This Project Can Help Save Souls

Created: Jun 07, 2024
Category: General News


By Cecilia Engbert

Knights in Wisconsin build new confessionals for their parish

St. Joseph Catholic Church in Baraboo, Wisconsin, hasn’t had confessionals since the early 1990s, when they were removed during renovations and never replaced. For more than 30 years, the sacrament of reconciliation has been held in makeshift “confessionals” that afford little privacy and many distractions.

Father Paul Arinze, parochial administrator of the pastorate to which St. Joseph belongs, has encouraged frequent confession among parishioners. So he didn’t hesitate when Msgr. O’Reilly Council 746 in Baraboo asked him last December how they could support him and the church.

“He just said, ‘Confessionals,’” said Grand Knight Bob Kappel. “After that, it was amazing to see the Knights just move ahead quickly on the project.”

Within a few months, the Knights had transformed an alcove in the church narthex into a beautiful and private place for parishioners to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Aside from certain installations that required licensed contractors, such as the electrical system, council members and their wives did all the work, from designing the stalls to building the kneelers.

The Knights began with professional plans drawn up by council member Bill Ryan, CEO of a local architectural firm. After stripping a wall in the narthex down to the studs, Knights constructed the walls and doors for two confessionals, including one that is accessible to people with disabilities; several of their wives assisted with staining and painting.

Past Grand Knight Bryan Thompson used his carpentry expertise to train other Knights in the construction process, and he also built furniture for the confessionals, including kneelers, side tables and wall trim.

“We had the skills and capabilities to do the work, so we saved the parish quite a bit of money,” Thompson said. “I lined up people to help and kept the movement going. There were those that didn’t know much about building, but they were willing to step in and learn a little bit along the way.”

Since most of the labor was completed by Knights, materials were the expense. Camp Gray, a diocesan summer camp where many council members volunteer to harvest and mill lumber, donated more than 100 feet of sustainable oak for the project. Other materials and costs were covered by a council donation of $7,500 and an anonymous contribution of $5,000.

Council 746 completed construction on the confessionals Good Friday, March 29, and they opened for use in mid-May once the occupancy lights and furniture had been installed.

“Thanks to [the Knights’] donation and skills, we now have these beautiful confessionals at St. Joe’s,” said Father Arinze. “It was truly a Knights’ affair, and we are grateful to the council for bringing this dream to reality.”

Kappel hopes the privacy and familiarity of the confessionals will bring people who have been avoiding confession back to the sacrament.

“This project can help save souls,” he said. “[The confessionals] will be more welcoming to people who maybe haven’t been in a long time. To me, that’s the important part.”