VERY COOL PRIEST with a SUPER COOL IDEA for HARD IDENTITY Catholicism

Yes, this one got me a little excited.

In the past I have posted about a very cool priest, Fr. Richard Heilman, pastor of glorious Pine Bluff, WI. You may recall that he founded a group called the Knights of Divine Mercy and that some months ago he switched to celebrating Mass ad orientem exclusively.

Fr. Heilman just celebrated his 25th anniversary, btw!

When they hauled the versus populum altar out of the church and into the rectory, I posted this:

Months later, here is an update.

I went to a celebration at the parish for Father’s 25th anniversary.  He wanted to show me what he did with that altar they hauled out of the church to the rectory.

As you step into the front door of the rectory, there is a small vestibule with three doors.  To the center, you enter the house.  I’ll get to the left in a moment.

To the right, you find this!

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The Blessed Sacrament is present with the permission of the local bishop.

He put clear appliques on the windows.

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There are a couple chairs and kneelers.

“But Father! But Father!” you might be chirruping.  “What behind the door to the left!”

Father Heilman’s office.

But with a difference.

He has installed a small confessional window in the door of his office and placed a kneeler in the small vestibule across from the little chapel.

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This means that people can come to the rectory for confession pretty much at any time when Father is at home or, at least, in his office, and they can then pray before the the Eucharistic Lord and do their penance.

The outer door to the rectory will be rigged up soon with a wireless intercom and locking/unlocking gizmo.

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When someone comes into that little vestibule, it will be as if they are in a confessional.  Father than then zip over from the desk to the door on his rolling chair, open the window (there is an obscuring barrier for anonymity), and hear the penitent!

Like so!

20130610-162832.jpg

But wait!  THERE’S MORE!

If that wasn’t cool enough….

Father has developed an app for his confession availability!   MyConfessor!

People can see on the app whether Father is available.  There is a description/bio of the priest, there is a good Examination of Conscience and helpful prayers.

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Father can, from his desktop, switch his status to available/not available.  He can also do so from his own mobile device if need be.

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But WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!

By linking with Google Maps, and when other priests get this app working, you will be able to see drop pins for priests hearing confessions by their availability!

Think about another way to use this app.

Perhaps I, who travel a lot, am in – say – an airport for a long layover.  I am stuck at gate X8472 waiting for my flight.  I get out my phone, open MyConfessor, pin myself at Gate X8472 and switch my status to available.  While there are problems of anonymity and lack of a grate, etc. (I never hear confessions without a grate of some kind), most priests who travel in their black clothes and collar have heard confessions on the fly.  Another scenario, World Youth Day… a conference… a rally.  It is at least an interesting idea to tweak.

The very cool Fr. Heilman as viewed from near his desk.

The door behind him is the little chapel.  The door to his left is the front, outside door to the rectory.

20130610-162810.jpg

He even said he wouldn’t mind getting up in the night were someone to ring.

(FYI – He also has a really big dog in the house.)

What great zeal and creative use of tech!

Ultimate Fr Z Kudos and congratulations.

UPDATE:

To be clear the APP is NOT YET FUNCTIONAL.  The kinks are being straightened out.

I will update you.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Fr. Z KUDOS, GO TO CONFESSION, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to VERY COOL PRIEST with a SUPER COOL IDEA for HARD IDENTITY Catholicism

  1. TomG says:

    A 21st century … Ars?

  2. Ben Yanke says:

    Yet another reason Madison is the place to be.

  3. Stephen Matthew says:

    While I know it was once reasonably common, and still remains so in some places, I do wonder as to the prudence, in the current climate, of the rectory also serving as the office. In a more innocent time all about this would be entirely good, but in the present circumstances there seems to be reason for caution about admitting someone into the rectory alone.

    In any case, this seems to be a very commendable set of efforts. It is very good for a rectory to have a chapel, and very good for a priest to be as available as possible to hear confessions (and do, and say, and make visible, various indications to his parish that he is so available). I hope the app works out, too. It is usually reasonably easy to find a church to pray in, not too difficult to find masses, but often rather a trick to discover current confession times (which are often not available when it may be needed most, it seems).

