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Penitents experience buoyancy, peace in first confessions

Sylvia Sevier wasn’t sure she felt truly sorry for some of her sins.

The wife and mother of two from Ireland was raised Catholic but confession fell off her “to do” list in her teenage years and 20’s.

She returned to confession at 30 but some sins she didn’t confess.

“I was so nervous about going back after all those years I let it go,” said Sevier, who attends St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial.

It began to nag her until Christmas 2013.

“I got some grace from God and said, ‘I’m going to go in and it’s going to be tough, but I haven’t openly confessed,’” she said.

The priest at the church was helpful and walked her through the process.

“I just felt like a weight had been lifted,” Sevier said.

The value of reconciliation with God and growing in closer relationship with him overcame her tendency to treat it as only a process.

“I feel closer to him for it,” she said. “Knowing that when we make a good and true confession, God has forgiven us and then we can forgive ourselves. Sometimes it’s harder to forgive ourselves. I feel more at peace with myself.”

The value of confession and the graces felt as a result are not lost on other faithful in the Denver area.

The smallest of God’s faithful have experienced the peace and joy of the sacrament of penance, like second-grader Mary Clare Watts.

She prepared for her first confession with her class at Good Shepherd School.

“They taught us that your sins are washed away and your soul gets stored with grace,” the 7-year-old said.

She decided she wanted to go with her family in January before her class went. She memorized her sins and was one of the first in line. She confessed face-to-face with a priest.

“I wasn’t that nervous,” she said of her first time. “It was actually kind of fun.”

Then she decided to go again three days later with her class.

“I just felt like it. I liked it because it was fun,” Watts said.

Confessing sins was once a struggle for others like Russell and Trina Harmes of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Arvada.

For years they didn’t see themselves as sinners and didn’t see a reason to confess to a priest. They thought confessing to God directly in prayer was sufficient.

Both were raised in Protestant homes but entered the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults as an engaged couple in 1998. Russell went once and Trina never completed her first confession.

“My sin was not something I dealt with ever,” Trina said.

In 2011 they were invited to a Penance Celebration held by the Neocatechumenal Way, a parish-based catechumenate.

“Confession was the last things on my mind,” Trina said. “But something stirred in me.”

She responded to a call encouraging the group to confess. She won’t forget that day: March 1, 2012.

“The next morning, I felt like a new person,” she said. “That joy and love I had never experienced. I felt I could love every person on the face of the earth with no questions ask.”

Russell also confessed the same day.

“Prior to going to confession, I struggled with fear, doubt and shame.”

Afterward, he felt like a different person.

“Now I can lead my family in the way Christ has called me to. I know he loves me and I experienced that through confession,” Russell said.

Now the pair goes regularly and encourages everyone to do likewise.

“I have the concrete experience (of God’s forgiveness) now that no one can take away from me,” Trina said. “That’s what makes me a believer.”

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