BOSTON — This year the 31st annual All-Night Eucharistic Vigil will be held at St. Mary's Hall chapel on the campus of Boston College on June 6-7 from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Boston College has granted permission to use its chapel, but the vigil is not sponsored by Boston College.

St. Mary's Hall is an on-campus residence for retired Jesuits.

George and Ellie Leon have participated in the all-night Eucharistic vigil for years. For them, it anchors their pilgrim journey and girds them with spiritual armor as they walk through life hand-in-hand with Christ.

“It is a great, great discipline,” George Leon said. “Just by speaking softly and tenderly to our Lord and our Lady while praying before the Blessed Sacrament, the reward is a deep feeling of inner peace.”

In 1972, the late Melvina Collozzi, the wife of a physician, approached Barbara Keville and suggested starting an all-night Eucharistic vigil. Almost immediately, Keville, a tireless worker, set up the first vigil and has made sure that it has continued for the past 31 years. Her son, Father Joseph Keville, is scheduled to celebrate the opening Mass at this year's vigil.

There will be an opening Mass, a Eucharistic procession, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night and into the morning, recitation of the rosary, Benediction, Stations of the Cross and refreshments will be available. The vigil will conclude with a 5 a.m. Mass.

In addition, copies of the Holy Father's encyclical letter Ecclesia De Eucharistia, which was released April 17, will be distributed. In the introduction to the encyclical, Pope John Paul II documents the primacy of the Eucharist in the lives of every member of Christ's Church.

“For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church's entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread,” the Pope writes. “Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men. Consequently, the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love.”

“Many of the men who are in the seminary today say that they discerned their vocations during the time they spent praying before the Blessed Sacrament,” said Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Eucharistic adoration, a favorite devotion of the Church's greatest saints, draws the believer into closer union with the sacred mysteries. It is the source of wondrous graces and it fosters vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

It began 31 years ago on a rainy night at St. Agnes parish, located in Arlington, Mass., a suburb of Boston, in atonement and reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for every sin that has ever been committed.

It was called an “all-night Eucharistic vigil.” It was supposed to begin at 9 p.m. and last until 5 a.m. the next day. However, the late Bishop Lawrence Riley, an auxiliary bishop of Boston who was loved and respected throughout the archdiocese, was detained, arrived late and didn't begin celebrating the opening Mass until 10:30 p.m. By then, the church was filled, spirits soared and everyone joyfully prayed the rosary until the beginning of Mass.

The first vigil was a smashing spiritual success. Before it was even over, many wanted to know, “When and where will the next all-night Eucharistic vigil be held?”

Since the inaugural event, all-night Eucharistic vigils have been held every year around the feast days of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart at parishes scattered around the Archdiocese of Boston.

Currently, more than 200 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston have some form of Eucharistic adoration. Two parishes — St. Patrick's in Natick and St. Jeanne D'Arc in Lowell — have perpetual Eucharistic adoration. A third parish, St. Michael's in North Andover, has received permission from the Archdiocese of Boston to begin perpetual Eucharistic adoration. Parishioners sign up to spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. So far all but five hours — 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. — have been covered, and some say it is only a matter of time before the graced-filled circle of perpetual Eucharistic adoration will be complete.

At St. Michael's, more and more parishioners are spending time praying before the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day.

“The numbers are growing every day, especially since Sept. 11,” said Donna Restivo, the parish business manager. “Our people find great comfort just sitting in silence before the Blessed Sacrament.”

Wally Carew writes from Medford, Massachusetts.

He is author of Men of Spirit, Men of Sports as well as a forthcoming book on the 90-year Boston College vs. Holy Cross football rivalry.