Second-grade students around the diocese have been preparing for, or have recently received, their first sacrament of reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is incredibly special,” said Allie Selking, a second-grade teacher at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, Fort Wayne. “Kids and parents are excited. You can see the students beaming when they walk away from the priest. I am always so proud of them for making such a huge step in their faith.”
On Nov. 14, Angela (Gia) Allen, a second-grader at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, stepped in the confessional to acknowledge her sins through this sacrament for the first time in her life.
“I was really, really scared, but excited,” said Gia. “I knew what I wanted to say, but saying it was hard. I was so nervous. Everyone in my family has done it, I’m the last one. It’s a big deal.”
Gia is the youngest of Tracy and Amy Allen’s seven children, all of whom have attended Catholic schools. Samantha, Grace, Anthony, Joseph, Katherine, Peter and Gia range in age from 21 to 7 years old.
“My oldest daughter, Samantha, received the sacrament of first reconciliation in 2003,” said Amy. “Fifteen years later, it never gets old. With Gia being the last of our kids to have received this sacrament for their first time, it is a little bittersweet.”
Preparing students for this moment is not taken lightly. For months leading up to entering the confessional, Gia’s class had been learning about the different kinds of sins, along with absolution, penance and what an examination of conscience was. Students were also given both home and in-school activities that focused on the sacrament and self-reflection.
“We spend a lot of time breaking down and practicing the act of contrition,” said Selking. “I think it’s important that students learn what it really means.”
St. Elizabeth students were also prepared by working with the parish clergy. Deacon Thomas Zehr talked to students about absolution and how their sins are forgiven. Pastor Dave Voors showed students around the confessional and answered any questions they had. Father Voors wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable with him, a priest. He also wanted them to know the purpose of everything in the confessional.
Students asked Father Voors questions about what the night was going to be like, if priests can tell anyone their sins and examples of what their penance might be.
“I wanted to know if the priest would remember what I told him,” said Allen. “He told me to imagine that I was talking to God when I was in there and that I didn’t have to worry.”
Worrying was only one of the feelings Gia felt before confessing.
“I could tell that Gia was nervous,” said Joe, a sixth-grader. “It was in her eyes. She looked terrified.”
However, on Nov. 14, a Tuesday night, Gia took a deep breath and a seat in front of a priest. Looking down at her hands, she began to name and take responsibility for her sins.
Ten minutes later, she walked out of the confessional and was greeted by her family.
“I looked around and saw everyone in my family there. Tony, my older brother, gave me a huge smile and it made me feel so good. Confession made me closer to God. I can be a better person with this sacrament.”
That night, Joe said Gia looked like she was relieved and that he could tell she was proud of herself. He added that he was proud of her too.
“I did it, and it was awesome!” said Gia.
All the preparation had led her to the very moment that she knelt to say her penance. Gia, along with her classmates, had made the first step in a lifelong journey of a newfound freedom, joy, healing and grace through God.
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