British Columbia·Photos

Can't get to confession? The church will find a way

Since their church doors closed due to COVID-19, priests at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Parish on Main Street in Vancouver are using their parking lot to take drive-thru and walk-in confessions before the Christian holiday of Good Friday.

Catholic priests are adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic to hear sins in a parkade

Rev. Felix Min of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic parish takes confession from a parishioner at a drive-thru confessional in the church's parking lot near Main Street and 12th Avenue in Vancouver, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Rev. James Hughes of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Parish on Main Street in Vancouver carries a chair to the middle of the church's parking area. Dressed in robes, he and two other priests set up two makeshift stations to hear confessions from parishioners

As many churches and public buildings are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Patrick's is adapting to serve the congregation, particularly leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday when Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"It was busier than a McDonald's lineup last week" says Hughes as he adjusts a speaker to play hymns in the echoing parkade.

Rev. James Hughes sets up traffic signs prior to opening the makeshift confessionals. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Father Nick Meisl with a parishioner at a walk-in confessional also set up in the parkade. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In the Catholic Church, confessions have to be done in person, not over the phone or any form of telecommunications platform.

Enter the drive-thru confession.

"In order to respect the health regulations right now in the province of B.C., we've come up with a drive-thru which allows someone to remain in their vehicle, have their confession heard as they tell the priest their sins and the priest will absolve them and they drive away," explained Hughes.

"It's very clean cut. The two-metre distance is respected."

A car pulls up to Min. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
A sign asks people to keep their windows closed if it's not their turn. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The service began last week with priests working six to seven hours each day over two days.

Hughes said the lineups have been quite steady. 

"We're not only serving our parish and parishioners here at St. Patrick's, but other Catholics from across the Lower Mainland that have heard and are in the area will come by as well."

He believes demand will continue, even past the busy Easter season.

"I would say there's the possibility of doing something at least once a week, to provide that outlet," says Hughes. "

Taking confession. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
And now, taking a break. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Hughes said the challenges his parishioners and the Church face are a good reminder of their values and beliefs.

"I think people need to be far more than just positive. They need to remain hope-filled, that we're not just returning to life as usual, but that we can learn from this as a great opportunity. "