March 17, 2010 // Local

True Presence felt in Eucharistic adoration

Adorers pray during perpetual adoration at St. Jude’s Adoration Chapel in Fort Wayne. The chapel is open 24 hours each day all year long.

By Kay Cozad

FORT WAYNE — “No where on earth are you more welcomed, no where on earth are you more loved, than by Jesus, living and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. … He is really there in person waiting just for you.” — Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass has been an act of reverence for centuries in the Catholic faith and grew out of the teachings of the early Apostles. The reservation and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during early Church history led Pope Clement VIII to issue a document establishing a devotion of 40-hours of prayer in 1592. The practice spread throughout the Catholic population and soon included perpetual adoration, or continuous adoration before the Eucharist.

Currently in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend many parishes offer opportunities to spend quiet time in the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

One parish, St. Jude, Fort Wayne, offers a perpetual adoration chapel that has been open for continuous prayer for a quarter of a century and clocked over a million prayer hours. Ed Dahm, lifelong parishioner there, says adoration began as a Lenten observance in the parish in 1983. “We had adoration during Lent and invited several parishes to participate. It was a success,” he says.

He and several of the adorers spoke of instituting perpetual adoration at their parish and began to research the possibility. “Father (John) Pfister was for it,” he says. And by October of 1985 St. Jude became one of the few parishes in northern Indiana to offer perpetual adoration. Initially adorers were recruited from pulpit talks given by the priest. “People were asked to fill the time slots,” says Dahm, adding that “572 people signed up!”

The adorers, from St. Jude and other parishes, fill four time slots from midnight to 6 a.m., 6 a.m. to noon, noon to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight and pray two by two as per then Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s instructions. Currently 600 people participate in scheduled Eucharistic adoration while visitors stop in anytime. “It’s still going strong,” says Dahm.

A group of 24 coordinators, one for every hour of adoration, meets four times each year to evaluate the program, review problems with time slot sign-up and develop ideas to invite the Catholic youth in. “We try to get the youth involved in high school and St. Jude. We’d love to have adoration just during school hours too,” says Dahm.
The soon-to-be 80-year-old Dahm has participated in weekly adoration for 24 years and says, “It’s the greatest time of the week for me. I’m just there looking at Jesus truly present in the Body and Blood and He’s looking at me. I tell Him everything in my life and He can put everything in priority where it should be.”

And once each year he invites the eighth graders of St. Jude School to make Jesus their best friend by visiting the adoration chapel. “In this age when people are doing something all the time, the chapel is quiet. You can go and just talk to Jesus. You can get more from the Blessed Sacrament than you can from any books,” he says.

Ed Dahm and the St. Jude adorers extend an ongoing invitation to the area faithful to visit the adoration chapel located in the St. Jude Parish Center just south of the church where a green awning identifies this sacred space. “We have to make ourselves available to God. That’s what you do when you go to the chapel,” he says.

Terri Ryland, longtime parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, agrees with Dahm. “It’s a great way to start the day,” she says, adding, “I wish everyone would experience it. Then they would love it.”

Eucharistic adoration at St. Elizabeth, which was instituted in 2000 during the jubilee celebration, is scheduled on Fridays from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Each hour requires two adorers and Ryland, who schedules the participants, says they don’t have any trouble filling the slots.

“St. Elizabeth’s is really good at putting advertisements in the bulletin. I ask people and also if they know of anyone to invite to adoration. People come — and they love it and tell their friends.”

Ryland first began Eucharistic adoration as a drop in. “I felt drawn to it when it was mentioned in the bulletin. I’d stop before or after work, sometimes for five minutes,” she says. Eventually her visits became longer until she felt ready to commit to an hour each week. “Now it’s almost like meeting a friend. I put it on my calendar and look forward to it every week,” she says.

The scheduled adorers at St. Elizabeth’s Daily Mass Chapel, where the new monstrance, which contains the Eucharist, are joined by visitors periodically. Each visitor is asked to sign in for record keeping. Individuals use the time at their own discretion. Some, says Ryland, pray the rosary, others read books on the saints or Scripture using the special adoration Bibles available in the chapel, and others sit in the quiet. But, reflects Ryland, there is no right or only way to pray. “There’s no formula,” she says. “Everyone does it their own way.”

Sitting in the silence before the Lord for an hour sometimes takes practice reports Ryland. “Things come to mind and you wander. But then you just refocus. It takes practice. But the more you do it the better you get and you enjoy the silence and communion you have. … It’s like resting in Jesus’ arms.”

As for the belief that the Eucharist is the True Presence of Jesus, Ryland says, “Until you actually experience it you can’t explain it. You feel it in the heart.”

For Eucharistic adoration times contact your local parish.

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