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Priest hopes to reach the faithful with 'My Confessor' app

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The "My Confessor" app, currently only available for users in the Madison, Wisconsin area lets Android and iPhone users know when they can lift the burden off of their hearts. The app also allows busy Catholic priests to update their statuses from their phones. Creator Father Richard Heilman says the app is intended to address the priest shortage and improve time management.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Father Heilman was in need of finding a better way to tend to the needs of his 800-family flock. After 25 years in the ministry, Heilman believes Catholics could do with a bit more priest-and-me time, at least once a month.

"Maybe more often if you're dealing with repetitive sin," Heilman told reporters. "A lot of us aren't in a state of grace and confessions help that grace flow freely."

One of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, confession usually occurs in an enclosed booth where priest and parishioner can chat through a lattice to keep anonymity. After the repentant list out their sins, the priest offers forgiveness and suggests a penance.

However, the number of Catholic priests in America has declined over the years. Heilman, in charge of three Madison-area parishes, with five Masses to recite every weekend, says that by factoring in baptisms, weddings and funerals, you've got one very busy priest.

"It's challenging sometimes for priests to find time for confession because they have work to do," Heilman said. "And parishioners are trying to go easy on Father because they see us trying to handle multiple things."

Scheduling an appointment for confession takes away the veil of anonymity. "We don't want this to be awkward or embarrassing," Heilman said.

The My Confessor app is very simple. A red status box means "Father is OUT." A green status box means "Father is IN." Priests also have a special log in that lets them easily update their statuses and even post messages, according to app developer Mary Hoerr.

The app has a section explaining the sacrament of confession, as well as another place where users can read priests' bios.

The only priest on the app for now, Heilman has been paying all the development costs out of his own pocket. But he says several other priests have reached out and asked to get involved. The app currently serves people in the Madison area. Heilman see the app going national.

He envisions an app that has a Google map with markers that point out where the nearest priest is. So if you're driving by and you realize that there's a burden on your back that you need to unload, users of My Confessor will know exactly where to go.

"I want people to not feel uncomfortable asking about confession," Heilman said. "We want everybody ignited in the Holy Spirit."

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