||The monstrance containing the consecrated host is displayed during Eucharistic Adoration at St. Aloysius Church in Sauk City. (Photo by Sue Klamer Barry)
SAUK CITY -- Someone very, very special has been visiting St. Aloysius Church in Sauk City on a regular basis. In fact, every Wednesday and Thursday, at any given hour — day or night — you can drive by the front of the church and see cars parked in the circular drive.
You might wonder what the commotion is all about and even be curious to stop in and check it out. If you did, you would see people sitting quietly, praying the Rosary, reading, or just staring -- apparently mesmerized -- by “the visitor.”
Who is this very special visitor? He is none other than Jesus Christ Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. He is taking time to be with all who come to visit Him on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
This age-old tradition —Eucharistic Adoration — has been revived in many parishes in the Diocese of Madison, including at Divine Mercy Parish’s St. Aloysius Church, where the Eucharistic Adoration practice is going into its 10th year. The second day was added in February of 2012.
Beginning every Wednesday morning after the 8:15 a.m. Mass at St. Aloysius Church and running until Benediction before the 8:15 a.m. Mass on Friday, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and people sign up for a specific hour or simply drop by whenever convenient for personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
What is Eucharistic Adoration?
According to information in a pamphlet put out by Our Sunday Visitor and available in the lobby of St. Aloysius Church, “Eucharistic Adoration is the act of worshipping God as He is present in the consecrated Eucharist. Since the Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread and distributed the wine, saying ‘This is my Body’ and ‘This is my Blood,’ Catholics have believed the bread and wine are no longer merely baked wheat and fermented grape juice, but the actual living person of the Second Person of the Trinity.”
The consecrated host is displayed in an ornate vessel called a monstrance. The host is placed inside an enclosed glass container and placed in the monstrance, which is then prominently displayed on the altar of the church or chapel.
Eucharistic Adoration in Madison and Sauk City
The tradition was started at St. Aloysius Church in the Advent Season of 2003 under the direction of Fr. Kevin Holmes, pastor (he is now the pastor of the Cathedral Parish in Madison).
Before becoming pastor of St. Aloysius Parish (now called Divine Mercy Parish with sister parishes St. Mary in Merrimac and St. Norbert in Roxbury), Father Holmes had already served as pastor at Holy Redeemer Parish in Madison from 1994 to 1998 and had helped implement Eucharistic Adoration there one afternoon a week. It was started at Holy Redeemer as an effort to pray for an increase in vocations and Father Holmes suggested the devotion for St. Aloysius Parish, too.
According to now Monsignor Holmes, “In the early 1990s, the church (Holy Redeemer) was always locked when Mass wasn’t going on. I felt the church should be open, but that meant someone would always have to be there. At that time there were a lot of first time students coming to the church, many from outside the parish. It was a great opportunity to get the students involved and interact with them.”
In 1999, the Holy Redeemer Parish Council formally approved the formation of the Holy Redeemer Eucharistic Society, its charter, and its objectives. On February 12, 2006, the first day of Perpetual Adoration began in the lower chapel of Holy Redeemer Church in the heart of downtown Madison. It continues today.
“It has certainly been an important part of the spiritual lives of people in Madison. There have been many people who have discerned a vocation — priesthood and other ministries in the church -- by their commitment to Adoration,” Monsignor Holmes said, “and it has definitely increased the Eucharistic piety of the parish.”
Eucharistic Adoration at St. Aloysius was started with the concentrated effort of several couples at St. Aloysius who recruited other parishioners to cover one-hour slots for the 24-hour period after Mass on Wednesdays until Benediction before morning Mass on Thursday.
Don and Amelda Lins, John and Mary Fabian, and Bill and Marcy Liegel were each responsible for filling the hour time slots for an eight-hour period. In a few short weeks the schedule was filled and an era was born.
When the program started at St. Aloysius, it was held in the chapel in the back of church which housed the Eucharistic Tabernacle. It was the logical place to have Adoration, according to Father Holmes, because that is where the Eucharistic monstrance was kept.
