SCHENECTADY -- Rev. Robert Longobucco will confess -- he's tired this morning.
Longobucco, the pastor of the Catholic Community of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, spent his entire Friday offering the sacrament of reconciliation -- confession -- at the parish church on Rosa Road in Schenectady.
Longobucco stayed on the job all night, and continued into Saturday morning. In a prelude to Holy Week -- the week before Easter that includes important Lenten gatherings such as Holy Thursday and Good Friday -- Longobucco talked and listened to people.
There were short talks and long conversations about sins and problems. Longobucco, a jovial man who has led the parish for the past dozen years, also said laughter was part of the long shift.
The pastor has been participating in the marathon confession session since 2016, when the idea to hear confession for 24 hours straight surfaced as a papal initiative.
"I was kind of intrigued by it and I love the sacrament of reconciliation," Longobucco said. "I thought this would be a way to attract different people for different times. And I thought it would be kind of like a festival of people being reconciled to God, which I thought would be cool. And it was."
The first year, Longobucco said, people from all over the diocese participated. About 150 people gave confessions and at one point, after midnight, there was a 2 1/2-hour wait for a personal one-on-one session.
People come because of the novelty. Besides the Christmas tradition of Midnight Mass, there are rarely opportunities to visit church in the middle of the night. Longobucco also said others like the event because they don't have to feel rushed; they can talk for as long as they like.
Longobucco also said he believes a day just before Holy Week is the right time of the year for a reconciliation event.
"When we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, your heart needs to almost expand to encompass it all," he said. "If you have something in there that constricts your heart -- a sin, a regret -- you can't really catch the full meaning of what Easter is. So that's why I feel it's really important to do it now."
There was another option Friday and into Saturday. In Hudson, Albany Diocese Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger joined priests from Greene and Columbia counties for "24 Hours of Mercy" at St. Mary's Church of Holy Trinity Parish. Scharfenberger heard confessions from 9 a.m. until noon on Friday.
Longobucco could count on slow times during the long session. But he also expected boom times.
"Last year, all the high school kids came at midnight and they were here until 4 a.m.," Longobucco said. "It was great, they were all praying, talking to each other."
The parish has rewarded the teens in the past. There might be penance, but there have also been late-night pizza orders.
The spring reconciliation gathering is not designed as a somber event. Longobucco said it almost becomes a "celebration of forgiveness."
"When it's a celebration, it's less scary," he said. "The sacrament is about mercy, it's not about punishment, it's not about your sin, but triumphs over those things."
One friend, a woman from another parish, stays for the entire session. She crochets for much of the time, and talks to Longobucco during the slow hours.
Sometimes, people who have been away from church for a while will visit.
"For some reason, this attracts people who haven't been to the sacrament in a long time," Longobucco said. "I think the special-ness of it makes them kind of realize, 'Oh, this I've been meaning to do.' People who haven't been here in decades usually come on this night.
"We're celebrating God's mercy," he added. "It's a great night and people feel free afterward."
Priests from other Schenectady parishes sometimes come to Saint Kateri during the 24-hour session to see if Longobucco needs a break for a snack.
The 2019 session was scheduled to end at 9 a.m.. Longobucco had other duties planned for this morning, officiating at funerals scheduled for 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.
"Theoretically, I would have slept more," said the pastor, who rose Friday at 7:30 a.m. "The biggest thing is to be excited about it, not dread it. To think this is going to be a great day, the sense of healing that's going to go on today and the joy we're going to share.
"When you look at it that way, it's not too hard."
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]