When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of public Masses beginning March 16, 2020, Elmira’s Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish also had to temporarily close its adoration chapel.
Just over a year later, the chapel reopened on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021.
“People are so happy that the adoration chapel is opening,” Rose McLaughlin, the chapel’s head coordinator, told the Catholic Courier May 14. “I can’t even tell you the joy they are feeling.”
The eucharistic devotion has been a staple at Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish since December 1992 when the adoration chapel opened in the basement of St. Casimir Church. The devotion began as perpetual adoration — during which people commit to spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in one-hour shifts covering 24 hours per day, seven days per week throughout the year, with the exception of the Easter Triduum.
Currently the chapel, located in the former convent at St. Casimir since 2018, is open 12 hours per day, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“(We are) hoping we will be able to build upon that,” McLaughlin said, noting that the adoration ministry’s intention is to return to 24-hour adoration once the pandemic is over.
COVID-19 protocols are being observed in the reopened chapel, where the number of adorers at any given time are limited and the chapel is cleaned regularly, McLaughlin explained. Despite the limited capacity and COVID-19 protocols, she said all of the time slots are accounted for.
“They want this badly,” McLaughlin said of adorers. “They can’t wait to get back, because they feel that we need the prayers.”
“There was a hunger to come back to our Lord in adoration,” said Marianne Hoffkins, one of the chapel’s coordinators, who noted parishioners began asking to return to adoration as early as May of last year.
With COVID restrictions still in place at the time, Hoffkins said the parish was unable to resume the practice, which had begun in December 1990. Yet, once churches started reopening for public Masses, regular adoration participants again asked Sister Sheila Stevenson, the parish’s pastoral administrator, when the chapel could be reopened. The chapel reopened at the end of August, and the response has been absolutely overwhelming, Hoffkins said.
“I think the shutdown caused in an increase in hunger (for adoration), because we knew what it was like to be without (the Eucharist),” she added.
The parish moved its adoration chapel to Guardian Angels Church in Henrietta, the parish’s only operating worship site when public Masses resumed last June.
“We wanted to ensure everyone’s safety, and I think adorers embraced that and were fine with (the move),” Hoffkins told the Catholic Courier May 17, noting that the chapel returned to its original location at St. Joseph Church in October when a renovation project began at Guardian Angels.
Adorers currently sign up for one-hour time time slots between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., Hoffkins said, noting that they have been asked to follow instructions regarding masking, social distancing and cleaning of the chapel.
As COVID-19 restrictions start easing, regular participants also are coming back to the perpetual-adoration chapel at Our Lady of Peace Parish’s St. Stephen Church in Geneva, according to Dorothy Kalina, who helps organize adoration at the parish.
“A lot of people weren’t coming to Mass because they were concerned about COVID, so we did see a bit of downtrend at the adoration chapel,” she explained.
Unlike the adoration chapels at St. Marianne Cope and Most Holy Name of Jesus, Our Lady of Peace Parish did not have to close its chapel during the COVID-19 shutdown last year. The chapel was available 24 hours a day with such safety precautions as mandatory masking, social distancing and regular cleaning.
In recent months, Kalina said attendance at the adoration chapel has been strong and and while there are not adorers committed to all 24 hours of adoration, eight to 10 people are signed up for one-hour shifts each day.
“I think people feel a need to go into the presence of the Lord, even if they just sit in his presence and pray,” she said.