Hundreds support perpetual-adoration chapels in Elmira, Hornell - Catholic Courier

Hundreds support perpetual-adoration chapels in Elmira, Hornell

Here’s a group effort that exists 24 hours a day, seven days per week, all year long. Participants come in all kinds of weather, from down the street and from surrounding towns.

Perpetual adorers display exceptional devotion — which is not all that surprising, considering the cause they represent.

“They are committed because they know if they aren’t there, Jesus would be left alone,” said Angie Sgro, head coordinator of the perpetual-adoration chapel at St. Casimir Church in Elmira.

“It’s Christ that draws them. Once you experience it, it’s Christ that draws you back and keeps you there,” said Isabel Nobilski, who serves in a similar capacity for the chapel at St. Ann School in Hornell.

Adoration of the exposed Eucharist is shared by many at St. Casimir and St. Ann, which house the only perpetual-adoration chapels in the Southern Tier. Sgro said 375 people are involved in Elmira as regular adorers and substitutes, and Nobilski estimated that 300 people take part in Hornell.

St. Casimir’s chapel, located in the church basement, opened in December 1992. Sgro noted that the effort was guided by Father Joseph DeLuca, a priest of the Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament, who was ordained for the purpose of establishing perpetual adoration at parishes around the country. Meanwhile, the St. Ann facility — adorned by impressive stained-glass windows and equipped with a private entrance — was begun in February 2001 in the former nun’s chapel at St. Ann School.

St. Casimir and St. Ann are among a small handful of perpetual-adoration chapels across the Rochester Diocese. Except for during the Easter Triduum, this form of adoration is constant. The facilities must be approved by the diocesan bishop, due to the sacred nature of exposing the Eucharist. It is never to be exposed unless at least one person is in the room at all times, except in extreme cases.

This reflects a much more stringent commitment than with more common forms of adoration. For instance, nocturnal-adoration groups come together at regularly scheduled times for periods of one to three hours. In addition, adoration is offered by churches for varying lengths of time on designated days of the week or month. These types of adoration are generally conducted in the church proper and may include group prayer, hymns and intercessions.

Perpetual adoration, on the other hand, features silent prayer in a separate chapel and tends to have fewer amounts of people at any one time. Sgro said the overriding goal of perpetual adoration is “to be committed and never leave Jesus alone.” Yet she also emphasized that adoration does not in any way replace the Mass, which remains the higher form of prayer.

To ensure continuity, many adorers commit to a designated hour once per week. Surprisingly, Sgro said that the hours between midnight and 5 a.m. are not the most difficult to fill: “The people at night are the most committed.” Similarly, Nobilski said many people at St. Ann more or less take ownership of their time slots — even late at night — and only give them up for vital reasons such as aging, job change or illness in the family.

Even so, filling 168 one-hour slots per week is no simple task.

“You’ve got to stay on top of it all the time,” Sgro said.

Therefore the coordinators spend lots of time on the telephone, and may even occasionally run down to the chapel to cover a slot they know will remain unfilled. Nobilski occasionally puts notices in the Our Lady of the Valley parish bulletin when slots become open, especially for weekend commitments.

Sgro, who serves as Father DeLuca’s national secretary, noted that a February 2008 presentation by the priest at St. Mary Church in Elmira resulted in 86 new adorers signing up for adoration at St. Casimir. Sgro said adorers come from every Catholic church in Chemung County, and Nobilski likewise said that adorers in Hornell reside in many parts of Our Lady of the Valley Parish as well as nearby towns.

Nobilski noted that the motivation for perpetual adoration comes from Mt. 26:40-41, in which Jesus admonishes Peter in the garden at Gethsemane: “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?”

“There is that history. People say, ‘Yes, I can give an hour, I can watch an hour,'” Nobilski said.

She and Sgro emphasized that significant spiritual benefits await those who make the pledge.

“You want to be with Jesus all the time; you don’t want to leave. Some people say one hour isn’t long enough,” Sgro said.

“You know you have experienced something that you don’t just get from a visit to a church. During the consecration at Mass the priest only holds up the host for a very short time, so you only get a glimpse,” Nobilski observed. “You go (to perpetual adoration), and you come out with a peace you don’t get elsewhere.”

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