July 5, 2019

Diverse faith community embraces new adoration chapel

Father Michael Keucher, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, carries a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament at the head of a eucharistic procession on June 23 at the Batesville Deanery faith community. The procession ended with the blessing of the Divine Mercy Chapel, the newest perpetual adoration chapel in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Michael Keucher, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, carries a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament at the head of a eucharistic procession on June 23 at the Batesville Deanery faith community. The procession ended with the blessing of the Divine Mercy Chapel, the newest perpetual adoration chapel in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

SHELBYVILLE—On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June, the air was filled with songs praising Christ’s presence in the Eucharist as hundreds of Catholics stretching out more than a city block took part in a eucharistic procession in the neighborhood around St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville.

It was a public expression of the faith of so many parishioners—young and old, those whose families have long roots in the parish and those who have come more recently as immigrants from Mexico or other Central or South American countries.

The love of the Eucharist that united them all on June 23 on the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known by its traditional Latin title of Corpus Christi, culminated at the end of the procession in the blessing and inaugurating of the parish’s new Divine Mercy Chapel where the Blessed Sacrament will be adored 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

It is the 14th perpetual adoration chapel for the Church in central and southern Indiana. (See related article)

Father Michael Keucher, St. Joseph’s pastor, was smiling from ear to ear after the procession and the blessing of the chapel.

“This has been the greatest celebration of the Eucharist that I’ve ever experienced,” said Father Keucher. “To see the faith of the people and not just my dream come true, but the dreams of so many people here come true, is just a miracle. There are so many tears—tears of joy that folks have had. It’s something supernatural.”

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was on hand to bless the chapel and be the first person to pray there in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

“It just shows how the Eucharist is so central to our lives,” he said. “The community here gets that and appreciates that. They certainly give an incredible witness to the centrality of the Eucharist. We’re ultimately called to be Christ‑centered.

“And what better way to do that than gathering for the Eucharist and allowing the Eucharist to be the strength and source of the grace we need to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ.”

The small Divine Mercy Chapel, which can seat about six people, is in a renovated room in a building on the campus of St. Joseph Parish.

Father Keucher said establishing the chapel flowed from an increase in eucharistic adoration at St. Joseph over the past few years.

During that time, a holy hour was prayed daily at noon at the parish. And on each first Friday, there would be 24 hours of eucharistic adoration.

Not long after Father Keucher began ministry at St. Joseph in 2017, parishioners came to him expressing their desire for a perpetual adoration chapel.

“I just kept hearing it from different people and got excited about the idea myself,” he said. “I love adoration.”

So last fall, he sought and received permission from Archbishop Thompson to begin plans for a chapel at the parish.

By the spring of this year, the plans were in place enough to have parishioners sign up for hours. Since the chapel was going to be dedicated to Divine Mercy, Father Keucher chose Divine Mercy Sunday as the day on which to invite parishioners to make a weekly commitment to adoration.

In about a week, nearly all 168 hour slots per week were filled. Some hours have two people signed up for them, others as many as five. At least 80 people are on a list of substitutes to fill in when those who have committed to a specific hour cannot make it.

“The hours were filled so fast,” said Father Keucher. “I couldn’t believe it. I really thought that it wasn’t going to happen that way. It really floored me.”

Lupita Flores was glad to see so many of her fellow Latino Catholics taking part in the eucharistic procession and chapel blessing.

“It was awesome,” said Flores. “It was something that we were all waiting for. I think that a lot of the community is going to find the time to spend time with Jesus.

“We show our devotion through prayer and community. We all gather together, and we are one in faith. We’re all brothers and sisters. It’s a huge part of who we are.”

Dottie Soller has been a member of St. Joseph Parish for some 60 years and was on hand for the procession and chapel blessing.

“This parish is going to have much more life—and it already has a lot of life, definitely,” she said. “Shelby County will be blessed, and we won’t even know how many blessings God is giving all of us.”

Other Catholics from Shelby County will be praying in the chapel, as members of nearby St. Vincent de Paul Parish have also signed up for hours.

Members of St. Joseph and St. Vincent are already working together in other initiatives, including a rapidly growing youth ministry and charitable works through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Father Keucher thinks the increased activity of Catholics in the broader community of Shelby County is tied to their increase in eucharistic adoration.

“It just sets people on fire,” he said. “When you spend time with Jesus, he’s going to call you to do stuff. He’s going to make you a more convicted and active member of the Church, his body.

“There’s a huge connection between the contemplative life of a parish and the active life of a parish. The active life of a parish will only last, thrive and grow if there is a strong contemplative life.”

The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Divine Mercy Chapel at St. Joseph Parish will be a means, Flores said, of bringing Catholics of diverse cultural backgrounds at St. Joseph and in Shelby County together toward the unity that Christ willed for the Church.

“It’s going to unite us even more than we already are,” Flores said. “To see that people have devoted at least one hour of their time each week to be in the chapel with Jesus, and to know that someone is going to be there, even in the early hours of the morning, is just amazing. It’s amazing to know that we have all come together to do that.” †

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