A visitor to St. Vincent de Paul Church enters the confessional during the parish's participation in 24 Hours for the Lord last year. Vic Mistretta photo
A visitor to St. Vincent de Paul Church enters the confessional during the parish's participation in 24 Hours for the Lord last year. Vic Mistretta photo
Faithful can benefit spiritually by attending 24 Hours for the Lord during Lent, say pastors of parishes around the Diocese.

“24 Hours for the Lord is important because it gives people an opportunity to encounter Jesus in Confession and Adoration,” said Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Middletown. “In participating in 24 Hours for the Lord, a person will encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ as their sins are forgiven. After Confession, people again have another opportunity to encounter Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration. Both Confession and Adoration provide an amazing opportunity for healing of souls.”

St. Mary Parish is currently one of five parishes that will carry on what has become a Lenten tradition in the Diocese. On March 20-21, the parishes will open their doors for 24 hours, during which time visitors can pray before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation, join in healing services or spend time in prayer.

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 by Pope Francis. As a way of establishing consistent timing, the Pope selected the days ahead of the Fourth Sunday of Lent as proper time for the 24 hours to be offered.

In a 2020 communication to priests of the Diocese, Bishop O’Connell noted that several parishes had observed the request of Pope Francis and the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization for the past two years and that many parishes had reported positive results.

“I would like to continue that tradition again this year,” Bishop O’Connell said.

Along with St. Mary Parish, the other parishes hosting 24 Hours for the Lord are Nativity, Fair Haven; Mary, Mother of the Church, Bordentown; Holy Cross, Rumson, and St. Michael, West End.

“It is important for my parishioners to know they are connected to a global Church,” said Father Grogan. “It is important for them to know they are connected to the Diocese of Trenton, and it is important for them to know that in discreet and direct ways, when we meet to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament and  participate in a global initiative to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are acting as one body of Christ.”

Father Grogan said the timing of 24 Hours for the Lord, four weeks into Lent, serves as “something of a climactic moment as each person and family progresses through this season of preparation for Easter.”

In Nativity Parish, he said, the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation are used during the season of Lent as a way of encouraging participation in the Sacrament and how it “provides a consistent reminder for 40 days that each person has an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord.

“Creating this global event as a milestone for parishioners to accept his forgiveness, offered through Jesus on the Cross, provides a remarkable foundation for God’s grace to enter into every person, welcoming them more deeply into relationship with Jesus,” he said.