Parishioners kneel during the Stations of the Cross in the Crypt Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Moorestown. Mike Ehrmann photo
Parishioners kneel during the Stations of the Cross in the Crypt Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Moorestown. Mike Ehrmann photo
Sabina Talone appreciated the chance to participate in 24 Hours for the Lord and spend some extra time in prayer in her parish church this year.

Considering all that’s happened – the global pandemic and now the war in Ukraine – “it’s very important that we come together and pray,” said Talone, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown.

“We need a lot of help,” she said. “We need a lot of prayers.”

PHOTO GALLERIES: More photos from Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown, and St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Bradley Beach

Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish was one of 13 parishes to carry on what has become a Lenten tradition in the Diocese. 24 Hours for the Lord began in 2018 when Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., asked parishes to join with Catholics throughout the world in the initiative that was established in 2014 by Pope Francis as part of the Year of Mercy observance.

It is an annual worldwide Lenten initiative for Catholics to receive the mercy of God through participating in Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as other prayer experiences such as the Stations of the Cross on Friday evening. So that parishes throughout the world would be unified during the observance, the Holy Father selected the days ahead of the Fourth Sunday of Lent as the time to hold the 24 Hours.

“It’s so important that we know our Lord is with us in the present moment; it’s a message we all need to hear in the midst of the trying and challenging times we live,” said Father Christopher Picollo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. “The 24 Hours for the Lord is a tangible reminder of how important it is for us to visit our God in the sacred setting of our churches as well as meet Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

While several of the 13 parishes in the Diocese were open for 24 consecutive hours, others followed schedules best suited for their individual needs. There were parishes that dedicated hours on both Friday and Saturday, and parishes that had hours on Friday only. 

With OLGC hosting its first 24 Hours, Father Picollo said the schedule provided a significant opportunity for parishioners to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He and parochial vicar Father Jack Bogacz heard Confessions from 4 to 7 p.m. and then Stations of the Cross were prayed.

The first 24 Hours was daylong in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro. Mass was celebrated at 8 a.m., followed by Eucharistic Adoration taking place until late afternoon. Confessions, the Stations of the Cross and time for prayer were also available.

“I would hope that the experience allowed people to deepen their faith during their personal Lenten journey and to provide the opportunity for them to utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” said Father John Testa, pastor. “Given what is happening in our world, especially in Ukraine, it provides a chance for people to pray for those in need.  It’s good to provide this opportunity for prayer.”

In Monmouth County, St. Rose Parish, Belmar, and St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Bradley Beach, took a collaborative approach to offering 24 Hours. Using St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church, which is part of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, the priests from both parishes celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Father Erin Brown, pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, said he hoped that anyone who went to Confession, especially those who might have been nervous or had not been in a long time, would learn that “God’s mercy is easy” to obtain.

Along with being welcoming to the penitents, Father Brown tries to “give them the sense that God called them here. I hope everyone learns God’s forgiveness is easy, we just have to ask for it.”

“I also hope that people get a sense that they are a sinner, but I also hope they sense that they’re on the way to becoming a saint. I hope they don’t get the idea that they can never be forgiven,” Father Brown said. “I want them to learn that God loves them, he wants to forgive them and he wants them to be a saint.”

Joanne Bianco, a member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, commented on the timing of this year’s 24 Hours for the Lord, especially since the first day began on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

“That was the beginning of Jesus’ [earthly] life and I thought what a great day to hold it,” she said, then added it was doubly heartening to learn it was also the day that the Holy Father called for the worldwide Consecration of the Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“It’s very consoling to know that so many people from around the world are united in prayer,” she said. “This is what God has asked for.”

Video interviews by Monitor freelance photographers John Batkowski and Mike Ehrmann contributed to this report.