Special Reports

Diocesan-Wide Day of Penance and Healing

Healing a Wounded Church

Catholics profess in the Creed to believe in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Recent revelations of past child sexual abuse by clergy have caused many believers to wonder just how holy our Church is. The recently released names of clergy from our diocese with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse bring the point close to home.

While the Church remains holy and immaculate because of Jesus, her divine founder and head, she remains human as well. Our human nature, which Jesus assumed while still remaining fully divine, will always be a necessary element of the Church, even though that element continues to be—and always will be here on earth—wounded and fallen.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Catholic Church in the Diocese of La Crosse will come together to do its divine-and-human best to make amends for the sins of its members, intercede for the healing of those affected by clergy sexual abuse and pray for the holiness to which God has called us in Christ. Each parish (or group of parishes) will host a Holy Hour for Penance and Healing from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.—the Hour of Mercy (please check with your local parish to confirm its schedule). During this time, we will pray before the Blessed Sacrament for healing and reconciliation. Following the Holy Hour until the beginning of the Saturday evening Mass, confessions will be heard. The diocese’s vicars general will lead regional prayers, and Bishop William Patrick Callahan will anchor the day by leading all these same observances at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral in La Crosse.

The Church, in addition to being holy and human, is also our mother and the bride of Christ. From the earliest centuries, the Church fathers have compared the Church’s origin to that of Eve’s. As Adam’s spouse was formed from his side as he slept in the Garden of Eden, so Jesus’ bride—the Church—comes to life through the blood and water flowing from His opened side as He slept in death upon the cross. Each of us is a brother or sister belonging to this mother. Indeed, we are cells of this mystical bride of Christ. When one of us is wounded, all of us feel pain. When one of us sins, all of us are affected by the fall. But the opposite is also true: When one prays and does penance and grows in holiness, the entire Church can benefit from God’s saving grace.

Consider joining our diocesan Church in its Day of Penance and Healing on Feb. 22. This day also marks the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The authority of this chair and of this first pope continue today in Pope Francis, who is the visible head on earth of Jesus Himself. The Church—from the pope to the most recently-baptized—needs you. The sins of our Church have wounded us all in real, if different, ways. Now, the prayer and penance of our Church can bring some level of healing, not only between us and God, but among ourselves.

Christopher Carstens
Director of the Office for Sacred Worship
Photography by Zach Tudahl

Diocesan-wide Day of Penance and Healing
Bishop William Patrick Callahan asks that each pastor lead a Holy Hour for Penance and Healing on Feb. 22 in response to clergy sexual abuse and the public release of names of clergy with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.

Although the schedule may vary from parish to parish, the Holy Hour for Penance and Healing will begin at 2 p.m. and conclude at 3 p.m. Confessions will then be heard from this time until the beginning of Mass. Please confirm the schedule with your local parish.

Bishop Callahan and the three vicars general will also lead prayer services and hear confessions at these locations:

  • Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman, La Crosse (Bishop Callahan)
  • St. Bronislava, Plover (Father Dhein)
  • Immaculate Conception, Eau Claire (Monsignor Gorman)
  • Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marathon (Monsignor Diermeier)

Whether at your local parish, at one of the above locations or at home, please join the Diocese of La Crosse in prayer and penance on Feb. 22.

Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation

Almighty and Most Loving God,
through your Son
your compassion brought healing to many.
We ask for your healing once more
for all who have been profoundly wounded by abuse,
especially those who have been hurt by your ministers.
In your mercy,
we also ask for forgiveness.
Words cannot express fully
the sorrow we have for the great harm done
by those who were called to be trusted.
In your goodness,
we ask for the grace
to be a source of healing
to all who have been abused
and to be ever vigilant
in protecting all your people.
Grant, we pray,
our prayers for healing and forgiveness,
for we ask them through your Son,
Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen.

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