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Louisiana priest rolls in ambulance, offers confessions on the go

When Father Michael Champagne hits the road seeking sinners, he rides around in his spiritual care unit
Priest converts ambulance into mobile confessional 03:15

One of Pope Francis's loudest messages is directed at the more than 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide, calling them to be more active in bringing people back to the church.

One priest in Louisiana is taking that message to the people by offering confessions on the go in Cajun Country, reports CBS News correspondent David Begnaud.

"There's such a need to go to our brothers and sisters and bring them to the Gospel and bring them the mercy that the Church extends," Father Michael Champagne said.

When Father Champagne hits the road seeking sinners, he rolls in what he calls his "spiritual care unit" - a converted ambulance. With it, he seeks Catholics who have wandered away from the Church and it offers a place to confess sins and receive forgiveness.

"They can kneel here and make the confession or they can sit on the corner here and we can visit face to face," Champagne said.

The holy rolling confessional is Father Champagne's answer to Pope Francis and his call for outreach and reconciliation.

Pope Francis visits dangerous city in Mexico 01:28

The idea came a few years ago when Champagne was serving at a hospital. Champagne thought the same ambulances that transported the injured could also rescue souls.

"I wanted to do a mobile confessional," Champagne said, laughing. "Well (people) probably thought I was crazy - another crazy idea from Champagne."

Last year, Champgne found a used ambulance on eBay and a friend of the church bought it for $4,100. He has silenced the siren, added a logo on front and a large Jesus on the side door.

A native Cajun, Father Champagne travels with what you might call a "spiritual support team," ready to recruit sinners.

In just three months, Champagne has traveled over 2,000 miles, made three dozen stops and listened to more than 700 confessions at churches, youth events and even Mardi Gras.

Migrants help highlight Pope Francis' message in Mexico 01:27

That's where Betty Comb found the converted ambulance.

"I realized that this was here and I thought, 'God called me. I need to go to confession,'" Comb said.

Champagne said he believes Pope Francis would give a "thumbs up" to his idea.

"It's just that now we need to emphasize this more and more because we have become too comfortable in a sedentary type of church atmosphere. And the church is mission, the church exists to evangelize," Champagne said. "Pope Francis says 'go to bed tired, dead tired, but a happy tired.' Happy tired is how I go to bed every night. And it's great."

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