Perpetual Adoration reaches 15-year mark at New Bedford chapel

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — When Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper nearly 2,000 years ago, He was making sure that He would always be with His faithful, not only in Spirit, but in a concrete, tangible way.

Over that span, the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist has been challenged and outright denied, but there have always been devoted, faithful Catholics who have defended Christ’s physical presence against non-believers.

Through the years devotion to the Blessed Sacrament has increased: with the Eucharist having a special place in monasteries and seminaries for a relatively small number of adorers; then with Pope Clement VIII’s institution of Quarant’ Ore (Forty Hours), a devotion began consisting of 40 hours of continual prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed; to the advent of Perpetual Adoration, where the Eucharist is adored and prayed before for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Within the Diocese of Fall River, the practice of Eucharistic Adoration has become increasingly relevant in parishes over the past 20 years.

Today scores of diocesan parishes hold special times when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, for worshipers to spend time with the Lord.

This practice was an important part of Our Lady’s Chapel in downtown New Bedford when the chapel reopened in 1992.

A dedicated group of laypeople and Friars kept vigil with the Blessed Sacrament at the chapel more frequently as time passed.

On Oct. 6, 2002, the chapel opened its doors to Perpetual Adoration for the first time, and just recently, the Friars and a group of dedicated worshipers gathered together for a special Holy Hour and then a reception, celebrating 15 years of Perpetual Adoration at the inner-city chapel.

“These are all wonderful, amazing people who are part of this devotion,” Father Matthias M. Sasko, a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, and Vicar to the Superior of the Friary Chapel told The Anchor. Nearly 120 individuals, including laypeople and Friars, are responsible for maintaining a 24/7 presence with Our Lord at the chapel. “The people who come here run the full spectrum of individuals. They are unique in their characters, gifts and talents.”

Yet they all have one thing in common: a sincere and deep devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

“Some people who come are within walking distance, some drive, some are from New Bedford, and others from nearby towns,” added Father Matthias. “So many of our worshipers have grown to realize just how special spending quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament is. I receive many comments from people about blessings they’ve received and the feeling of God’s presence there in special ways. It’s a conviction of this great gift of the Eucharist.

“Everybody who is part of the program somehow experiences the presence of God. They realize in a special way that God isn’t distant and indifferent. He’s in our lives in a special way in that Eucharist when you give time to Him. The more you give, then more you experience it.”

Margaret McCormack has been an adorer since the beginning in 2002. “It makes such a difference in my life,” she told The Anchor. “I need it, I need to be in God’s presence as much as I can. There have been times over the years when it’s been a struggle to get there, but once I make it, I don’t want to leave. I feel that when I’m there I feel loved by God and strengthened.

“When I come out from an hour with the Lord I can feel that I am different. It’s not something I can see, but I want to transmit that feeling to those around me. When not being with the Lord in adoration or at Mass, we’re all bombarded with choices and circumstances, many of which are opposed to what God teaches, so it’s necessary to spend time with Him.”

When the program took off in 2002, there were about 300 people involved. Today there are 115 still coming routinely.

“Through the years some faithful have passed away, others have become ill or unable to attend, and others have moved away,” explained Father Matthias. “While this has been going on for 15 years, it isn’t always smooth. Right now we are basically at the minimum necessary to maintain full coverage.”

Father Matthias, who has been at Our Lady’s Chapel since 2013 added, “There are times when this is in jeopardy, when the numbers go down. It becomes difficult when someone can’t make it for some reason and we have to find coverage,” he said. “We pray hard to get new people to sign up. We will be vigilant to what the Lord wants.”

Father Matthias explained that the volunteers have one hour to cover, some covering more than one per week. Some choose the hour they can attend. “When someone has no particular preference, we see what hours need coverage, but people can sign up for anytime they choose,” Father Matthias told The Anchor. “But people should know that everyone is free to come and adore at any time.”

“When the numbers get down sometimes you feel an attempt to give up,” added McCormack. “But when I’m in adoration and someone comes in for five minutes, 10 minutes or a half-hour and they’re not a committed adorer, I walk away happy that if it weren’t for Perpetual Adoration they wouldn’t have had that chance to go there.

“It is such a gift from God. On earth when we want to get close to someone we spend time with them. It’s the same with God. We get to know Him better, and that makes us better and helps make our families and society better.

“It’s such a great opportunity. How could someone not want to have an hour of holiness? When there, we get more hungry for it.”

Father Matthias also told The Anchor that, “People don’t have to come as experts. We explain the simple process of spending an hour with Our Lord. No one should feel daunted if they don’t know how to do it. There is always support.”

“We need people to help support this Perpetual Adoration,” added McCormack. “There is such great power in His presence. I plea for people to consider an extra hour per week to spend with God. It’s beneficial to our community. Society needs to refocus with so much coming at us. There’s no better way than with Eucharistic Adoration.”

There is a need for more people to become part of this amazing program that has been a presence in downtown New Bedford for 15 years. If anyone is interested in becoming a part of the dedicated worshipers, or would like more information, they are encouraged to call Martha McCormack at 508-994-5053 or Our Lady’s Chapel at 508-996-8274. 

Our Lady’s Chapel is located at 600 Pleasant Street in New Bedford.

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