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The gift of forgiveness

Northeast Ohio Catholic Magazine

February 24, 2022

Experience God’s mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation

All Catholics can participate in the healing sacrament of reconciliation 5-8 p.m. March 16 during the annual Evening of Confession. To help spread awareness, Father Damian Ference, vicar for evangelization, coordinated a video and promotional material.

The above video features four people with different perspectives of the faith and sacraments.

  • Father Patrick Anderson, director of human formation at Borromeo Seminary

  • Mother Jeanette Marie Estrada, a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament and formator for the institute’s postulants and novices

  • Elizabeth Gonzalez, a college student, cradle Catholic, musician and niece of a priest and

  • Patrick Warner, who is participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and will come into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.

The gift of forgiveness

Heeding the call

Father Patrick, who will celebrate the 12th anniversary of his ordination in May, attended Immaculate Conception (Willoughby) School and Willoughby South High School before heading to Borromeo Seminary for two years. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degree work at John Carroll University and spent a year teaching before feeling a call to the Dominican Order and the priesthood. After some discernment, he decided to leave the Dominicans.

“I learned that you can be very attracted to something, but it was not meant for me,” Father Patrick said.

He continued his discernment before deciding to continue formation for the priesthood at Saint Mary Seminary, the diocesan seminary.

“I grew up in a Catholic family and my high school youth group got me on fire with the faith,” Father Patrick said. “They were young people who took their faith seriously. I spent a lot of hours in adoration and it changed my life.”

His parish youth group collaborated with St. Francis de Sales Parish in Akron. Father Patrick credited Father Jeffrey Weaver and Father Dave Ireland, who were active with youth ministry, with helping to guide him to his vocation. He also had two great aunts who were Ursuline sisters.

Father Patrick said at one time, he was leery of confession, thinking it would be “dark.” Over time, he learned and experienced it and grew to appreciate and love the sacrament.

“I really do love the sacrament of reconciliation. You get a front row seat to what God’s doing,” he said, and as a priest, “I get to accompany people on their journey of mercy. People bring their vulnerability, give their sins to God and receive the beauty of reconciliation.”

The gift of forgiveness

Embracing Jesus

Mother Jeanette Marie, a 39-year member of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, joined the order at age 16 in her native Mexico. She ministered in Texas for nine years before being assigned to Cleveland, where she has worked for 25 years, the last nine guiding the order’s postulants and novices through their discernment and formation.

As a Mercedarian, she has a deep love of the Eucharist. “We become the Eucharist for others with God’s grace,” she said.

In the video, she passionately says “Jesus,” explaining that it is a powerful name. The embrace of Jesus shows that “he wants to pour himself out. He wants us to experience his love.” But, as imperfect humans, we often fall short in our relationship with Jesus, which is why confession is so important. It’s an opportunity to approach Jesus to “bathe us with his blood and cleanse us,” she said.

Mother Jeanette Marie said confession is like a child who has fallen in the mud approaching his or her mother for cleansing. “I am so glad the diocese is inviting more and more people to come to this sacrament, to come to the embrace of Papa (God).”

Sometimes a novice or postulant will ask her if they can stop in at the parish church – Our Lady of Mount Carmel (West) – to go to confession. “I love it when they say, ‘I know how much grace I receive (from the sacrament) and I need that grace right now.’ We receive so much of God’s grace after receiving the sacraments.”

The gift of forgiveness

Growing in faith

Elizabeth, the oldest of seven children, envisions a career as a music educator. She works at St. Joseph Parish in Amherst as a cantor and part-time music director and performs at area Catholic churches with two of her brothers in the band “Sanctuary,” which she said helps her grow in faith.

Her multi-generational family is active at St. Mary of the Falls Parish in Olmsted Falls, where the seeds of Elizabeth’s Catholic faith were sown. She attended PSR classes and got involved with Life Teen.

She chose Cecilia as her confirmation name, after the patron saint of music, and she has a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Elizabeth credits her uncle, Father Andy Gonzalez, parochial vicar at Holy Family Parish in Stow, with igniting her love of the faith.

“At my uncle’s ordination Mass (in 2019), I completely fell in love with the faith. I feel like some people have a stereotype of priests, but my uncle (her dad’s younger brother) is really cool. Priests are real people and I love that my uncle is a priest,” she said.

Father Andy told her about Tolle Lege, a summer program for rising high school seniors, which she attended in 2019. That’s where she encountered Father Damian, also a music lover. “We really clicked,” she said. He’s also friends with Father Ryan Cubera, St. Mary of the Falls pastor, and sometimes celebrates Mass there.

“When I was young, I was scared of reconciliation. When one of us (kids) made our first confession, the whole family went,” she said, which provided support. While in Life Teen, she noticed how her peers got excited about the sacrament, which she grew to love.

The gift of forgiveness

Finding his way

Patrick’s conversion experience unfolded over several years and included experiences with agnosticism, other Christian faiths and an interest in Eastern religions before things began falling into place.

Patrick’s father wasn’t very religious, but his mother raised him in the Churches of Christ. At age 13, his father’s health began failing, and Patrick began drifting. He developed an interest in the performing arts, writing, poetry, music and acting because they gave him a sense of purpose.

When he was 17, Patrick’s father died and he began disagreeing strongly with his mother about religion. He didn’t see religion as an answer to his problems and was detached during church services. Eventually, he stopped going. “I felt religion was slavery for humans and I wanted to be master of my own destiny,” Patrick said, adding he didn’t want anyone to force religion on him.

At 23, he was attending a non-denominational church and was baptized.

He began researching Catholicism and a series of events helped nudge him along, including his shock when some statues were vandalized in California. “I felt grief,” he said.

The pandemic also helped him get closer to God. “I learned I was a slave to my own ambition, not master of my destiny.”

For a while, Patrick attended the non-denominational church, but also began attending Mass as his interest in Catholicism grew. He heard – and loved – Gregorian chant, especially the hymn “Pange Lingua.”

Patrick saw an ad for the Busted Halo ministry, and contacted Mike Hayes, diocesan director of young adult ministry, who is connected with Busted Halo. He attended a program by Busted Halo’s Father Dave Dwyer last year, and began going to other events, including Nine Nights of Night Prayer – where he encountered Father Damian – Catching Fire and a Latin Mass and Eucharistic procession at St. Rocco Parish in Cleveland. There he heard – and recognized –Pange Lingua. Soon after, he enrolled in RCIA at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Cleveland.

As he learns more about his new faith, Patrick admits he is “hungry for the Eucharist.”

Father Damian will be his sponsor when he is confirmed and receives his first Communion at the Easter Vigil.

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