Parishes throughout the Diocese are prayerfully ushering in the Lenten season with special programs designed to educate and rejuvenate their members by hosting  mission retreats.

Consisting of a multi-day program of sermons, prayer, music and opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, parish missions can unite members in deeper, more contemplative ways, faithful attest.

“Our faith is not only on Sundays. Missions cause you to see your priest-presenters in a new light and put action into people,” said Nanci Bachman, pastoral associate in St. David the King Parish, explaining that the benefits of a parish mission are many.

The West Windsor faith community has joined with fellow Cohort members – St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, and St. Paul Parish, Princeton – to host a trilogy of parish missions aimed to explore encountering the divine in creation, in worship and in one another.

Bachman called the mission “a wonderful, reflective, prayerful three to four days where we can hear God’s Word with new ears. Lent is the perfect time for this.”

She continued, “We try to connect people with their faith throughout the year, to see God actively involved in their lives. There is a value in working together in ministry. There is value in looking at faith bigger than us.”

The effects of a parish mission are long term, Bachman said. “There are not only graces when [participants] come, but continually.”

A mission she attended at the Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, Pa., about six years ago made just such an impression. “I found a tape from the [presenter] and listened to it,” Bachman said. “It was just what I needed to hear right then.”

The Dolly family, parishioners in St. David the King, echoed Bachman’s assertions.

“A parish mission helps ground me during Lent. It’s a time when I can focus on my faith and my relationship with God,” Kate Dolly said. “I like that it gets me out of my normal routine during the week and provides an opportunity to spend time with my fellow parishioners, listening and learning from the speakers. … It’s always an enjoyable experience that I keep with me throughout the season and the year.”

Fran Stinsman, pastoral associate in Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton, also believes Lenten missions can “stir the hearts” of attendees and foster a sense of community. The faith community will be joining with its Cohort members Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Maple Shade; St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, and Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, to offer a mission focusing on the Passion of Christ and the need for Confession.

“Lent is one time that many people are seeking and come to Church,” Stinsman observed. “The parish mission offers that invitation to return to the Lord, whether for someone who has been away from the Church altogether or someone who is looking to deepen their walk with the Lord. We have all fallen short, and we are in the same boat of needing God’s grace and help.”

In addition to witnessing the preaching and teaching by clergy and lay leaders, she noted that missions emphasize the invaluable aid of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in participants’ journey to God.

“Repentance through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is grace and mercy offered to all of us,” she said. “It is in this true repentance in our hearts that we seek the Lord more closely. It is not a ‘downer,’ but instead a light to lead us in the right direction when we have strayed from the path.”