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    Excellent Idea, Kudos to Father

    Just to ask a quick clarification/question does the Parish Priest need the Bishop’s permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the Rectory ?

    [Yes.]

  5. RJ Sciurus says:

    VERY COOL! The only thing missing is the Mystic Monk coffee vending maching, but you likely took care of that.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

    [EVERYONE! Buy some coffee NOW and refresh your supply!]

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Now, this is really nice. “By appointment” becomes something friendly, not something forbidding. And extending the app to nearby parishes makes it even more useful.

    Of course, those of us without smartphones are a bit behind; but for those who do, this would be really nice. (And frankly, the non-smartphone demographic probably has a little easier time planning Confession time.)

  7. frjim4321 says:

    I appreciated the quality of the altar furnishing, and the crucifix looks like a nice piece. The stained glass windows looked pretty good also.

  8. acardnal says:

    Fr. Rick Heilman is an orthodox and pro-life priest. God bless him.

    We need more priests like Fr. Rick. Now, if only cloning a human being were not a mortal sin, I would suggest that Bishop Morlino clone Fr. Rick.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Wow! Speechless!

  10. B.C.M. says:

    That is just simply too darn cool. I would totally pay for that app. Please do keep us informed Father!

  11. acardnal says:

    By the way, Fr. Heilman leads many pro-life prayer demonstrations in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic, and he leads pro-life rosaries and marches in front of the state capitol. No shrinking violet Fr. Heilman.

  12. mamajen says:

    That’s it. I’m moving to Wisconsin.

  13. We like to give kudos to bishops who know how to ‘bish’.

    Here’s a priest who knows how to ‘priest’.

    We need more of his kind. He apparently has his priorities straight: Preach, sanctify, and forgive. The rest of it can wait. Eternity is a real long time.

    God bless him richly!

  14. StJude says:

    That is so cool! Road trip to Wisconsin! the Lord must be well pleased with this Priest.

  15. benedetta says:

    Amazing!

  16. acardnal says:

    The parish celebrated Fr. Heilman’s 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
    Photos here from Badger Catholic’s blog:
    http://badgercatholic.blogspot.com/2013/06/fr-rick-heilman-celebrates-25th.html#comment-form

  17. Traductora says:

    Very nice indeed! I know cloning is not permitted…but maybe just this once?

  18. capchoirgirl says:

    Wild applause! Good on ya, Father. This is so, so cool.

  19. St. John Vianney would be proud. Here’s a priest who could honestly preach to his congregation about how great the Cure of Ars was.

  20. maryh says:

    @Suburbanbanshee
    There is a web page to check as well – you don’t have to have a smartphone.

    @Andrew Saucci
    The app is dedicated to St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, patron saint of parish priests and of confessors.

  21. For those without smart phones, I’ve also provided a way to check my availability by way of the internet: http://www.myconfessor.org … of course, these are all ways to respect people’s desire to remain anonymous … I just feel that is so important.

    We also did some nice landscaping in front of the rectory, so folks don’t feel like they are coming to the Munster Mansion for Confession ;-)

    Everything will be up and running by week’s end … just tweaking a few things.

    Thanks all, for the nice comments. And, thanks, Fr. Z for this nice post and coming to my 25th Anniversary celebration.

  22. If Father Richard doesn’t mind, I would love to include some of this functionality (on the client side) in an app that I am writing for Windows Phone (and if all goes well, a port for Windows 8 as well). If he needs some help with coding or any computer support, I am willing to lend a hand as well (I’m the “Catholic Tech Geek” for a reason).

  23. Laura Lea says:

    I just wanted to say, how totally awesome! Fr. Richard Heilman is a very cool priest indeed and quite creative.

