Father Rolando De la Rosa
Mater Dolorosa to build light-filled confessional inside church
November 6th, 2013
By Valerie Schmalz
Mater Dolorosa’s pastor is building a confessional inside the South San Francisco church – restoring the penitential sacrament to the church interior about 30 years after it was removed to a storage room off the church foyer.
“This is a very important significant sacrament, a vehicle of God’s mercy and love for us,” said pastor Father Rolando De la Rosa.
He hopes the new light-filled confessional room –with opportunities for both private and face-to-face confession– will be ready for the Advent season, which begins Dec. 1.
“My focus was to make it available to all penitents, to make available the great mercy and love of God,” Father De la Rosa said, recalling a man in a wheelchair who fortunately was willing to make a face-to-face confession because there was no way for him to receive the sacrament privately.
The existing room is also difficult for elderly and disabled people with canes and walkers to use, he said. The red/green light isn’t clearly visible, so at times confessions have been interrupted by a waiting penitent.
In addition, Father De la Rosa said some parishioners have told him: “I don’t even know where the confessional is.”
The new confessional will be in the far back corner of the church interior, with a glass roof to let in the natural light filtered through the stained glass windows that line the top of the church wall. A fixed wall between confessor and penitent will include a sliding grille that allows the penitent to choose face-to-face confession while remaining physically separate on the other side.
The pastor is particularly delighted with the glass roof “to get the rays of the sun.”
“A confessional is a place to have peace, of course forgiveness, but peace is a product of forgiveness,” he said, calling the sacrament of reconciliation “somehow the overlooked sacrament.”
Canon law requires that the confessional be inside the church, visible, accessible to every possible penitent, and open for private and face-to-face confession, Father De la Rosa said. He has posted the canon law requirements, and the U.S. bishops’ directive on the sacrament with the construction plans in the church lobby.
More than $13,000 of the approximate $22,000 cost has been donated already with the remainder pledged, he said.
While parishioners Father De la Rosa has talked to do not have clear memories of where the confessional was, the consensus is it was located where the new confessional will go, he said. At the same time as the confessional is installed, the wall separating the storage/confessional room from the vestibule will be taken out and the vestibule expanded. The statues of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the vestibule will be moved into that area as will the statue of St. Anthony now located where the confessional will go, he said.
From November 8, 2013 issue of Catholic San Francisco.