Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, leads Eucharistic Adoration in St. Mary Chapel. Courtesy photo
Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, leads Eucharistic Adoration in St. Mary Chapel. Courtesy photo
As it celebrates 25 years of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, will be designated a Diocesan Shrine Oct. 16 during a 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor, announced that on Sept. 1, Bishop O'Connell promulgated the statutes establishing the old St. Mary Church/Chapel as a Diocesan Shrine under the title of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Father Kegley reflected on how the Diocesan Shrine will become "a place of pilgrimage, perpetual adoration, prayer and devotion" as well as its quarter-century milestone, saying, “It’s pretty wonderful.

“Morning, noon and night, seven days a week, there is somebody in our parish adoring Jesus. It’s the reason we are created – to worship our God, to give him honor and praise,” he said.

The Mass is open to all who wish to attend and will include a special blessing of the chapel by Bishop O’Connell.

“The chapel gets a lot of traffic passing it every day,” Father Kegley noted. “I believe it has been and will continue to be a hope for people.” The Adoration chapel – the former St. Mary Church built in 1902 – holds about 200 worshippers.

The Diocesan Shrine designation “recognizes that there’s a special piety taking place in this building,” Father Kegley said, noting that the opportunity is opened for pilgrimages and “there are special graces attached to Eucharistic Adoration, coming into the presence of Jesus.”

When Perpetual Adoration was initiated in 1997 in the parish and announced on a nearby Route 35 billboard, 670 people from signed up.

“St. Pope John Paul II wrote in a 1981 article that every parish should have Perpetual Adoration; we took the initiative from him,” recalled Father Kegley, who was St. Mary’s parochial vicar in 1997. Then-Bishop John C. Reiss granted permission, with the idea that it would attract worshippers from the surrounding areas as well.

“We have a pretty sophisticated chain of command,” Father Kegley said of the volunteers, led by coordinators Peggy and Michael Dunne, with online sign-ups. “We have quarterly captains and hourly captains ... All of them are responsible to recruit more adorers.”

At any given time, he pointed out, there are often between 12 and 20 people taking advantage of the 24-7 availability. The parish office is even closed at 1 p.m. every Wednesday for staff Holy Hour.

“The St. Mary School religion classes go to the chapel throughout the year” at the discretion of the religion teachers, he said. “It’s interesting to see the kids ... they really note that something sacred is happening ... they understand that it’s Jesus.”

With the National Eucharistic Revival initiated in June, the timing could not be more poignant. Weekly masses will be celebrated in the chapel, as well as a weeknight Mass for adorers' intentions.

“The purpose of the Revival is for people to encounter the Eucharistic Lord, to return to the mystery,” Father Kegley emphasized. “I believe Eucharistic Chapels are essential to this ... The Revival will take place in every adorer’s heart.”