  24. Kathleen10 says:

    The people in Wisconsin are blessed indeed! Not only to have a state with such natural beauty, but to have Fr. Heilman in your midst! Fr. Heilman, how wonderful! I love the use of the altar and how you have everything just as it should be. I love the appliques as well. Most of all I love your pastoral love and care for Jesus and your flock. :)
    An uplifting story to end the day. Thank you Fr. Z.

  25. Rose in NE says:

    Now that is really thinking outside ‘the box’!

  26. The Egyptian says:

    for Banshee

    how about a “confessional light” above the entry door, so the passerby would know if Father is in.

    Just curious is it possible for someone to walk in on a confession or is there another door separating the penitent from the entry to the house? Just curious, could be embarrassing. however that said, WHAT A GREAT IDEA, sure beats by appointment, I would NEVER call the rectory office and ask for an appointment, the parish “adminstratrix” is quite shall we say inquisitive

  27. kat says:

    This is a totally awesome post!

    God bless you, Fr. Heilman, for your zeal for souls!

    Curiosity question:
    Aren’t the faculties of a priest to hear confessions limited to the diocese in which he works?
    If so, how do priests hear confessions in airports etc. while traveling, if out of their dioceses?

    Thanks!

    [If a priest has faculties to hear confessions in his own diocese or religious order, he has faculties to hear them anywhere unless they are explicitly revoked in the proper way. Let’s now close this rabbit hole.]

  28. RafkasRoad says:

    Dear Fr. Heilman,

    PRAISE BE TO GOD FOR YOUR AMAZING MINISTRY!!!!

    Be prepared to be Shang-hai’ed down to Australia!! In all seriousness though, May our heavenly Father increase your strength in His service, winning souls to Christ, guiding souls onto the straight path and giving us the tools to remain there. May your example stand for and encourage priests all over the world, of all Catholic rites, who strive daily to follow God, guide His flock and take the blows for our loving Saviour.

    god bless you.

    May all readers please pray for the Catholic Church of the Shoal Haven, NSW, and pray that a Marounite church-plant may commence or that, miracle of miricles, we gain an Anglican ordinariate group (I’ll be moving down there at the end of the year and will keenly feel the absence of Marounite Catholic presence there).

    god’s love and blessings to all who read and contribute here, and of course for our awesome blogmaster Fr. Zuhlzdorf,

    Aussie Marounite.

  29. NickD says:

    How nifty is that! I want my parish to install one of these. As it is, over the weekend, our only confessional somehow flooded…today I walked by it, peeked in, and saw a bunch of those big fans they use to get rid of water…but then…how to have a grate for confession in this situation?

    Solution: Just do what Fr. Heilman did :-)

  30. Konstantin says:

    God bless you, Fr. Heilman, we need armies of zealous priests like you!

  31. VexillaRegis says:

    Sorry, but this NSA spy scandal calls for extreme caution while on the Internet. Even if Fr. doesn’t know who his penitent is, the NSA, that is Obama, does.

  32. Mariana2 says:

    Seriously cool!

  33. wmeyer says:

    All these messages about the good works of Fr. Rick, and no mentions his excellent book?
    Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ

    It is excellent reading, excellent advice. It makes an excellent gift. We should all have copies, and give copies.

    I shall leave it to Fr. Z to place the link so he gets the modest credit for the sales.

  34. Liz says:

    God bless Fr. Heilman!

  35. JayCatholic says:

    Now this is a priest among priests, talk of zeal for the salvation of souls. Where I live ‘priests’ only allow confessions on a Saturday for one hour and if you arrive earlier or with a few minutes to spare you will be told to wait for the proper time.

    May God sanctify our priests and defend them from those who would fight to neutralise their zeal.

  36. Legisperitus says:

    Okay, now I want every priest to do this.

    Gold standard!

  37. Anne M. says:

    I wonder where Father purchased the stained glass window appliques from? They are awesome!

  38. I acquired the appliqués from a very lovely woman – Mary Anne – who lives just north of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in the Diocese of Green Bay, WI. I sent her the images I wanted, along with the dimensions and *voila* … I very much enjoyed working with her.

