Archdiocese’s earliest adoration chapels mark three decades

| June 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

Larry Meilleur of Sts. Joachim and Anne in Shakopee reads during his holy hour June 2 in the eucharistic perpetual adoration chapel at St. Mary in Shakopee, the oldest adoration chapel in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

On a warm and clear June 3 night at 8:57 p.m., a young couple pulled up to an empty St. Vincent de Paul church in Brooklyn Park and walked through the main doors.

Kristine and Dennis Hatmaker, parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul, didn’t have a particular urgency to stop and pray that Saturday night. The husband and wife were simply making their weekly holy hour at the parish’s eucharistic adoration chapel.

Adoration “just keeps me accountable in my prayer life, because it’s easy to get lazy,” said Kristine, 25, who grew up going to adoration with her father at the parish.

“For our marriage, it’s good for both of us to go and pray together, too,” added Dennis, 26.

At any given hour of the day and night across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, people of all ages are spending a quiet hour with the Eucharist — weekends and holidays included.

The Church’s teaching on the Eucharist as truly being the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ is commemorated by the Church worldwide on the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated June 18 this year.

The practice of adoring Christ in the Eucharist traces its history to the Middle Ages, but St. Mary in Shakopee, now part of Sts. Joachim and Anne, opened the archdiocese’s first perpetual eucharistic adoration chapel in 1985. Since then, the devotion has spread locally; 41 parishes now offer perpetual adoration.

“A lot of people know where that chapel [in Shakopee] is, and if they know they need prayer, they come up there,” said Mary Hart, 88, a parishioner of
Sts. Joachim and Anne.

Perpetual adoration means the availability of the Eucharist exposed in a monstrance on an altar for prayer 24/7. Catholics report adoration has led to answered prayers, miracles, conversions and more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as well as the enriched faith of regular adorers.

168 hours a week

Records of exposition of the Eucharist for the sick go back to the Middle Ages. It developed into a parish practice, including perpetual adoration, in parts of Europe during the late 1600s. While interest in the practice has waned at times, St. John Paul II emphasized the importance of perpetual adoration, and the U.S. saw a renewal in its popularity beginning in the 1980s.

In Shakopee, Deacon James Thornton learned of perpetual adoration and decided to promote it to the parish council in the early 1980s. With pastor Father James Schoenberger’s support, Deacon Thornton invited a speaker to encourage people to sign up for an adoration hour.

“He thought we’d give it a shot,” Deacon Thornton said of Father Schoenberger. “The rest of them were kind of skeptical.”

People signed up for regular holy hours, quickly filling the week. People from Cologne, New Prague and surrounding communities bolstered participation.

“It just snowballed,” Deacon Thornton said.

Interest spread around the archdiocese, and other parishes began to open their own perpetual adoration chapels. Epiphany in Coon Rapids opened its chapel in 1988, followed by St. Rose of Lima in Roseville in 1989 and  St. Joseph in West St. Paul in 1991.

Peggy Powell, Epiphany’s adoration coordinator, said six parishes had perpetual adoration by 1993, and more added it throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. She credited Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn as a big supporter and noted that perpetual adoration grew in his previous diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.

“He said to let the Holy Spirit do it, and that is exactly what happened,” Powell said.

Epiphany, the largest parish in the archdiocese, has 620 adorers; parishes have made perpetual adoration work with half that number or fewer. With pastor approval, a parish can set up adoration if it has a chapel, a team of coordinators and enough people willing to commit an hour per week in order to fill the week’s 168 time slots.

“It’s really a lay movement,” Powell said.

At St. Rose of Lima, a couple of parishioners organized it with the pastor’s approval, recalled regular adorer Bob Houck.

“They got their heads together, and it took about three, maybe four or five months to get enough people to sign up and get the whole thing going,” Houck said.

People are free to pray as they choose during their holy hours. Some meditate on Scripture, kneel in adoration, pray a rosary or sit in silence. At St. Mary, Hart said she likes to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in particular.

“Everybody has a different way to pray, I think,” she said.

Many people say they have seen their petitions answered. Chapels generally keep books to record prayer requests, which often include notes of answered prayers. St. Vincent de Paul’s book has entries such as “My son is sober and working” from May 27, and “My sister and her husband healing from serious marital problems and not getting a divorce” from May 5.

Houck also sees answered prayers mentioned in the prayer request books at St. Rose of Lima. “Those books are constantly in use,” he said. “A lot of people are signing up with petitions and with thanksgivings.”

Reports of physical miracles have also been part of perpetual adoration’s legacy in the archdiocese. Hart recalls the effect of many prayers for a father of five children at St. Mark in Shakopee who had been diagnosed with spinal meningitis. The doctors, she said, told him he wouldn’t live beyond the weekend.

“Well, we [adorers] started praying 24 hours a day on Friday night, and would you believe, by Monday the doctor said they didn’t know what happened,” Hart said of the man’s healing. “There’s no medical answer to what happened to that man.”

A quiet place to discern

Adorers believe perpetual adoration also affects priestly and religious vocations, and new priests often cite time before the Eucharist as key to their discernment. Father David Blume, the archdiocese’s vocations director, noted that the percentage of seminarians becoming priests has increased. Only 58 percent made it to ordination in 1988 through 1992, but in the past 15 years, 74 percent of seminarians have been ordained.

“Other than prayer, I don’t think it is possible to point to any one thing as the reason for this increase,” Father Blume said. “I would say there is a growing ‘culture of vocations’ where our young people are more supported and encouraged to consider an intentional time of discerning what God desires for them in terms of their vocation. There are plenty of parishes where vocations are being promoted and many good activities are going on throughout the archdiocese, but it all comes back to prayer.”

Powell recalled a woman who started coming to the chapel at 10 o’clock each night. She said the woman had been searching and eventually joined the Church. Many adorers have found that adoration enriches their faith. Powell said Epiphany has seen stronger participation in the sacraments and works of mercy.

“Some people even bring their kids, which is wonderful to see,” Hart said of Sts. Joachim and Anne. “They can teach the children how it’s important to be there with the Lord, and I’ve seen many of them do that.”

Despite perpetual adoration’s benefits for a community, challenges remain to keep it going strong. Houck and Powell noted the need to keep recruiting adorers. Houck has heard recommendations to stop adoration at night at St. Rose of Lima due to hours with no committed adorer, but he said he won’t.

Hart and other longtime adorers would like to see Catholics who haven’t tried regular adoration embrace the devotion.

“I think every parish should have this,” she said.

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