By Father Thom Hennen
We belong to a small rural parish. Eucharistic adoration is only offered a few times each year and confession is generally available by appointment only. Is it permissible to go to confession or adoration at another parish that has both available on a regular basis?
I truly admire people’s desire to be loyal to their parishes. I worry sometimes that we live increasingly in a world of parish shopping and hopping, depending on one’s preferences. It is difficult to build a stable sense of community this way.
Technically, parishes have official boundaries. The idea is that if you live in a particular area, then you are a member of and regularly attend the parish in whose boundaries you reside. However, in practice this has long ceased to be the case, especially in the United States.
For example, at Sacred Heart Cathedral parish in Davenport, where I am assigned, we have parishioners who live in Walcott, LeClaire or on the other side of the river in the Diocese of Peoria (Illinois) and yet have joined or are longtime members of the cathedral parish. We are by no means poaching parishioners and every parish experiences this same phenomenon to some extent. People simply go where they feel most at home. In more rural areas, it is obviously more difficult to choose parishes, as the next closest parish may be many miles away.
Another aspect of this, as you note, is that not all parishes offer all of the same services and opportunities. This may depend on location, the particular needs of the community, history, ministry schedules or how many clergy are assigned to a parish or cluster of parishes and what their interests and limitations may be.
Given this, I think it is perfectly permissible to seek out those spiritual and sacramental needs in another parish, if they are not regularly available in your own. You do not need to switch parishes. Stay involved in your parish and maybe gently inquire about the possibilities of having adoration or confession offered with more regularity. If it is a value to you, perhaps you could volunteer to be a regular adorer and to promote these opportunities within the parish. Clergy are more likely to agree to something if they feel that you are not simply complaining but willing to help.
At the cathedral, we have had a long tradition of eucharistic adoration for several hours each day, six days a week, following our daily Mass and on Sunday afternoons and evening. So far, we have had enough adorers to cover the hours (though more are always welcome). The norms governing exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament state that “every effort should be made to ensure that there should be at least two people present.” Also, ideally, the Blessed Sacrament is to be exposed and reposed by a priest or deacon, however, a qualified lay person may also be trained to do this (without giving benediction), if needed. These limitations may also factor into the availability of adoration in your parish. Parishes, especially in rural areas, may need to collaborate on these efforts.
As for the sacrament of reconciliation, this is a more essential need and should be offered with some frequency to the faithful. I understand that with fewer priests covering more places, this can be difficult but it would be a good start if confession could be available for a period of time before the Saturday vigil or Sunday Mass and then by appointment as needed.
(Father Thom Hennen serves as the pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. Send questions to email@example.com)