Perpetual Adoration in Six Steps
1. Get your pastor’s support (a must).
2. Find a devoted coordinator who will find team leaders responsible for blocks of hours.
3. Poll the parish to gauge interest: Once exposed, the Blessed Sacrament must never be left alone.
4. Prepare church space or a chapel. (Include a rack for Bibles, the Catechism and other prayer aids.)
5. Bring in a weekend speaker to motivate parishioners.
6. Invite your bishop to institute adoration after a Sunday Mass.
When Pope John Paul II inaugurated the Year of the Eucharist in Rome in October, parishioners at St. Gregory Barbarigo Church in Garnersville, N.Y., wasted no time turning the observation into action: They launched perpetual Eucharistic adoration within their rectory chapel.
In so doing, they’ve made their parish into a model for others who’d like to do the same.
The idea first came to parishioner Roy Pedersen three years ago while he was vacationing in Flaglar Beach, Fla., with his wife. “We stopped in at a church, and they had adoration,” explains Pedersen. “We spent an hour there.”
That hour changed Pedersen’s life. “Something happened while I was praying,” he said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to start adoration at St. Gregory’s?”
The parish, situated in the Hudson River Valley some 40 miles north of New York City, was between pastors. But after the new pastor, Father Robert McKeon, settled in, Pedersen brought the idea to him and assistant pastor Father John Higgins.
As it happened, Father McKeon had been thinking and praying about setting up Eucharistic adoration since his arrival at the parish in January 2004. “I jumped on it right away and told Roy that God was inspiring him to take this on,” says Father McKeon.
The two priests asked Pederson to spearhead the initiative. He accepted and began to research the practice, hoping to find tips and support.
“There was a lot of information online, but much of it wasn’t really helpful,” he says. Eventually he came to the Real Presence Association, a Chicago-based organization founded by the late Jesuit Father John Hardon in 1999. From that group’s website, http://www.therealpresence.org Peder,sen downloaded the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Manual, which helped provide structure and guidance in organizing around-the-clock adoration.
Manual in hand, Pederson began recruiting volunteers to help schedule “adorers” — at least one person for every hour of every day, 365 days a year.
Pedersen also contacted Eileen McGarthy of Niantic, Conn., after learning that she had helped set up adoration at St. Joseph’s Church in Middletown, N.Y., as well as at nine parishes throughout Connecticut.
After speaking with her, “I had a system that I could use,” says Pedersen.
In May, Pedersen began holding monthly meetings with a management team of 40 hourly captains and section leaders. Volunteers worked to clean and renovate a chapel attached to the rectory.
The parish invited Missionary of the Blessed Sacrament Father Victor Warkulwiz — from the Apostolate for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in Mt. Clemens, Mich. — to speak to parishioners at all Masses one weekend in September. Volunteers handed out sign-up sheets and collected them after Mass.
“Father Warkulwiz was instrumental in filling the midnight shift,” says Pedersen. “We had 31 people sign up for that section alone. By the end of that weekend, we had 190 people signed up.”
Hoping to recruit two adorers for every hour — backups being crucial in case of illness or travel — the crew aimed to sign up 350 people by the launch date, Oct. 10.
They wound up exceeding that goal by some 30 adorers.
“The recruiting was very easy,” says Pedersen. “Senior citizens, in particular, were craving this.”
“During this year, Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should become a particular commitment for individual parish and religious communities,” wrote the Holy Father in his Oct. 7 apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay With Us, Lord). “Let us take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist, in order to make reparation by our faith and love for the acts of carelessness and neglect, and even the insults which our Savior must endure in many parts of the world.”
As happens with most perpetual-adoration programs, St. Gregory’s has already seen some attrition as adorers have dropped out due to physical problems or unexpected changes in living situations. No problem, Pederson points out: The Holy Spirit provides.
“As people drop out, others have called up,” he adds. “Now the hourly coordinators are marveling at how they don’t have to do any recruiting. It’s amazing.”
Father McKeon admits the average Catholic isn’t often comfortable spending a full hour in prayer, but stressed that there are a variety of methods for spending time during adoration. Primary among them is learning to become comfortable with silent, meditative prayer.
“That’s a key component to adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” explains Father McKeon. “Your prayer becomes Eucharist-centered, and that enhances your participation in the Mass.”
Some adorers spend the time doing devotional or Scriptural reading. Others, such as Father McKeon, keep a prayer journal. Still others just listen.
“I encourage people to allow Christ to get you into the interior posture of receptivity, developing a listening heart to Christ,” says Father McKeon. “You go to empty yourself and to receive from the Lord what he wants to give to you.”
While it’s still too early to say for sure, those involved in promoting Eucharistic adoration expect to see the ranks of adorers swell during this Year of the Eucharist.
“There has been an increase in requests for speaking engagements,” says Father Warkulwiz. He wonders, though, if many of the parishes now starting adoration weren’t already planning to do so — and looked to the Year of the Eucharist as an incentive to finally make it happen.
“Since we returned from the October Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, three parishes we are aware of have increased their adoration hours,” says Mike Mortimer, president of the Real Presence Association. “I’m sure it will happen elsewhere.”
The association hosted a full-day conference on the Year of the Eucharist in Chicago Oct. 23. The conference was attended by Chicago Cardinal Francis George, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke and more than 400 participants.
Mortimer says the practice of adoration has increased steadily since the association’s founding in 1999. He estimates that some 8,600 parishes in the United States offer some schedule for regular adoration; of those, 715 maintain perpetual adoration.
“It’s a grass-roots, laity movement,” says Mortimer. “The people are desperately searching to get back to their faith.”
At St. Gregory Barbarigo, adoration’s impact is already manifest. “I have been deluged with people telling me how fast their hour has gone, and how thankful they are for the peace and serenity that adoration has brought them,” says Pedersen.
“A woman told me recently that, when she looked at her watch, an hour and 45 minutes had passed,” says Father McKeon.
“You can walk into the chapel any time, day or night, and there are always people there praying quietly,” adds Father Higgins, who goes to adoration nearly every day from 6 to 7 a.m. “That is a fruit in itself.”
Tim Drake writes from
Saint Cloud, Minnesota.