PENN YAN — Several years ago, Mary Lou Shelhamer lost her engagement ring and made a promise to Mary that if she helped her find it, she would participate in monthly eucharistic adoration for one year.
Shelhamer noted that the mother of Jesus helped her find the ring — but that she didn’t keep her promise to Mary.
“I’ve always felt guilty,” Shelhamer said, noting she participated in eucharistic adoration only sporadically after finding her ring. “I just don’t think you make those promises, especially to the mother of God, and not keep them.”
Shelhamer, however, is currently keeping her promise to Mary and then some. She has been both participating in, as well as promoting, eucharistic adoration in Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community, which comprises St. Michael’s in Penn Yan; St. Theresa’s in Stanley; St. Andrew’s in Dundee; St. Mary’s in Rushville; St. Januarius in Naples; and St. Patrick’s in Prattsburgh. Eucharistic adoration practices vary, but generally include prayerful reverence of the Eucharist, which is contained in a monstrance.
Shelhamer is pastoral associate for the six-church cluster, and noted that opportunities for eucharistic adoration are available the first Wednesday of each month from 7 to 8 p.m. at St. Januarius; after the 9 a.m. Tuesday Mass at St. Mary’s; on First Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s; and from 7 to 8 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month at St. Michael’s. Shelhamer said that adorers of the Eucharist do such things as pray the rosary and read the Bible, petition Jesus with prayer or simply sit in silence and meditate.
Shelhamer credited Sharan and James Tette for helping bring the practice to the cluster five years ago. Sharan Tette, in turn, said she was inspired by the example set by the neighboring Roman Catholic Community of Geneva, which operates a perpetual eucharistic adoration chapel at St. Stephen’s Church, which comprises the community with St. Francis de Sales. The chapel operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Tette said she approached Our Lady of the Lakes five years ago with the idea of establishing eucharistic adoration, and many parishioners have since participated in the practice. Shelhamer added that eucharistic adoration allows Catholics some quiet time in the presence of Jesus.
“I feel so often when I receive holy Communion that there isn’t enough time to spend in prayer with him afterwards,” she said of going to Mass. “When I think of (Jesus) in the Blessed Sacrament, I just think of him sitting in front of me, listening as if we’re having a personal conversation.”
“I feel like I’ve grown closer to the heart of God,” Tette added. “It’s like any relationship with a person — you have to put yourself in their presence. You have to connect.”
As they sat in the chapel at St. Michael’s, both women noted that as they have practiced eucharistic adoration over the years, not only has their love of Jesus increased, so has the love they have for their neighbor.
“You’re better able to put yourself in other people’s shoes,” Shelhamer said.
Tette added that she believed adoring the Eucharist has made her conscious of others, and a magnet for people seeking out an ear to bend.
“They feel like they can come to you if they have difficulties or problems,” she said.
Recently, parishioners in the Our Lady of Lakes cluster wrote about why they participate in eucharistic adoration for the community’s bulletin, and echoed many of Tette’s and Shelhamer’s views.
“Eucharistic adoration is a time when I can best consider what Christ means to me, and how I can, with his help, be a better person for others, as well as myself,” wrote Jeanne Charland of St. Mary’s.
Shelhamer added that she has been inspired to participate in eucharistic adoration by the words Jesus reputedly said to St. Margaret Mary, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart: “I thirst, I thirst so ardently to be loved by men in the most Blessed Sacrament , that this thirst devours me, and yet I find no one who tries to slake my thirst by giving me some little return of love for love.”
She added that if the president or some other famous person came to her community, people would clamor to see him or her. Someone far more important — Jesus — is quietly and regularly available to Catholics through eucharistic adoration, she said.
“How many are clamoring to see him?” she said.