LINCOLN (SNR) – Bishop James Conley celebrated Mass Oct. 12 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, in celebration of the 55th anniversary of the parish’s perpetual adoration.
Perpetual adoration is the practice of having at least one person in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over the course of 55 years, Cathedral parishioners have undertaken more than 482,000 continuous hours of prayer.
As Bishop Conley noted in his homily, the establishment of the perpetual adoration program predates the Cathedral itself, which was completed in 1965. The perpetual adoration program began Oct. 1, 1959 in Holy Family Parish, which later became the Cathedral Parish.
Richard Noel recalled the establishment of perpetual adoration in Holy Family Parish. At its inception, the parish was smaller, and the hours were harder to cover. His family, who lived close to the church, often substituted for adorers.
“Occasionally,” he recalled, “older students (at the parish school) would be called out of class to cover a missed hour.” Now, at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ School – where some of Noel’s grandchildren attend – many students make voluntary visits to the Blessed Sacrament during their free time as part of their junior high vocation clubs. An additional adorer is always present.
Attending the Mass Oct. 12 and the reception afterward were many participants in the program, including four who have been active since its inception: Lucy Keady, Dolores Young, and Mary and Ray Zink.
Mary and Ray Zink had just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary in 1959 when the perpetual adoration program began. Mary took the noon hour on Monday, and Ray took 2 a.m. Thursday. They still have the same hours of adoration today.
“It has been wonderful to spend one-on-one time with God and thank him for the many blessings we have received over the years,” they said.
Lucy Keady said “it was a gift when God called me to sign up for perpetual adoration in October 1959. We had just lost our precious little girl with leukemia.”
She continued, “It brought a deeper relationship with God, to trust Him always, to be not afraid to face difficult decisions. And it gave me comfort.”
She said the 55 years have gone quickly, and brought many blessings.
“Spending an hour a week is so little, but so rewarding,” she said. “It is a great spiritual fulfillment.”
Dolores Young agreed.
“I cannot count the blessings, the graces, the prayers I asked for, the strength I needed for sorrows of my life and the consolation of knowing the love (God has) for me,” she said.
“Having this hour is as much a part of my life as waking up in the morning,” she said.
She added that a book of special petitions is kept in the pew where the adorers sit.
“To know that there is someone praying for your intentions 24/7 gives great consolation,” she said.
Msgr. Robert Tucker, rector of the Cathedral, said the adoration program has been a blessing to the parish for a number of reasons.
“Those who have been praying for one hour over the years have provided powerful spiritual help for themselves and countless others,” he said. “They have provided a silent witness to the real presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.
“The adorers’ perpetual prayer has surely given witness to young children,” he continued, “of the importance of our faith, has kept young people in the Church, and has inspired young people to pursue a religious vocation. The spiritual benefits to the parish, the diocese and the universal church are innumerable.”
Darlene Blankenau, a parishioner who guides tours of the Cathedral, said she always tells visitors about the perpetual adoration program, and shows the books where adorers sign in. The books, which are kept in a glass case in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, list the names of people praying in the mother church of the diocese at every moment of the visitors’ lives for the last 55 years.
“At the moment they were born, or were baptized, at the moment they received their first Communion, or were married; at the moment their loved ones died – someone was here, in the Cathedral, praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, for all God’s people,” she said.
Blankenau said perpetual adoration is an “awesome responsibility.”
“I fear I am the weakest link in the 168 hours,” she said. So she shares an hour with fellow parishioner Nancy Hilt, a practice many adorers use. In fact, 37 of the week’s 168 hours are shared by two people.
Paul Keating, current coordinator of the program, said that while most of the hours are filled – 5 p.m. on Friday is currently open, as the adorer with that hour just took a job out of state – their goal is to increase shared hours; to have two people in present in Adoration every hour.
He encouraged people who might be waiting for a particular hour to ‘open up,’ to sign up for a shared hour, rather than wait. The shared hour is also a good option for someone who wants to try the commitment.
“Most people, once they do,” he said, “they experience the benefits and don’t want to give it up!”