By Dolores Madlener STAFF WRITER
Our lady of Lourdes, 4640 N. Ashland Ave., is one of three parishes in the archdiocese that currently have perpetual adoration chapels available for prayer, visitation and celebrations by the laity.
Adorers in the little "grotto chapel at the rear of Our lady of Lourdes Church will celebrate the first anniversary of the devotion April 18 with a 6 p.m. Mass of thanksgiving. Parishioner Bernie Walsh sees it as an answer to prayer. About two years ago Walsh asked his pastor, Father James Colleran, if it would be possible to use the chapel for perpetual adoration. Colleran was polite but skeptical, he didn't think it would work.
Walsh said he accepted the response with thanks and thought, "Well, that's that" But he continued to pray.
Then one day about a year later, Colleran approached him and asked if he was still interested "in that perpetual adoration chapel." Walsh was overjoyed. He contacted the Association of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, headquartered in Los Angeles, for information. Its statutes have been approved by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which assures that appropriate canonical norms will be fulfilled.
Walsh followed the association's printed guidelines. Colleran, along with lay coordinators from the parish, spoke at weekend Masses when people would be asked to make their commitment.
The team had cards and pencils in each pew so people could sign up for an hour a week before the Blessed Sacrament.
Walsh said a year later they still maintain well over 300 names on the list, "Some drop out," he said, "but others come on. People from nearby parishes also participate."
For practical reasons the chapel is opened only to "screened" adorers between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., but they admit newcomers who drop by nonetheless, Walsh said.
To keep corporal as well as spiritual works of mercy flourishing, Lourdes has a receptacle outside the chapel where people can place non-perishable food donations for its public pantry.
At St. Bede the Venerable Parish, 8200 S. Kostner, Mercy Sister Charla Gannon saw the empty parish convent as a perfect spot for a parish center-and its chapel, as a site for perpetual adoration.
With the encouragement of pastor Father Jeremiah Duggan, it opened May 3, 1992. Gannon said the chapel "continues to flourish with adorers."
She never anticipated the requests for good spiritual reading. Now she's begun a lending library to supply the materials.. The parish has also invited some of the authors to speak at programs.
"All ages come to the chapel, Gannon said. "It's amazing how many young men come for a quick visit and then stay," she said.
"St. Bede has 300 committed adorers and the list is growing. Others come and go. They come from all over."
From 10 p.m. to 6 am. the chapel is only open to regular recognized adorer for security. A retired high school principal in the parish, Rugh McCartan, takes care of scheduling the regulars.
Sometimes devotions have a way of attracting eccentric people. Gannon said she had one experience. "I just said, 'none of that in here,' and that took care of it,"
Some people complained initially at spending money to bring St. Bede's chapel up to code (not knowing it was done with private donations), Gannon said. Later they were the chapel's greatest boosters. "They came to realize the need for adoration and recognize the graces," she said.
The devotion has been in place for about seven years in another former convent chapel at St. John Vianney Parish in Northlake. It too remains available for adorers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Blessed Sacrament Father Peter Cops, a resident priest, said, "Sixty percent of the people are from our parish and the rest come from 20 to 40 miles away."
Cops has worked out a simple system with color-coded key cards. Although the chapel is locked from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m., those registered adorers with cards can gain entrance. "It gives people peace of mind even during the day to know that the person coming in is either another of the 170 regular adorers or one of the 80 'visitors.'"
The devotion's biggest obstacle, in Cops' opinion, is "People don't want commitment today. We need 168 hours a week pledged by people. There are some who will sign up for two hours a week."...
According to Cops, "The faithful who do make the commitment to an hour a week find they become better Christians. It has a positive effect."
Gannon finds busy mothers look forward to spending an hour in the chapel in the evening. They tell her, "It's like a heavenly oasis." Gannon said it is a new experience for modern women, "and they love it."
Walsh also sees positive "fruits" at Our Lady of Lourdes. "Our parish was once mostly Irish and German," he said. It now has a growing number of Filipinos and Hispanics. "The devotion has a special appeal to these people," Walsh said.
Now they all come together at the 6 p.m. holy hour on Sundays in the big church. "We alternate decades of the rosary and other devotions in English and Spanish. The adoration chapel has worked to unify the parish," he said.
The devotion of perpetual adoration has been growing in parishes around the world in recent years.
If you need a stronger endorsement for the devotion, Walsh said, "Pope John Paul 11 established a public perpetual adoration chapel in St. Peter's Basilica in 1981."
The Archdiocese now has seven parishes of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration!