Unusual confessional provides welcome consolation at Peoria Notre Dame

Since the students at Peoria Notre Dame High School couldn't come into the school for confession, Father Corey Krengiel, chaplain, brought the sacrament to them on March 19, using the baseball dugout as his confessional. Here he offers absolution to a student behind a blanket screen who braved the rain to come. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems

For three hours on Thursday afternoon, the baseball dugout at Peoria Notre Dame High School became a confessional for students, parents and friends of the community who said the sacrament of reconciliation was a welcome relief during a very strange time.

“For a lot of our students, the school is kind of their touchstone with the faith,” said Father Corey Krengiel, chaplain. “So I was looking for a way to hear confessions for my students and I wanted to do it at the school, but I couldn’t do it in the school.”

The temperatures were supposed to be mild on March 19, but rain was in the forecast. To offer shelter, he chose to set up his confessional in the dugout and hung a blanket to give penitents the option of going “behind the screen.”

Chant music played over the sound system completed his “chapel.”

“Normally next week and the week after would have been our ‘legend’ confessions at the school, where we bring five or six priests in every day for eight school days and everyone comes through that wants to,” Father Krengiel said. “We have 700 students and about 500 of them go to confession in two weeks. So they’ll miss out on that opportunity.”


Among those who wasn’t going to let that happen was sophomore Ryan Sander, who said he tries to go to confession weekly.

“Not having confession for three weeks was very tough. Just having that sacrament during these hard times is very comforting to anyone who goes.” — Ryan Sander

“Not having confession for three weeks was very tough,” he told The Catholic Post. “Just having that sacrament during these hard times is very comforting to anyone who goes. It lifts you up in these dark times and that’s what we need.”

For junior Laoise Hinderliter, going to confession is important to her faith, especially with Easter approaching. She called the dugout confessions “very creative” and said, “I’m very glad they’re doing it.”

“I just think it’s really important as Catholics to be very open with God about our sins. I think this is a good way to do that,” she said of the sacrament.

A 2016 graduate of Peoria Notre Dame, Mariana Kortz returned to her alma mater because of her love of the sacrament and how much she missed it now that everything has been canceled at the St. Joseph Newman Center at Bradley University and St. Mark Church in Peoria.

“Newman is really great about providing the sacrament — we do it every Sunday before the 9 p.m. Mass and it’s been really hard lately with everything that’s been going on,” she said. “So it’s really great that we have this opportunity today.”

Maria Carroll, a member of St. Mark in Peoria, and her son, Luke, a junior at Peoria Notre Dame, expressed their gratitude to Father Krengiel for offering the dugout confessions.

“We’ve had a lot of time to reflect in these strange times, so I’m just very happy that we’re able to have the sacrament,” Maria said.

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