Parishes, schools part of ‘revival’ of ancient practice
By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant
CEDAR RAPIDS — According to Father Ivan Nienhaus, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Cedar Rapids, “There is no better form of prayer outside the Mass than eucharistic adoration.”
At Father Nienhaus’ parish, adoration takes place 12 hours a day, seven days per week, and the priest believes the devotion has had a significant impact on his church.
After St. Patrick’s was devastated by floodwaters in 2008, members of the parish decided that as they rebuilt their church they also wanted to open an adoration chapel in their parish center. Father Nienhaus said that the chapel helped their parish recover, as the people “prayed this thing back into existence.”
Since the chapel opened in 2011, Father Nienhaus said the liturgies at St. Patrick’s have become “very prayerful.” “I think this is a direct result of eucharistic adoration,” he reflected. One young member of St. Patrick’s was recently ordained a priest, and there is an overall sense, Father Nienhaus said, that the parish is alive and thriving.
“We have activity here seven days a week, and that is very attractive to outsiders to want to be a part of the parish,” he said. “When someone drives past our parish, there are cars here. It conveys the message to visitors, to strangers, ‘We’re open for business.’” Father Nienhaus estimates about 500 adorers worship in the adoration chapel each week, many of whom are people from outside the parish who feel drawn to participate.
New Popularity, Ancient Roots
What is happening at St. Patrick’s is part of what some have called a “revival” of eucharistic adoration. The devotion — in which the faithful engage in silent prayer or pray out loud together before an exposed consecrated host — is one that dates back many centuries in the church. Though less popular for a time, eucharistic adoration began to make a comeback in the 1980s and ‘90s under the papacy of John Paul II, who encouraged practice of the devotion.
In 1993, at the International Eucharistic Congress in Spain, Pope John Paul II said his hope was for “the establishment of perpetual eucharistic adoration in all parishes and Christian communities throughout the world.”
Interest in adoration began to increase as a result, and chapels were built in many places in the United States and across the globe. But even prior to John Paul’s papacy, a chapel for perpetual eucharistic adoration — adoration that takes place 24 hours a day, seven days each week — was opened in Dubuque in the summer of 1978, as part of the Power of Prayer apostolate. Last month, the Power of Prayer chapel celebrated 40 years of perpetual eucharistic adoration.
Mark Hoeger, president and director of the board for the Power of Prayer, said he understands the appeal of adoration today and thinks the renewed interest makes sense.
“I believe in this day and age of relativism and emptiness, it won’t take too long for people to find out they need something or someone to rely on other than themselves,” Hoeger recently reflected. “Our Lord is alive in the Blessed Sacrament and just waiting for us to open that door. Once people find out he is there to talk to, to listen to, to spill out all your troubles to, and then learn just how much he really does love you, the word about eucharistic adoration will continue to spread to many more people, young and old.”
Melissa Tittle, the chapel coordinator for the Power of Prayer, stated she believes it is a misconception that adoration is only reserved for a particular age demographic and said she has witnessed a renewal in adoration among youth, for whom, she said, “the flame has been reignited.”
“With the rise of youth conferences and strong parishes that have incorporated this devotion as a regular practice and families bringing their children to the chapel, our younger generation has been introduced to a time-honored devotion that was lost on me growing up,” said Tittle.
The chapel coordinator said she often hears from seminarians and Dubuque area high school and college students who offer to cover Holy Hours at the Power of Prayer chapel.
Adoration at Catholic Schools
Some Catholic high schools have taken steps in recent years to ensure that adoration is part of their students’ educational experience, including a number of schools in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Perpetual eucharistic adoration began at Columbus High School in Waterloo in 2008, and the school recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary of the chapel with a special Mass. Parishioners at 10 surrounding parishes adore at the chapel, and theology classes at Columbus go to the chapel on a regular basis to pray. Students can, and sometimes do, pray individually or as a group outside of school as well.
“Having PEA (perpetual eucharistic adoration) in our school has had a positive effect,” said William Brandle, a theology teacher at Columbus and director of the school’s chapel. “To be able to have classes go to the chapel for quiet prayer is very beneficial. It helps with their recognition of reverence toward God. It is common for students and staff to make a sign of reverence when walking past the chapel.”
“I think one of the biggest benefits,” he continued, “is that it gives students a place to meet God face-to-face. This is important when both good and bad things happen. When the bad happens, they have a quiet place to be in God’s presence; and when a student has a big spiritual experience (like a retreat or Catholic conference) often what happens is there is a ‘what now’ factor. Adoration has been a big help in answering the ‘what now’ question. It gives them an opportunity to continue their growth.”
Brandle said since perpetual adoration began at Columbus, the school has seen an increase in vocations, with several young people in recent years hearing a call to the priesthood or religious life.
Just last year, Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville dedicated an adoration chapel of its own, one that is open to the general public and also to Beckman students. Theology classes make frequent visits to the chapel, according to Beckman teacher Jerry McGrane. “Overall, kids really appreciate the new chapel,” he said, adding that he believes adoration at the school “reinforces the importance of (the) Eucharist in general and fosters greater devotion to Jesus.”
Beckman student Nicole Schilling, who begins her senior year this August, said she has enjoyed the chance to participate in adoration during theology classes at school.
“Life is busy and full of distractions,” Schilling said, “and I really like that adoration gives me the chance to get away from it all for a little while and to just sit quietly with Jesus. It brings me a lot of peace, and I feel like it helps deepen my relationship with God.”
Regardless of age or life circumstances, Father Nienhaus believes adoration is for everyone and encourages people to give adoration a try at one of the chapels around the archdiocese.
“I challenge people to give one hour (in adoration) a week. I tell them to be faithful to your one hour a week, for one year, and come back and talk to me,” Father Nienhaus said. “And every time they come back, and they tell me it was the most incredible thing, the greatest experience they’ve had in their whole life. I hear that from young people, old people, middle-aged people. I hear it over and over again.”
A volunteer places a monstrance containing a consecrated host on the altar at Beckman Catholic High School’s chapel to begin a 24-hour period of eucharistic adoration. (Photo by Jill Kruse-Domeyer/The Witness)