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PHOTOS: Penticton priest offers drive-thru confessions amid COVID-19 pandemic

This new practice allows individuals to practice their religion while social distancing

The COVID-19 coronavirus has forced many groups to adapt and change the way they normally operate, including churches.

One behind the other, cars lined up in the parking lot of St. Ann’s Catholic Parish in Penticton, waiting for their turn to confess.

Friday, April 10, served as the second time the Catholic Parishes of Penticton have offered drive-thru confessions, a new practice popping up in other areas of the province allowing individuals to practice their religion while social distancing.

Father Nick Meisl, of St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver, also hosted physically-distant confessions in a parking lot on April 8.

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Priest in residence, Father Nick Meisl listens to a physically distanced confession in a parking garage at St. Patrick's Parish in Vancouver, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

With the garage door open, priest in place behind a screen, each drove in, parked, and confessed. Some did so from behind a screen in private, some chose to sit so they could see the priest.

“The reason why we are doing it this way, is because we still want to connect with our people, and bring God’s message; Jesus still wants to bless the world with love and forgiveness and mercy, in spite of whatever is happening in the world,” said Father Obi, who serves both Catholic parishes in Penticton.

“People are afraid and they want peace.”

READ MORE: 40 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., five pandemic-related deaths

With Easter weekend here, many churches are offering different ways for their congregations to participate in service. The Catholic Parishes of Penticton have been live-streaming services with sometimes up to a thousand viewers joining them from their homes.

“We’ve been able to do everything we’ve always done, but are doing it now online,” he said.

For Father Obi, Sunday will mark the first time he has conducted an Easter service without hundreds in the rows in front of him.

Parishioners in both St. Ann’s Parish and St. John Vianney Parish are finding it hard not to celebrate the holiday with their community.

In the Catholic religion, Easter weekend consists of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

“It’s been hard for people, for me too,” Obi said. “This is the first time as a priest I won’t be able to celebrate Easter - this is the greatest time in our Catholic tradition… it is tough.”

Despite this, Obi is optimistic.

“What it has done, it has, in a very deep way, has bonded us together. Because sometimes there are things we take for granted. We see each other every day. But right now because of the difficulty of the day, and the isolation, we’ve been even more spiritually bonded. So as difficult as COVID-19 is, it’s bearing some fruit, (there is) a silver lining.

“In this time of crisis, somehow, it’s bringing about something new. It’s bringing before us new opportunities. It’s bringing before us some kind of internal renewal, in our hearts, and in the family, and in the church as a whole.”

READ MORE: Canadian police to make home visits to enforce mandatory quarantine for travellers


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Phil McLachlan

About the Author: Phil McLachlan

Phil McLachlan is the editor at the Penticton Western News. He served as the reporter, and eventually editor of The Free Press newspaper in Fernie.
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