Ineffable Power of a Still, Small voice…
Providence legate Jason Macari likes to think of perpetual adoration as the nuclear power plant of his parish. It’s an analogy he first heard Deacon Paul Lambert use during work on an adoration chapel for St. John Vianney Parish in Cumberland, RI, after the parish council voted to make 24/7 prayer before the Eucharist a top priority
‘…sense of power emanating from this place…’
“I had the sense of power emanating from this place as people were spending time in prayer with the Blessed Sacrament,” Deacon Lambert said. “. . . You can talk about parish missions, retreats or a catechetical program, but if 200 to 300 people are coming to the parish to pray one hour a week, I can’t think of anything more significant in terms of the spiritual life of a parish.”
Jason’s wife, Martha Anne, had experienced that power at her parents’ parish, St. Casimir in Elmira, NY, where her mother and aunt started the perpetual adoration program 25 years ago. Martha Anne had wanted to see it happen at St. John Vianney, but until now, the parish had only offered monthly adoration.
When perpetual adoration was suggested, Fr. Raymond Theroux, St. John Vianney pastor, confessed he was a bit skeptical that the parish of 2,400 families could fill the openings needed to maintain the ‘round-the-clock schedule. “We have a lot of good people, but I never really thought we would get enough to sign up for regular attendance.” After presenting the plan to the parish and several surrounding parishes, however, most of the time slots were filled with two “adorers” for each hour.
Evolution of a grand, prayerful space
For the adoration chapel, Father Theroux proposed using a former sacristy that had been converted to his office, saying he would be willing to relocate to the rectory. Initially, Jason, a parish council member who oversaw the project, thought they could paint and carpet the room, add some chairs and place the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament on a counter. “But one thing led to another,” he said, “and as I kept on looking, I really felt very strongly that the space wasn’t adequate.”
Because the room felt cramped, Jason asked permission to remove cabinetry and a low tile ceiling, revealing a cathedral ceiling above. As the room opened up, he said, “It felt much more grand and spacious and fitting for a prayerful space.”
Once that happened, Deacon Lambert added, “It was kind of the beginning of a mutual excitement about possibilities.”
The project snowballed when Martha Anne learned that the chapel at nearby Mount St. Rita Health Centre was being demolished and that many of its artifacts were available for the taking. Deacon Lambert recalled that the chapel had beautiful marble tile with gold inscriptions and when he saw one that read: “O Mystery of Faith, O Sacrifice of Praise, O Holy Bread, O Chalice of Perpetual Salvation,” he thought, “Oh boy, this could really work if we could fit it into the wall.”
After Jason confirmed the idea with some measuring, the next step was getting a group of parishioners to remove the tile, which was in four 2-by-4-foot sections, each weighing about 200 pounds. “None of us had done anything like this,” Deacon Lambert said. But after 30 minutes, the crew had dislodged the first piece, and over the next several hours, were able to remove the entire inscription intact. Then they got the idea to fill the wall behind the Blessed Sacrament with more tile. Jason came up with an estimate and in another day, they had the pieces they needed.
They also retrieved sections of a brass communion rail, including two gates, which were turned into custom kneelers for the adoration chapel. Another section of the rail will eventually be placed outside the chapel at the entrance.
With the cost of installing the tile and the addition of a separate heating and airconditioning system and four stained-glass windows, the budget grew from about $10,000 to $100,000. This required naming a committee to undertake a fundraising campaign that is close to reaching its goal. “It got more expensive,” Jason said, “but it became a more reverent space for the Blessed Sacrament.”
Fitting dedication on Mercy Sunday
The project took nearly nine months to complete. “It probably should have taken three or four months,” Jason said, “but it’s in God’s time and as we were thinking out loud about things and how they were going to be configured, it kind of took its own course. For the first few months, it felt like we weren’t doing anything but thinking through aspects of the chapel.”
Along the way, parishioners learned about the availability of the marble from Mount St. Rita’s and one of them, Mike Arico, devised a unique design for a monstrance that had been in use at the parish for 23 years. The top portion, which has a sunburst motif, is now embedded in a piece of tile and the base is in a wooden pedestal, tying it into the design of the church.
The result, Jason said, has been a “mini-church” that is part of, not separate from, the main church. His favorite feature of the chapel is the marble wall with the “O Mystery of Faith” inscription. “I love the inscription and I love the fact that the green marble is so grand and makes you feel like it’s a special place.” At the same time, he said, “There’s something intimate about the space. It’s just the right size. You feel like you’re able to be with God in a very intimate space. It’s not too big or too small.”
Those who cannot come to the chapel can view the monstrance and make a virtual holy hour online through a link to a live video stream on the parish’s website.
St. John Vianney’s adoration chapel was dedicated in April on Divine Mercy Sunday, and the theme of that feast is reflected in the four stainedglass windows that are being made and have yet to be installed. The windows depict the Divine Mercy image, the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke, Mary visiting Elizabeth and proclaiming God’s mercy in her Magnificat and St. John Vianney, known for his ministry of hearing confessions.
Although Jason’s background is in mechanical engineering, commercial real estate and consumer and medical products, he agreed to take on the job of general contractor for the chapel as a labor of love. “I’m not really a construction guy,” he said, “but it felt like a full-time job for a while.”
A cousin and several friends who are carpenters provided additional help, as did some of Jason’s employees at Macari Development, Inc., a real estate development firm.
Knowing He hears and is there
Now that the chapel is nearly complete and perpetual adoration is underway, Jason said he can’t help but think of Pope St. John Paul II, who once prayed that every parish would have a perpetual adoration chapel. “Watching it go into our church, I really started understanding what he was thinking when he said that. . . . Everything seems to work better and everyone seems to be more a part of the parish.”
He added, “I really believe it’s the foundation that everything else will be built on. Adoration is at the core of who we are as Catholics.”
For Martha Anne, adoration has taken her spiritual life to a different level. “Adoration allows me to go and constantly be in God’s presence and I know that God hears me. When I bring my intentions to Him, I really feel like He’s there and I feel like in adoration so many of my prayers are answered. It has made my spiritual life alive and when I leave that room, I don’t just leave Jesus there, I take Him with me. . . . He’s always in my heart and I can take him to others because I really feel such a deep spirituality when I come before Him in the Blessed Sacrament.”
For help in setting up a parish perpetual adoration program, contact the Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament, Plattsburgh, NY.
JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.