    Here is her website: http://www.decorative-films-by-maryanne.com

  39. Acanthaster says:

    I came to ask about the appliqués as well, and the answer is right here! Praise the Lord!

    This all looks wonderful. Such beauty! :) Thank you for sharing!

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  41. mike cliffson says:

    Dream : evry aiport with its holding areas’ broom cupboards got coupla or so lightweight linking 2fotsix wide , six high, base solid , top windowed as twere with expanded metal covered in wire n gauze, lightweight spaceage yet bulletproof(might come handy) materials, base kneeler and weighted stabilizer both sides, findable by app, payed for by airports (L.A. Is providing ritual ablution facilities and a mosque for its taxidrivers , innit? And you should see birmingham , uk, airport!) , priests in transit and catholic sinners for the use of,
    Call em zuhlscreens?

  42. tjg says:

    This absolutely rocks. God Bless Fr. Heilman and Fr. Zuhlsdorf!

  43. Fr. Heilman, the app and website are an amazing idea; and it is heart-warming to see the extent to which you make yourself available. If I may suggest, once there are other priests registered on the app/website, maybe there could be a little icon to show if a priest is also ok with hearing confessions face to face? At the airport, as Fr. Z. has mentioned, this is not an issue, but when a priest is at home, knowing this would be important for those of us who confess f2f. Fr. Z., thank you for posting this. [On the other hand: “Gee, I could go to confession now, where there is a grate.. orrrrrr…. I could not go and wait until I can do it MY WAY.”]

  44. tjvirnig says:

    @CatholicCoffee – face-to-face confessions should be eliminated for several reasons. The biggest reason being that it puts the priest at risk of being accused of impropriety or worse. Not having the ability to have physical contact between the priest and the penitent protects both parties. I know of many priests (Fr. Z, for example, by his own admission) who simply won’t hear confessions in private face-to-face for that very reason. [Keyword: private… as in … out of public view.] Now certainly there are times when it is called for , especially in a semi-public place like an airport, etc. These are unfortunate times in which this kind of thing must be considered.

  45. MAJ Tony says:

    @The Egyptian: The post mentioned that “The outer door to the rectory will be rigged up soon with a wireless intercom and locking/unlocking gizmo.”

    Being ever wary of tech and big brother’s ability to harness it for less-than-good purpose, I would suggest giving some thought to making any confessional a “tech free zone,” either physically, or electronically. Anyone here know how expensive it would be to install a Faraday cage for a confessional? Unfortunately, I can see where this may be necessary in the future, more to prevent some third party from using a confession for blackmail purposes than anything.

  46. tripudians says:

    So, is father maybe looking for cantor/organist/music director? ;)

    (and be willing to help him jump through the necessary hoops to get from Europe to US)

    (and pay him living wage)

    Ok, I’ll go back to dreaming now…

  47. Imrahil says:

    I agree that priests should not generally hear confessions face-to-face. The reason being that the only kind of sinner I can think of will naturally prefer it otherwise. It maybe dreadful to come to one who is there to judge you; but we dread it far less than to appear at a psychiatrist’s.

    I couldn’t disagree less with the thing (well, maybe I could: I’m against outlawing it even for those who want it explicitly; but you see what I mean), but I do disagree with the reason often mentioned here (which the dear @tjvirnig set my eyes to). While this is no criticism of the rev’d dear @Fr Z [Very good thing, too. Because I do indeed receive sacramental confessions on sudden requests in odd places. I do not get into little rooms with doors that close without grates. I just don’t.] – and while I’m aware that public opinion in the United States is still harder on Catholic priests than here – I think it is important, somewhere, to ignore the said public opinion, and uphold that a priest is still a free man and citizen (and, er, priest), and not a convict under parole. I have a feeling that freedom cannot be claimed without being prepared to react in defiance, and a certain amount of “reality? I could not care less about reality”.

