fr. Sergio Fita pulled the graveyard shift, hearing confessions through the morning.
“God willing, these efforts will help so that more and more souls can experience the mercy of the Lord and that they come closer, through confession and repentance, to our good God, the Father,” Fr. Fita reflected afterward.
From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., members of the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council 10540 escorted visitors to and from their cars in the parking lot. Serving in two-hour shifts, many also took the opportunity to pray and receive the sacrament.
“We volunteered for it, but I wanted to do this for the graces and the chance to be with the Lord,” said Dave Birosh, who returned to his post after going to confession. “I feel so blessed that this is available at this time of the day.”
Grand Knight Jim Walsh shared how he personally had taken two quick naps in between his shifts at the parish. He went home after cleaning up the parish’s fish fry, returned for an hour-long shift of Adoration, went home again, and returned for his 2-4 a.m. “Knight” shift.
At Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe, various parish ministry groups signed up to take a different hour throughout the night. Valerie Jennejohn, who is a part of the 40 Days for Life ministry, took the opportunity to pray in Adoration for the unborn and abortion workers during the dead of night.
“I prayed that they receive Jesus’ forgiveness and recognize that He has mercy for us.”