Fruits of the devotion
According to Ann Black, who started as a regular adorer not long after the practice began, “thank goodness for Father Holmes and our wonderful priests from Spain. Father Holmes started the renovation of the sanctuary to bring the tabernacle back to the front altar and our wonderful priests from Spain continued that work.”
Black also explained how her life has been changed by the practice of Eucharistic Adoration. When she started, she was working full time in Baraboo and her busy life style didn’t always leave her a lot of time for God.
She decided to take an hour for Adoration after work and “it was my down time and allowed me to slow down and quiet myself. I began to read some wonderful books (the church had out for use) and I learned a lot. I almost felt like I found a new friend and we were getting to know each other . . . sometimes it’s like I can almost feel His presence, feel His love. I continually grow closer to Him. I could not have become a breast cancer survivor without Him,” she said.
According to Mary Fabian, “I was very interested in bringing this tradition to St. Aloysius because I came from a St. Paul, Minn., parish where we had Perpetual Adoration and next to receiving Christ in the Eucharist, there is no spiritual practice so magnificent.”
“Initially, we were just going to have Adoration for a few hours, but the interest was there and people stepped forward to get involved,” she added.
The nice thing about the devotion, she continued, “is that anyone is invited to come: fallen away Catholics, non-Catholics, and visitors from other parishes. Anyone can come and enjoy an hour (or more or less) of peace and serenity and just be in the presence of the Lord.
“Gazing on the consecrated host is the closest you’ll get to Jesus besides receiving Him in the Eucharist or being in heaven for eternity,” she said.
From the very beginning of the program at St. Aloysius Church, Fabian has brought all of her children from babies on up to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. Many other families do the same.
St. Aloysius parishioner Teresa Evans says she attends Adoration at the Holy Redeemer Chapel in Madison because she works downtown and can’t make the Wednesday schedule in Sauk City. “I had not heard of Eucharistic Adoration until Father Holmes introduced it to us, but once I started going, it has become the highlight of my week. I feel like a part of me is missing if I don’t go visit Jesus.”
Evans applauds St. Aloysius School for having the children participate in the devotion. “Many of the children really ‘get it’ and they understand at a young age the friendship with Jesus. Our relationship changes as we mature, but getting to know Jesus as a child surely strengthens their faith and makes them more steadfast later.
“In order to know Christ, you have to spend time with Him. Like any relationship it needs to be nurtured,” Evans added.
In the entrances of the church there is a book for people to make special prayer requests and intentions. Along with the sign-in book for adorers, the practice has enhanced the feeling of unity and community in the parish.
According to parishioner Scott Enerson, the time before the Blessed Sacrament “is a time for peace and quiet and I get to do some heavy duty praying. I pray for everyone I can think of who needs prayers and the hour goes fast.”
Parishioner Margie Watson chose the 3 o’clock hour because of the meaning it has in the Divine Mercy devotion -- that Jesus died for us at 3 p.m. on Good Friday. She feels the practice has been a great blessing for the people of the parish.
People come to St. Aloysius from neighboring towns to attend Eucharistic Adoration. While there are other parishes in the diocese that have periods of Eucharistic Adoration, there are not many that have two days every week.
According to St. Aloysius Adoration coordinator Bill Liegel, the advantage of having this schedule is that people don’t have to wonder if Adoration will be going on.
Spending time with Christ
Diocesan seminarian Tafadzwa Kushamba said, “In this Year of Faith it is about coming to Jesus Christ and strengthening that relationship. Eucharistic Adoration transforms us in giving time to Jesus Christ.” As a seminarian, part of his daily devotions is an hour of Eucharistic Adoration.
He explained that if you have a best friend and he is coming to town, you make time to get together. “We are called to be disciples of Christ and that means spending time with Him. In his presence we learn and grow.”
Weekly adorer Bryce Bellinder likes driving by St. Aloysius Church and seeing the monstrance displayed on the altar. The glass front is like a window into the holy space, he said. “It is a soothing, loving presence and we are blessed to have this sacred tradition in our community.”