Courtesy of Matt Marzorati
Courtesy of Matt Marzorati

At 3 a.m. on any given Thursday morning, Father Jeffrey Kegley is found in what he calls “an incredibly blessed time,” praying before the Blessed Sacrament in his parish’s recently renovated Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

“The presence of the Lord on the altar is absolutely breathtaking,” said Father Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, and diocesan liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. “Parishioners have shared with me that there is something special going on in the chapel. Beautiful things are happening [in] there.”

St. Mary is but one parish in the Diocese that has Perpetual Adoration, making it possible for faithful to spend time in prayer day or night.

Dedicated to Prayer

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety regulations that have since been mandated impacted the availability of Adoration chapels. Because of the small sizes of chapels, some parishes had no choice but to indefinitely discontinue Adoration. There were parishes that resumed Adoration with abbreviated hours, and others that were able to move Adoration to larger quarters, such as inside the church. St. Mary Parish used the lockdown months to undertake an extensive chapel renovation project.   

The Monmouth county parish has had Perpetual Adoration since 1997, and the most recent Adoration chapel was located inside the Mary, Mother of God Church. With a seating capacity of 24 people, Father Kegley explained, plans had been discussed to enlarge the chapel. It was instead decided to move Adoration into the parish’s St. Mary Chapel, which had been the church prior to the construction of Mary, Mother of God Church.

Father Kegley thanked the “army of volunteers” who worked on the renovations of the chapel that included a new floor, roof, lighting and installing a new handicap accessible restroom and installing livestream capabilities.

“There is such a great need for people to pray,” he said. “There are so many problems in the world today, and Eucharistic Adoration is the answer to the world’s problems. Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems.” 

Of the new chapel, which opened Ash Wednesday, Father Kegley said there are currently 400 “committed adorers, two people for every hour,” in attendance for prayer. It’s his goal, he said, to “have 1,000 people offering an hour to the Lord” in the future.

The Power of Presence

St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford, and St. Raphael-Holy Angels, Hamilton, are two more parishes in the Diocese that found creative ways to resume offering Perpetual Adoration in a safe manner.

Christine Brandt, a pastoral associate in St. Mary of the Lakes and coordinator of the Adoration Chapel schedule, reflected on how happy parishioners were to return for Adoration in June.

“They were over the moon,” she said. “They were so happy to be able to spend time with Jesus in this way again. They missed it so much.”

Because of social distancing measures, the chapel, which is located inside the church building, now only allows for one adorer at a time. But since the chapel has clear glass walls, additional adorers are able to stand outside the chapel with a view of the Blessed Sacrament.

Parishioner and adorer Terri Vosbikian acknowledged Father Daniel Swift, pastor, for following the pandemic mandates while “doing everything he can to make us still feel like a community.” 

“As personal as adoration can be, we as the faithful need to pray for the Church and the world,” Vosbikian said.

“These are dark times so filled with sin and corruption that the weight of the burden can only be eased in the presence of Jesus,” she said. “I may not have the power to change circumstances, but through prayer, I can gain a new perspective.”

Fellow parishioner Carol Wagner, who has been attending Adoration for over 25 years, is happy to once again be able to “sit in the peaceful presence of the Lord.” 

“I can share my blessings, my doubts, my problems, and the Lord just says, ‘Trust in me, and I will take care of it. It’s simply an experience like no other,” Wagner said.

For John Vasturia, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Lakes since 1991 and a regular adorer on Thursday evenings, the experience of returning to Adoration was much like returning to Mass for the first time.

“It felt like a missing piece was back,” he said. “Adoration is a unique opportunity to adore, converse, listen and pray with Jesus. The Adoration Chapel is a holy and special place. We are fortunate to have this space.”

John Margicin, coordinator of the Adoration Chapel in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, said that prior to the pandemic, people came from out of state to attend Adoration.

“Truck drivers would stop by during the day, and people stopped on their way to work,” he said. He noted that Adoration in the chapel resumed on Ash Wednesday with abbreviated hours on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the chapel can hold 12 people safely.

While official plans to restore Perpetual Adoration have yet to be decided, Margicin said many prayers are being offered where “we will eventually be able to get back to 24/7.”

“People just want to sit in the presence of Christ,” he said. “They want to thank God for the blessings of the day and ask for help where it is needed. They put their faith in Jesus.”