Fr. Michael is bringing people back to the Church in an unconventional way.
“Misericordiam volo non sacrificium.” I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
These words emblazon the back of the ambulance, flanking two images of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts. Beneath this religious decor, “Field Hospital” announces the ambulance’s original purpose, and perhaps its new purpose, as well.
Can non-Catholics receive grace without the sacraments?
This ambulance is driven by Fr. Michael Champagne of the Community of Jesus Christ Crucified. Fr. Michael was inspired by his time as a hospital chaplain, and had the idea for the first Spiritual Care Unit ambulance to provide confessions in the Louisiana area to fallen-away Catholics. When Pope Francis announced the Year of Mercy, he made his idea a reality.
A year and half later, he’s heard over 4,000 confessions, including many from those who have been away from the sacraments for up to 50 years. He says, “I didn’t really believe it would be that effective for the sacrament!”
But the friendly and casual environment is making all the difference. “People who have been away for 30, 40 years,” he says, “feel intimidated to go in the back of a church. So we’re just showing up where people are at.”
Each person who confesses at the Spiritual Care Unit leaves with a special prescription. One volunteer explains, “There’s a pill bottle with a rosary inside, and the prescription actually calls for one a day at 3 p.m.”
Fr. Michael says that even if someone doesn’t come to confession that day, he trusts that grace is still at work. Hopefully, his ministry will continue to call people home to the Church.