Pandemic inspires parishioner to develop holy hour meditations

Jennie Rodrigues-Pereira leads mediations at St. Bernard Parish in Appleton

Jennie Rodrigues-Pereire, left, and Sherry Zwicky, liturgy and music coordinator at St. Bernard Parish in Appleton, are teaming up to offer a twice-monthly holy hour meditation that Rodrigues-Pereire created. She said she was inspired to write the meditations while in lockdown during the pandemic. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

APPLETON — One of Bishop David Ricken’s goals, laid out in his pastoral plan for the Diocese of Green Bay, is to form 1,000 missionary discipleship leaders by 2025. St. Bernard Parish is one step closer to this goal, thanks to Jennie Rodrigues-Pereire.

A stay-at-home mother of two, Rodrigues-Pereire was inspired to develop a series of holy hour meditations based on the rosary. The holy hour meditations, prayers offered before the Blessed Sacrament, began in September and are held the first and third Fridays of each month at 8:45 a.m. The idea developed during the early part of the pandemic, said Rodrigues-Pereire. 

“During the pandemic, I started praying more,” she told The Compass following the Nov. 5 holy hour. “Since churches were not open at that time, I started doing an online adoration.”

She began participating in a YouTube Live adoration offered by the Divine Retreat Center UK, a ministry of St. Augustine’s Benedictine Abbey in the United Kingdom.

“That inspired me and I was blessed tremendously through that,” she said. “I said, ‘If people can be blessed by just being with Jesus, why isn’t something like this in church?’ That’s when somebody spoke back and said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’” That somebody, she said, was the Holy Spirit.

Last August, Rodrigues-Pereire was at Mass and heard a homily about the prophet Jonah, who avoided following God’s command.

“I was like Jonah and I played my games and said ‘no,’” she said. “After Mass, I walked up to Andy Schmidt (the former parish director of evangelization) and said, ‘I have this seed in my heart.’” She explained her desire to create and lead a holy hour meditation. “Andy replied, ‘I have been praying for this,’ so I said, ‘OK.’”

Schmidt introduced Rodrigues-Pereire to Deacon Mike Eash, parish leader, and Sherry Zwicky, liturgy and music coordinator at St. Bernard.

“We used to have holy hour pre-pandemic, and it was the diocesan standard format,” said Zwicky. “So when she first approached us, that’s what I had in mind. She said that she had been inspired by the Holy Spirit… to develop these different holy hour meditations.”
Along with the Divine Retreat Center UK, Rodrigues-Pereire said she found resources and inspiration from other Catholic online ministries, including Ascension Press.

The Holy Hour with Adoration services begin following the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Each holy hour includes an opening hymn, “Holy Ground,” followed by Rodrigues-Pereire offering a welcome.

The Nov. 5 holy hour had a theme of liberation and deliverance. After the welcome, Rodrigues-Pereire, accompanied by Zwicky, led the assembly of about 20 people in the Litany of the Saints.

Recitation of the rosary begins with the traditional prayers: the Apostles Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Based on Scripture, Rodrigues-Pereire created prayers for each of the five mysteries. 

“On each of the 10 small beads where the Hail Mary is usually prayed, recite the following prayers: Jesus have mercy on me; Jesus heal me; Jesus save me; Jesus free me,” Rodrigues-Pereire explained to the assembly.

For the first decade (mystery), a special intention was offered.

“In this decade, we pray for our pope, bishops, cardinals, religious, missionaries and every member of the Body of Christ who accepts Jesus as their Christ and Savior,” said Rodrigues-Pereire. “We pray for the church as a whole for the persecution, ridiculing or even attacks it has to go through in places where the Catholic faith is unwelcome. So here we will ask Jesus to set our church free.”

The remaining decades offered prayers for the community of believers, for the sick, for families and for oneself. The group concluded by praying Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina), followed by a closing prayer by Rodrigues-Pereire and closing hymn.

A traditional rosary was recited on Oct. 15 in honor of Our Lady of Fatima. For each sorrowful mystery the Our Father and Hail Mary were given in a different language: the Kapampangan language of the Philippines, Polish, Spanish, French and English.

According to Zwicky, Rodrigues-Pereire’s willingness to create and lead the holy hour meditation was a blessing to the parish.

“Her vision was to offer holy hour twice a month, so we thought that would be a marvelous thing,” she said. “We are in kind of a parish transition right now and trying to come back from the pandemic, so we feel like we could really use the intercession of prayers. Having a holy hour is a perfect way to do that.” 

Rodrigues-Pereire, a native of India, has been a member of St. Bernard Parish since 2014. She and her husband, Julius, have two children: Lynn, 7, and Raphael, 4. 

“I have been to other parts of the United States, but I haven’t felt at home like St. Bernard’s,” she said. “There are wonderful people here.”

Rodrigues-Pereire plans to offer the twice-monthly holy hour meditations through the end of the school year. During Advent, a second holy hour will be offered at 7:30 p.m. for families who cannot make the 8:45 a.m. service. 

The services are open to “anyone who believes in Jesus,” said Rodrigues-Pereire. Zwicky added that she hopes young parents can participate after dropping off their children at school.

“We are so grateful to Jennie for coming forward with this,” said Zwicky. “It’s such a blessing to have a parishioner come forward with something like this and to offer it for our parish.”