GREEN BAY — Last month, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse announced that they would discontinue perpetual adoration, which began on Aug. 1, 1878. Instead, the sisters announced on Jan. 24 that daily adoration will take place beginning Feb. 26 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The aging population of sisters, along with fewer vocations, led the La Crosse religious community to invite the laity (“prayer partners”) in 1997 to assist in perpetual adoration. “As demographics continued changing in the early 2000s, we began studying the future of the practice and growing in our understanding of how we can move forward tending to the spirit of perpetual adoration while it becoming necessary to discontinue night hours,” said Sr. Eileen McKenzie, community president.
Commitment to perpetual prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is a constant challenge, which all seven parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay that sponsor it know from experience.
“We all struggle with that,” said Kathie Reed, coordinator of the Divine Mercy Adoration Chapel in Oshkosh, which draws on adorers from all the city’s parishes. “We have three members from each parish that belong to our team. You’ve got to constantly be recruiting people. … We would like to have four to five per hour. We dwindle down to one or two.”
Reed told The Compass that the Divine Mercy chapel will celebrate 10 years of perpetual adoration on Feb. 16, 2020. Just as the La Crosse sisters struggled with an aging population, so does the Oshkosh chapel.
“It’s not talked about much or given priority in our lives,” she said. “Other things take priority, so in the last year we’ve been working really hard, along with the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother, to get adorers to commit an hour. … What’s an hour out of your week?
“The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, but it’s the greatest hidden treasure that we have,” added Reed. “To keep it open, we need people. We need two people to commit per hour. That way, if someone is missing or can’t make it that day, we have it covered.”
Ron Mullenbach retired a year ago as coordinator of the Good Shepherd Adoration Chapel in Chilton, a duty he held since the chapel opened 22 years ago. “Our chapel always goes in a big curve,” he said. “Sometimes everything is filled and sometimes we need quite a few people. People die and people get sick. It goes in cycles.”
The Chilton adoration chapel is the second oldest in the diocese (Neenah’s Twin Cities Perpetual Adoration Chapel, which opened in 1997, is the oldest) and has about 380 adorers and another 50 on a standby list, added Mullenbach.
Sandy Bjorkman, a member of Resurrection Parish in Menominee, Mich., has been coordinator of God the Father Perpetual Adoration Chapel at Holy Family Church in Marinette for 17 years.
She said about 250 people from the Marinette and Menominee areas serve as adorers, but more are needed, “especially during the midnight hours. … People have died and moved away and that has hurt.”
Bjorkman said finding new volunteers is a challenge because “people are not understanding who Jesus is, and just the busyness of their lives.”
“Where our world is today, where our country is, where our kids are at,” she said, adoration is a way for people to take their troubles to God. “Being in front of Jesus with all of that is such an incredible experience to be able to put that all there.”
Bjorkman said young adults have joined in adoration in recent years.
“Our young people going to Steubenville conferences, they get excited about adoration,” she said. “They have one hour on Saturday afternoons. It would be really nice for youth to be more involved, even sharing hours.”
Groups such as the Knights of Columbus and women’s organizations can sign up for one hour a week or month and have members cover the hour, added Bjorkman. The Marinette chapel will celebrate its 20th anniversary on March 25.
Even though Sacred Heart Adoration Chapel in Manitowoc is not a perpetual adoration chapel (it opens at 5 a.m. on Mondays and closes at midnight on Thursdays), it also struggles to fill its hours, said Clara Svatek, who has been the chapel coordinator since it started on Sept. 2, 2009.
“Right now, the roster is working fine,” she said. “We are presently inaugurating a program where we will go to an electronic sign-up. The rules for adoration say we should have two at every hour. We aren’t able to do that all the time, but we have at least one.”
She said the chapel has about 163 people on its list of adorers.
“When we started it was a challenge” to fill the hourly adoration times, she said. “Now, it becomes a thing that takes on a life of itself. The adorers are so good at adoring. If they need a sub, they will call someone. They realize the necessity of coverage at the chapel, so it isn’t a big job for me.”
Sharon Van Ooyen, who served as coordinator of Christ the King Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Green Bay for nearly 20 years, said the perpetual adoration chapel has close to 300 people who volunteer. “Every once in a while, somebody might not show up,” she said.
It is usually due to weather or sickness. “It’s happened a couple of times (after her time slot was over) and I usually stay” an extra hour, Van Ooyen said.
The chapel, located on the lower level of SS. Peter and Paul Church, opened on Dec. 12, 1999.
“It’s just a very special place and there’s so many times I went down there to sub an hour or do my hour and, maybe I’m having rough day,” she said. “It would never fail. It was exactly the answer to what I was struggling with. You just felt our Lord’s presence. We are so blessed to have that.”
Last October, Tyler Reif, 19, succeeded Van Ooyen. He is the youngest adoration chapel coordinator in the diocese. “I have participated (in adoration) for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I don’t have a strict hour that I take. I did a lot of subbing, and subbing with my dad, before I took over as coordinator.”
Reif said the parish is always looking for new adorers. “Anybody who would wish to spend time with our Lord, take an hour and pop in any hour” is welcome to sign up or show up, he said. “We have people from all over our diocese.”
Deacon Tom and Sue Mahoney have been regular visitors to SS. Peter and Paul Parish’s adoration chapel since it opened. “I’m a big one on commitment and the Lord committed himself to us, so we should commit back to the Lord,” said Deacon Mahoney.
He encouraged other people to give adoration a try. “I would say, ‘How do you not know it’s going to do something for you?’ If you maybe commit for a couple of weeks then evaluate and see where you are at. See if it works for you,” he said. “Not everybody will have the same feelings.”
List of adoration chapels in Green Bay Diocese
- Chapel of Divine Mercy at St. Pius X Church, Appleton; Teresa Bishop (920) 815-8510.
- Good Shepherd Perpetual Adoration Chapel at Good Shepherd Church, Chilton; Steve Schneider (920) 849-9266.
- Christ the King Perpetual Adoration Chapel at SS. Peter and Paul Church, Green Bay; Tyler Reif, (920) 247-5048.
- Sacred Heart Adoration Chapel, Manitowoc; Clara Svatek (920) 901-0367.
- God the Father Perpetual Adoration Chapel at Holy Family Parish, Taylor Street site, Marinette; Stacy Canne (715) 732-0175.
- Twin Cities Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Margaret Mary Church, Neenah; Ed Scanlan, (920) 722-2967.
- Divine Mercy Adoration Chapel at Most Blessed Sacrament Church, Oshkosh; Kathie Reed, (920) 539-6871.