By LINDA BEHRENS
With the blessing of then Bishop Wilton Gregory, on Corpus Christi Sunday, June 6, 1999, the Diocese of Belleville began perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Belleville.
For more than 20 years, the practice of perpetual adoration or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament took place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the St. Joseph Chapel at St. Teresa.
Then in March of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was discontinued and the exposed Blessed Sacrament was moved to St. Teresa’s tabernacle.
“It was an odd, sad feeling on that Saturday evening,” says Bradley Dunn, OFS, a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, a group of lay people who sponsor and organize the perpetual adoration program as one of their apostolates.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a contemplation and recognition of the sacrament of the Real Presence of Christ under the sacred species of Bread and Wine outside of the celebration of Mass.
The consecrated host is exposed in the monstrance for the veneration of the faithful.
Perpetual adoration is a devotion, continuing without interruption, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
During Advent in 2020, adoration was held again but only one day a week in the larger St. Teresa chapel, to allow for more social distancing.
Recently, it is being held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., once again in the St. Joseph chapel at St. Teresa.
Dunn says they are making plans to offer perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but it will take about six to nine months to implement.
“We plan to be perpetual again,” Dunn says. “It’s a matter of rallying the faithful to the call.”
According to Dunn, they will need to connect with a missionary priest, someone who will visit the parishes in the diocese to talk about perpetual adoration.
They then need to build their list of volunteers and substitutes. Parishioners commit to a specific day and time (one hour) every week. They also will begin fundraising efforts.
“At one point, we had more than 500 adorers or volunteers,” Dunn says. “Having the missionary priests preach at Masses will help us fill out the numbers again.”
Traditionally, the majority of adorers were from the Belleville parishes of St. Teresa, Cathedral of St. Peter, St. Mary, St. Henry, St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Luke. But Dunn mentions they can be from any parish in the diocese.
In the mid-1990s, Dunn had heard about other perpetual adoration programs. He says he had a strong sense about having one in the Diocese of Belleville. Bishop Gregory also wished for this devotional practice to be available in the diocese.
“I know the Lord wanted it. That’s why is came together,” Dunn says.
There was support from the St. Peter Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. St. Teresa church was recommended because they had a side chapel that was not part of the primary church.
“I remember asking Msgr. Don Eichenseer about using the St. Joseph chapel, and he said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Dunn says.
Dunn says that the perpetual adoration movement is a predominantly lay-led effort but with the approval and support of the area priests and bishop.
“Monsignor Don would be in the chapel every evening. Our current pastor, Father Joseph Oganda has Holy Hour there every day,” Dunn says.
“The Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy in Belleville has been instrumental in helping this apostolate,” Dunn says. “They already had adoration in their chapel. They have provided us with spiritual support along with creating and laundering our altar linens and instructing us how to set up the altar.”
Dunn says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared a Eucharistic document to help re-catechize the faithful.
“We are entering into a period of Eucharistic revival,” Dunn says. “Perpetual adoration chapels are a significant part of this revival.”
For more information, visit the St. Theresa website at www.stteresabelleville.com/perpetual-adoration-chapel.html.
Also, you may contact Bradley Dunn, OFS, at 618-567-1755 or Mary Ellen Herrmann, OFS, at 618-250-4568.