    That said, again, I do not mean that as a wish that any specific priest does any specific thing. I know, also, that not having to bear this burden, I perhaps should rather be silent. Still the argument “take away an opportunity of potential blackmail” has a certain, imho, problematic touch to it and that was why.

  48. capchoirgirl says:

    vis a vis face to face: I can totally see a reason for it. I have a cochlear implant and so it’s HARD to hear without seeing the person’s face, if I don’t know the voice, and they’re speaking quietly, as is par for the course in a confessional! Now at my church I don’t have the choice to go face to face, so I sort of make the best of it. But there are time when I have no idea what my penance was. I *do* generally prefer the anonymity of behind the screen, but I think if you were completely Deaf, for example, you’d need some way of seeing the priest. There’s no way to pass “notes” as it were in these beautiful, traditional confessionals. (If you can even pass notes…?)

  49. Jaceczko says:

    I love the “vis-à-vis face to face” comment. Just the part where she says “vis a vis face to face”.

    Also I wish I could be one of Fr. Rick’s parishioners.

    Also I think the Midwest is perfect.

  50. robtbrown says:

    I find it interesting that the tendency seems to think that confessing without a grating means seated in a chair. I have gone to Confession many, many times without a grating–the priest sits in a chair and I kneel in front of it.

  51. Jeannie_C says:

    Capchoirgirl, you say you don’t have the choice to go face to face in your parish, but would it not be possible to make an appointment with your priest for Confession? Our church offers two dedicated time frames for confessional use, but also by appointment for those who need it.

    I’ve said this before, will say it again, thank you to everyone who has written encouragingly about Confession, Fr. Z as well. Because of those who post here I requested instruction from our Pastor, got into it a while back. There was a real diabolical hold on my mindset that told me I couldn’t do it right, had to go face to face, would never get it right, would be yelled at. Nothing of the sort, as it turned out, nothing but relief, blessed peace and the strengthening to try harder.

  52. Fr.Z.: [On the other hand: “Gee, I could go to confession now, where there is a grate.. orrrrrr…. I could not go and wait until I can do it MY WAY.”]. When – hopefully – there are a lot of priests registered on the app, there would be more than one at a time available in a place like New York or Chicago and I could choose to go to someone whose name has a little f2f icon next to it. Or if I am driving all day and have a number of towns on the way, I could choose where to stop for confession depending on this. My comment re. f2f was not referring to a “yes or no” choice but to a “Fr. X or Fr. Y” one.

    Imrahil: I agree that priests should not generally hear confessions face-to-face. The reason being that the only kind of sinner I can think of will naturally prefer it otherwise. It maybe dreadful to come to one who is there to judge you;Imrahil, the priest is not there to judge you. The priest in confession is as much Alter Christi, as when he celebrates Mass. For me (and I would like to stress this: for me), if I am not ready to sit down, face to face with a priest and openly tell my sins, I don’t consider myself ready for confession.

    And finally I would like to make a general comment: I live in a society much less inundated with false accusations and lawsuits. I do understand that priests may fear this. However, I presume that even in the US. it is possible to talk to a priest face to face about, say, arranging a baptism or a marriage or a funeral; and I am presuming it is still possible to have a coffee with a priest who is your friend? In which case, I can’t see why you could not confess in the same space/situation. One of the priests I regularly see for confession hears confessions at his kitchen table, sitting room or garden over a cup of coffee. I have done it many times this way (and no, confession is not therapy, it is not a “chat”, you still confess “properly” in this situation, kind and number etc., and Fr. does not take any nonsense either). So… I think we all need to find the manner in which we can encounter Christ in confession – and be grateful to the priests who hear our confession.

  53. robtbrown says:

    I find it interesting that the tendency seems to think

    Should be:

    I find it interesting that the tendency seems to be

  54. Imrahil says:

    Dear @CatholicCoffee,

    it is the teaching of the Church that the priest in the confessional is among other things “sort-of” a judge. I did want to say that we tend to prefer even judgment to therapy (by which I did not indicate that face-to-face confession was the latter, yet it cannot be denied that it is one inch more similar). That he acts in persona Christi I know well, it’s why the absolution works out.

