I didn’t know what to expect as I opened the door to St. Joseph Church in Trenton shortly after 10 pm on Friday, March 9. Despite the late hour, well over 100 people were scattered throughout the Church in silent prayer as 10 parish churches in the four counties of the Diocese celebrated this Lent’s “24 Hours for the Lord,” offering the Sacrament of Penance and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament literally around the clock.
Photo Gallery: Parishes participate in 24 Hours For the Lord
Msgr. Joseph Roldan, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral Parish and St. Joseph Parish, warmly greeted the faithful as they entered or left this magnificent church on North Olden Avenue late into the night, with coffee and water available to worshippers in the vestibule. “It’s been like this all day,” Msgr. Roldan whispered.
Earlier in the day, on the other side of the Diocese, the same scene was visible in St. Martha Church in Point Pleasant where lines formed for Confession with parishioners and visitors from other parishes kneeling in adoration as Gregorian chant played softly over the speakers.
“What an amazing, powerful experience for our people,” Father David Swantek reflected as he prepared himself for the long night ahead.
In the chapel of St. Pio of Pietrelcina Church in Lavallette Father Doug Freer, the pastor, led his parishioners in the Stations of the Cross at 6 p.m. as a visiting priest heard Confessions.
“This has been a grace-filled day,” Father Freer observed as he walked toward the Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament on the beautiful altar.
Inspiring scenes like these of our beautiful Catholic faith were repeated in our parish churches in Bordentown, Medford, Rumson, Middletown, Fairhaven and West End.
On my way home before 11 p.m., I stopped by Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in West Trenton. The confessional light was still on as people prayed in the church, again with soft, peaceful music in the background. When you’re the bishop, you can rarely slip into a church without being noticed!
“I heard I just missed you,” texted Father Michael Hall, pastor of OLGC, as Father Michael Wallack and I arrived back at the residence.
How blessed we are as Catholics to have Our Lord Jesus Christ present in our churches any hour, every hour, of the day or night. Our Lenten “24 Hours for the Lord” was a deeply moving reminder of his constant presence and of the merciful forgiveness that the Sacrament of Penance offers us simply for the asking.