Eighty children celebrate their first reconciliation

A girl makes her first confession at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Ottumwa. Giving her absolution is Father Stephen Page, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield. (Copyright photo by Michael W. Lemberger)

By Barb Arland-Fye

Ottumwa’s two parishes — St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick — have been collaborating on a First Penance Service for the past 12 years.

This year, 80 children and their parents participated in the bilingual service held Feb. 20 at St. Patrick Catholic Church. Nearly 50 of the children are Latinos while the other 30 are Anglos. Most are second-graders, but some are older students, who have not had the opportunity to make the sacrament at a younger age, said Anna Hanson, director of religious education for both parishes.

About 10 more students than usual participated this year, which is the result of some older students in confirmation class needing to fulfill their first penance requirement. “Many of them have moved from place to place and haven’t had time to make the sacraments,” Hanson explained.

At least one parent was to accompany each child to the bilingual service, which provided instruction in English and in Spanish, largely for the benefit of parents who do not speak English.


The day began with a mini-retreat. Students viewed Spanish or English-language versions of an age-appropriate video, along with their parents, and discussed each story. Assisting with the retreat were Sister Irene Munoz, multicultural minister for the Ottumwa area, Gail Bates and Mary Ryan, associate directors of religious education for St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s, respectively, and the catechists for each class.

Afterwards, the students and parents participated in an examination of conscience with Father John Spiegel, St. Patrick’s pastor, and Father Bernie Weir, St. Mary’s pastor, leading the instruction. The students recited the Lord’s Prayer in English and Spanish, followed by the Act of Contrition in both languages.

Then the students received the sacrament of penance from either Frs. Weir, Spiegel,  Stephen Page, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield, Michael Volkmer, C.PP.S., pastor of St. Mary Parish in Albia, or Dennis Schaab, C.PP.S., pastor of St. Mary Parish, Centerville.

After confessing their sins, the children lit a candle inscribed with their names and placed them around the baptismal font as a symbol of the light of Christ.

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