    Nevertheless, images can be various, and I personally do like the image that the priest has the right of judgment ultimately from God the Father (and we call him, in our language, “Confession Father”, even though the normal “Father” is reserved for the Pope and, in its Latin form, for religious clergy). The penitent is actually an accuser, even though he, just like a German prosecutor, is bound to be objective and also present excusing or guilt-diminishing aspects. Our Lord Himself, through his Precious Blood, takes the position of defense-attorney. But this was a parenthesis.

    As it were, I did confess face-to-face once (and more often, but this is the thing I remember now). It was in a normal confessional, and I was kneeling; and there was a Cross in the confessional. I always looked at the Cross. The reason not being any sort of pious thing (save secondary); only I did not want to look the priest in the eyes.

    For me, if I am not ready to sit down, face to face with a priest and openly tell my sins, I don’t consider myself ready for confession.

    You stressed the “for me” part allright, and I might say: not for me, period. Only I cannot help to think that this is making the (disputably) better the enemy of the good.

  55. robtbrown says:


    CatholicCoffee says,

    . . . . the priest is not there to judge you. The priest in confession is as much Alter Christi, as when he celebrates Mass.

    The Sacrament of Penance is a judicial act, from which we know that we will receive not only justice (penance) but also mercy (absolution).

    Thus, the priest is there to judge what is a sin and what is not and to render sentence (absolution and works of atonement).

  56. robtbrown says:

    Should be:

    Thus the priest, acting in persona Christi, is there to judge what is a sin and what is not and to render sentence (absolution and works of atonement).

  57. capchoirgirl says:

    Jeannie_C: I could, but our priests already are in the confessionals so much (every day, after noon Mass, and before all Masses) that I don’t want to, because they offer it all the time, essentially. And I can get by because I know their voices now.

  58. When I posted the above this morning, I was running late for work and was not expressing myself with precision, which several of you pointed out. The priest has a four-fold role as a confessor: father, teacher, judge and physician. His role as a judge becomes manifest when he gives penance; or when you ask for advice about whether something was a sin. When I said that “the priest is not there to judge you”, I meant “judge” as in a social situation, i.e. that we need not be afraid of the confessor the way some people might be afraid of what their in-laws will think of their house or lifestyle. Apologies for not making this clear earlier.

    Imrahil, in my native language we also use an expression for “confessor” that has the word “father” in it. When I confess f2f, I sit on a chair facing the priest. The openness of it all appeals to me. When Irish monks started practising private confession around the 6th century, there were no confessionals and they all knew each other in the monastery – and had to go on living together after confession, too.

    For me confession is Mk 6:34. :Come away by yourselves to a private place and rest a while. I think each one of us has to find the way of confessing that makes it a celebration and an encounter with the Risen Christ and not something to be feared. I have found it for me and I am grateful to God for this. I am also grateful to the priests who are willing to hear my confession f2f.

  59. This is really, really cool. I’m hoping we have clergy here in the Arlington Diocese who would participate in this app or webpage like this. Sheesh not everybody can get to confession in the 3:30 to 4:30 Saturday timeslot, or the generous Wednesday nights that several parishes here offer. Way out in the ‘burbs here, it is a challenge to find confessions at other times. There are many parishes here that do have off-times for confession, but I can’t remember them when I wistfully have that moment and desire to get away to confession.

    Although I definitely, seriously prefer the anonymous confession “a la grate”, I ruefully chuckle as I think about that dedicated priest hearing confessions on the deck of Titanic as he went to his death – no grate there. The ‘grate’ isn’t a requirement for absolution.

  60. stuart reiss says:

    But father but father, are confessions over the phone valid?
    The papal blessing is, and apparently following mass on tv fulfils your obligation if you were an invalid. So if you were dying in Nebraska in a snow storm and the priest can’t get to you, or if you happen to have a priests phone number when the plane you are on is doing a belly flop, would it be a valid confession.

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