“The 177 Project” (The177Project.com), an initiative of Adoration Artists, is visiting 177 Latin Rite dioceses whose bishops are part of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in the U.S. and Virgin Islands.
The purpose of the 95-day fall tour is to promote adoration of the Blessed Sacrament using the contemporary religious music of Adoration Artists as a tool.
“I hope that everyone who participates leaves with a better grasp of who Christ is,” said Rachel Wall, who organized the project along with husband Jason. “We want people to come with an open mind and heart, receptive to the Lord.”
A typical evening begins with a Rosary, followed by worship songs. The Blessed Sacrament is then brought in. Next comes a worship song, followed by silence to allow for private prayer.
After an intermission, musicians affiliated with Adoration Artists, which promotes evangelization through music, perform a concert. During the evening, there is an opportunity for confession; and the close of the evening includes Benediction.
“We’ve been getting some terrific feedback about the evenings we’ve already had,” Wall continued. “We’re hearing from people who have been going to Mass for years who come out of the evening finally understanding what they’ve been receiving.”
Wall was baptized Catholic, left the Church and became involved in evangelical Christianity. She was introduced to Eucharistic adoration at a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference and returned to Catholicism. She explained, “Being in front of the true Body showed me the true Church. As I sat in his presence, adored him and felt close to him, I realized, ‘This is where I need to be.’”
Her husband, Jason, is a convert to the Catholic faith, also through the influence of adoration. The pair operated a Christian concert promotion company, Rachel Wall explained, “putting a Catholic opener on Christian concerts and later adding an adoration component to our shows.”
As she deepened in her Catholic faith, Wall said, she felt the Lord calling her to bring more people to him, specifically, to “put them physically in front of” Christ. And, while it was “fantastic to expose non-Catholics to Catholic content, we thought it more important to expose Catholics to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”
“The 177 Project” is in its first year; the Walls hope it will be an annual event and would like to be able to bring it overseas. The biggest challenge, Wall noted, was securing 195 locations in 177 dioceses, with just her and her husband doing the work. She said, “We had to put our life savings into this project, so we’re reliant on God’s grace and the generosity of the people.”
Funding has been a challenge, but Wall says she tells the Lord, “If this is your plan, let it succeed. If not, let it fail.”
“The 177 Project” came to Notre Dame Church in New Hyde Park, New York, in October at the invitation of its new young pastor, Father Joseph Scolaro. Participants included young and old alike; the Catholic artist Dana Catherine played guitar and sang.
Since first coming to the parish earlier in the year, Father Scolaro has been trying to promote adoration among his community and sought out “The 177 Project” at the recommendation of a priest-friend.
“It was a beautiful, reverent evening,” said Father Scolaro. “Dana played wonderfully and delivered a beautiful witness talk.”
Father Scolaro, who also serves as Catholic chaplain at Hofstra University on Long Island, noted, “Young people are drawn to adoration and praise music. I hope ‘The 177 Project’ expands in the future, as it is good for people to come to adoration, and it is a good opportunity for young Catholic artists to perform and get their names out there.”
Christina Davis, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Reno, Nevada, arranged for “The 177 Project” to come to two Reno parishes: historic St. Paul Church in Winnemucca and Immaculate Conception Church in Sparks.
“It was an excellent experience,” Davis said. “At St. Paul’s, it was standing-room-only.”
She attended both prayer encounters and noted that the events drew all ages, including parents with small children. The Rosary was prayed in both English and Spanish. Talks by the two artists were well received, too. She continued, “They shared about their spiritual journey and encouraged others on their journeys.”
She’s optimistic that “The 177 Project” will inspire adoration events at local parishes and noted that representatives from the diocese’s only high school, Bishop Manogue, had contacted her about presenting a similar program at their school. She said, “It was a phenomenal experience. And the word about it has spread.”
Aaron Smith is one of four tour managers for “The 177 Project.” Responsible for logistics, he has worked mostly at parishes in the Northeast. Turnout has varied widely, with some parishes drawing several hundred pray-ers and others as few as 20. He said, “I think it’s a reflection of how different parishes can be. Some may have perpetual adoration and be accustomed to adoration; others seem to never have heard of it.”
Those who come, however, seem “really engaged.” He continued, “They seem to really connect with the experience and feel very blessed by the time they have with Jesus. It’s really cool for us to see.”
He’s also observed how participants frequently stay after the concert to meet the artists.
He agreed with Wall that the biggest challenge was in getting sufficient funding.
He explained, “We’ve had people pledge donations, and then they don’t come in. We’re running things on a wing and a prayer, but we’re still going. If God wants this to happen, he can make a way.”
Don Aspito, director of pastoral ministries for St. Stanislaus Parish in Modesto, California, invited “The 177 Project” to his parish after learning about it from a parishioner. The event drew 330 parishioners of all ages. “It was fantastic,” he said of the Christ-focused encounter. “I think all who participated left with big smiles on their faces.”
Jim Graves writes from
Newport Beach, California.
“The 177 Project” will be visiting parishes through Dec. 18. There is no charge to attend.
Visit the website for upcoming dates: The177Project.com/dates/.