Maryland priest opens drive-thru confessional during coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc in the middle of the Lenten season, one priest is offering drive-thru forgiveness.

When public Masses were suspended in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Father Scott Holmer, pastor at St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Bowie, Md., did not want to deprive his community of the sacrament. Just 10 minutes before he was set to hear confessions, he came up with the idea to allow Catholics to confess from the confines of their vehicle to maintain social distancing.

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Father Holmer grabbed a chair and some traffic cones to set up an outdoor confessional, and Seminarian Joe McHenry helped direct cars one by one up to the priest. McHenry told Holmer when to blindfold himself when anyone asked for an anonymous confession.

“We’re flying by the seat of our pants here, just trying to figure out how to do this,” Holmer told the Catholic Standard.

“This is where we priests have to be creative about how to bring Christ to people when we can’t do that in our church buildings,” Holmer explained.

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“Right now we’re going through Lent, but eventually Pentecost is going to return and we will be together – just wait,” the priest added. Holmer said he sees this time as a “desert experience,” but people have the opportunity to make an active, purposeful choice to dedicate their time to God.

“God is increasing our longing for the sacraments and the ability to share them in a radically new way,” Father Holmer said. “In their absence, (we are) realizing how much we desire them (the sacraments).”

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Holmer said he will be hearing confessions when he would usually be celebrating daily Mass: for an hour most weekdays and for five hours on Sunday.