Bishop Walkowiak’s ‘Act of Contrition’ Initiative

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Starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, Bishop Walkowiak has asked that time be set aside at the end of each school day for all Catholic school students to begin to reflect and then pray together an Act of Contrition. For additional details on this initiative, please read his letter to parents in English or in Spanish. The same is being implemented in parish faith formation classes.

This initiative comes concurrently with an updated translation of the Order of Penance. This new Order of Penance represents but one more step in the gradual process whereby all liturgical books, beginning with the 2011 Roman Missal, are retranslated to more formally reflect the underlying Latin of the Roman Rite. While penitents are most likely to notice slight changes in the prayer of absolution, the sacramental form concluding that prayer remains exactly the same: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

If the priest’s parts are updated, will that also affect what individual penitents say? It could, mainly because the scripted options for the Act of Contrition have also been retranslated, and students in Catholic schools and faith formation will henceforth learn those updated prayers (see above). But the rite has always provided for penitents to express their contrition according to a formula provided in the liturgical book or in similar words. Accordingly, those who express their contrition according to the old translation or even communicate the same in their own words are still celebrating the sacrament properly.

The new edition of the Order of Penance does not become mandatory until Divine Mercy Sunday. Nonetheless, priests have the option to use the updated translation as early as Ash Wednesday (February 22, 2023). Whichever translation is employed, the riches of God’s grace and mercy remain the same for those who seek them out. Let us, then, use this renewed text as an opportunity to renew our own approach to Christ’s offer of healing and forgiveness in this Sacrament.

Here are the two Act of Contrition options (PDF) our students will recite based on teacher/school preference. We also invite your participation as we prioritize a daily examination of conscience to promote continued growth in our Catholic identity within our communities.

In Maureen Turner's message to parents at St. Mary's School in Spring Lake, she states, "This is an ideal opportunity to prioritize daily examinations of conscience to promote a continued Catholic culture within our community. This interior reflection can seek lifelong exterior results." Click here for age-appropriate Examinations to be used at home or in school. 

Check your local parish for reconciliation times. In addition, The Light is ON for You, an evening of reconciliation, will be offered in most parishes throughout the diocese on Thursday, March 23 from 5-8 p.m. This and other Lenten resources may be found on the diocesan website,