October 8, 2021

Adoration campaign at St. Bridget and St. Gabriel was ‘blessed by the Lord’

A woman prays before the Blessed Sacrament in St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Liberty on Sept. 10 during a 31-day adoration campaign held by St. Bridget Parish and St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A woman prays before the Blessed Sacrament in St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Liberty on Sept. 10 during a 31-day adoration campaign held by St. Bridget Parish and St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

LIBERTY—It’s 2 o’clock on a sunny Friday afternoon. It’s not a usual time to walk into church, but that’s what Bill and Kathy Heinle did—walked into St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Liberty in the middle of the day.

They did the same the same thing at the same time the three prior Fridays.

The Heinles, members of St. Bridget of Ireland Parish, came each time for a very special scheduled appointment—an appointment to be present with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament for an hour.

“I come because I want to spend time with Christ,” said Kathy.

Her husband Bill agreed, saying he liked “to have the time to visit with the Lord.”

The Heinles are among the many parishioners of St. Bridget and St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville who participated in a 24-hours-a-day, 31-day adoration campaign.

“The goal of the campaign was to help build an awareness of and love for Christ in the Eucharist,” said Father Dustin Boehm, pastor of the two parishes in southeastern Indiana.

The idea grew from a conversation he had with Father Jeremy Gries, pastor of Holy Family Parish in New Albany and dean for the New Albany Deanery.

‘He is the bread of life for the world’

The two friends were discussing capital campaigns—St. Gabriel is in the midst of one called Building the Beacon of Hope.

“That got us thinking, what about doing a spiritual campaign?” Father Boehm said. He noted a 2019 Pew Research Center study that showed only 30% of those in the U.S. who identify as Catholic believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.

“We talked about how great it would be to have a spiritual campaign to help turn that around.”

Father Boehm set the start date of the adoration campaign for his two parishes for Aug. 15, not as much for it being the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother as for the topics of the Sunday Gospel readings in the weeks leading up to and after that date.

“First, you have Jesus calling the disciples to come and rest,” he explained. “Adoration is this great time of prayer to rest in our Lord, to sit and be with our Lord.

“And that leads into [the Gospel of] John chapter 6, where the Lord gives this enormous discourse on how he is the bread of life for the world.

“John 6 is a huge portion of Scripture that really informs our theology on the Eucharist. If you want to know what heaven is, come to adoration. This will let us know what heaven will be like, to be with him for all eternity, the source of our joy.”

Father Boehm also noted that spending time in adoration “gives time to examine our priorities. Is prayer, this relationship with Christ, a priority? Think of all the time put into the parish fair, extracurricular activities, school, work—all these things are good and necessary, but is there anywhere in there where prayer and resting with God is a priority? [Adoration] is a perfect opportunity to reach into that.”

‘A passion for adoration’

When Father Boehm texted the idea to Melissa Fronckowiak, St. Gabriel’s director of communications, religious education administrator and youth minister, “I actually cried,” she said. “I have a passion for adoration. I told him whatever he needed me to do, I’d do it.”

Fronckowiak handled the sign-up logistics and promoted the effort. She gave a witness talk at weekend Masses on “how my life has been so greatly impacted by having Jesus at the center of my life, and that’s because of adoration, giving that time, making that sacrifice.

“I mentioned how there are times you won’t feel like going, times you can’t focus, times when you don’t get anything out of it, but you still are.”

A frequently-asked-questions sheet was distributed to parishioners of St. Bridget and St. Gabriel answering questions about adoration.

“One person asked if you had to kneel all the time, which of course you don’t,” said Fronckowiak. “Another asked if there were certain prayers they had to say. It opened up the idea that they can use that time as they wish and still grow closer to the Lord.”

‘A different level of prayer’

This concept of leaving adoration time open to the Holy Spirit dawned on Darlene Chewning through her experience during the spiritual campaign.

“At the very beginning, I went in with an agenda of praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet,” said the member of St. Bridget. “But then I realized I didn’t want an agenda. I decided to let myself do what I feel at the time, even if I just stared at the Blessed Sacrament. With an agenda, you’re not open to the Holy Spirit’s agenda.”

Through the 31-day effort, Chewning developed a love for adoration.

“At first, you think an hour is a long time, but that hour flew by,” she said.

“I felt like when I walked out of there in the morning that I was just a little bit of a different person. I was holding onto that feeling that God is right there with me one on one. As I went through the day, I just carried it with me.

“You think of your life being busy and crazy as your reality. But when I was in church before the Blessed Sacrament, that is the reality, with a capital ‘R.’ So sometimes you have to escape from reality to find the real reality.”

Each week, Father Boehm asked the adorers to pray for a different intention, including for the new school year, those suffering from addictions, those who have walked away from the faith, military and first responders, and for a deepening devotion to the Eucharist.

“You really felt like you were actually helping those with addiction and the back-to-school kids and first responders,” said Chewning. “There’s just something about praying there in church in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. You really felt like you were directly talking to God and making a direct impact. It’s just a different level of prayer.”

‘A stark and welcome change’

Father Boehm said there was no doubt “this effort was blessed by the Lord.” He heard confirmation of that fact repeatedly during a time of sharing after the final Benediction on the 31st day.

He jotted down people’s responses regarding their experience during the adoration campaign. Certain themes recurred, such as a feeling of peace; a deeper connection to the Lord; a deeper appreciation of God’s love; and “a feeling of Mary in a Martha world—sitting at the feet of Jesus.”

Some noted an improved relationship with their spouse. One commented that they “prayed and read Scripture with my spouse—we’d never prayed together before.” Another said the experience launched “new kinds of conversation with my spouse.”

Others appreciated having time to “slow down” and “having alone time.” One person commented that they were “so busy—this was a stark and welcome change.”

Early in the campaign a story was shared on social media about a person who returned to church after years of absence.

“Something inspired her to go out for a walk,” Father Boehm said. “She was walking by St. Bridget’s and saw that the church was lit up. She hadn’t been in there in 19 years, since her grandfather passed away.

“She had no idea that adoration was going on, but had the urge to walk in. One of the guardians [adorers] recognized her and greeted her.

“Any other time, she wouldn’t have been able to get in the church. But because adoration was going on, she got to connect with God.”

Father Boehm hopes to make the 31-day adoration campaign an annual experience.

In the meantime, adoration opportunities at both parishes will increase from a few hours once a month to 24 consecutive hours at St. Bridget starting on the first Friday of each month, and almost 33 hours at St. Gabriel starting on the first Tuesday.

The Heinles hope to participate in the increased adoration hours, particularly Bill.

“I’ve never done adoration before this,” said the former Lutheran. “I absolutely feel closer to the Lord than I did before.” †

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