(First in a series)

Jesus’ Chapel

When new parishioners and guests come to Holy Family Parish, they’ll see what appears to be a small church in the main parking lot.  Known as the Divine Mercy Adoration Chapel, Jesus is physically present in the exposed Eucharist and perpetually adored by at least one member of His faithful, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 is the official day Holy Family celebrates 25 years of its Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration ministry. People of all ages are welcome to visit the Chapel whenever they wish to feel closer to our Lord. No appointment is necessary, and the entrance code is available by calling the Holy Family office.

Stay for a few minutes, or a few hours, any time, day or night. You won’t be alone, there will always be a minister there to silently pray along with you. And if the Spirit moves you to become one of the designated hourly ministers on a more regular basis, contact the ministry from their web page on the Holy Family web site:  http://www.holyfamilyorlando.com/perpetual-eucharistic-adoration/

The ”Mustard Seed” Approach: Start Small, Persevere and Grow

Like the Catholic Church itself, Holy Family’s Adoration program started small, then grew through faith, perseverance and hard work. The biggest challenge at each stage, of course, was assuring that adorers of the Blessed Sacrament were physically present during adoration hours.

When parishioners began requesting adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the late 1980s, the initial call was for a “First Friday” adoration from end of morning Mass until noon. Once the initial program founders proved they could adequately cover the morning hours, then-pastor Father Joseph Harte expanded adoration in 1991 to overnight on First Fridays for the intention of Respect Life. “He said you have to bring me proof that the Blessed Sacrament will not be left alone for any of the night hours,” said parishioner Carol LaRosa, one of the initial program founders.  LaRosa and fellow parishioner Virginia Leopold created sign-up sheets seeking at least two people for each hour. The parish responded with more than enough commitments, and phase two began.

The ensuing success, and LaRosa’s experience with perpetual adoration during a vacation in South Florida, emboldened a parish-wide push for expanding the program in the early 1990s. As with the phases one and two of the program, the proponents needed to assure there would be sufficient commitment for phase three, 24/7 perpetual adoration, a daunting logistical challenge indeed. One hour a week, for example, would require 168 people at a minimum.

Initiating a parish-wide education process, Holy Family’s program leaders constructed the framework for Perpetual Adoration: Quarter-Day Block Captains (LaRosa, Anna Long, Marlyne Mauro and Karen Walls) and commitments by designated hourly and back-up volunteers. Once again, Holy Family rose to the challenge, with positive responses from more than 700 parishioners. Thus, in 1994, with the blessing of then-pastor Father William Ennis, Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration at Holy Family was born.

“Upon this Rock…”: Building the Perpetual Adoration Chapel

Finding a suitable location for 24/7 Perpetual Adoration presented its own challenges in the mid-to late-1990s.  The program rotated through several locations, from converted cry room in the original church to the Bethany Library (current home of St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry). The parish, however, desired a building set aside solely for Perpetual Adoration.

In honor of her deceased husband, parishioner Emily King donated the money for a stand-alone building and construction for the Divine Mercy Chapel began in 1999. It initially sat on the current space of the Parish Life Center and was subsequently moved to its current location adjacent to the main Church in the North Parking area.

These days, thanks to the Internet and Holy Family parish’s tourist-centric location, parishioners and visitors alike can seek out and access the Chapel, which has drawn adorers world-wide.

“Be Still…”: Spiritual Healing Whenever, However You Need It

You don’t have to be perfect to partake in Eucharistic Adoration, Jesus wants you just as you are. All that’s required to attend adoration is a willingness to “be still” in the presence of the Lord.

“This is your time to spend with the Lord the way He will guide you to spend with Him,” said Nancy Harnish, who served as Perpetual Eucharistic program coordinator from 2004 to 2015.  Harnish started as simply a Sunday-Mass person. When the call went out for adorers to fill out the first Perpetual Adoration roster, she signed up as a way to offer a better example to her young children.

Harnish said she often starts with a rosary, because it’s calming. “Once your hand hits the door handle, you’re on your way,” she said. “Let him be the guide. Don’t try to orchestrate it.” “It’s the crown jewel,” she said. “It’s the Eucharist…the source and summit. It’s the gift and miracle.”

Anna Long, a converted Catholic, said that when she began adoration, she could not keep her eyes off Jesus. “I’ve been told by a Carmelite friend that you should read enough so you can meditate, but your eyes should be on him,” Long said.

Holy Family Catholic School Principal Sister Dorothy Sayers suggests parents and children spend time in the Chapel to develop a love of adoration and bring lasting peace. “That peace doesn’t stop in the adoration chapel. It stays with them,” Sayers said. “It helps them to trust in our Lord and face the difficulties of everyday life confident that he’s with them.”

For Noel Oteyza, who along with his wife, Karyl, has coordinated Perpetual Adoration since 2015, adoration started off as his not wanting to leave his then-girlfriend Karyl alone during her Thursday 1 a.m. hour. “She felt called to cover the hour,” Oteyza said. “She was familiar with Eucharistic adoration from the Philippines, because they had it there, but I wasn’t familiar with it at all.”

Numerous adorers have shared their stories of the spiritual, emotional and even physical benefits that they’ve found through perpetual adoration. “There was a physical time in adoration when I was burdened,” Harnish said. “I couldn’t breathe – ever. There was the one time he lifted it. I still had the same concerns, but he was helping me.”

“You learn where people run in crisis, when they’re in pain, when they’re scared, when they have no one to talk to,” she said. “It was edifying to me the whole time.”

“Could You Not Keep Watch for One Hour?”: Become an Adorer

Former adoration program coordinator Nancy Harnish said the weekly roster of designated hourly adorers make it possible for others who want to attend at any time. “Once people start (holding a regular hour), they don’t feel like they own it, but they have a responsibility to it,” she said. “They have a love for it, but everyone is allowed in.”

Many cannot keep a full hour but will come in for a few minutes before a busy workday: the chef husband who prays the rosary, kisses his wife, then goes to work; or, the doctor who comes in every morning for a few minutes.

For those unwilling or unable to designate a weekly hour, program welcomes volunteers willing to be on-call substitutes during one or more quarter-hour blocks of time. There is no obligation to fill in if called upon as a substitute, so it provides support with maximum flexibility.

For more information on becoming a designated hourly adorer or on-call substitute, contact Karyl Oteyza at 407-532-3336 or noteyza@hotmail.com. And contact the Holy Family Parish office at 407-876-2211 for the access code to the Chapel if you would like to spend a few minutes in the presence of Our Lord.

– Compiled by Lynn Ramsey, communication assistant

Holy Family Catholic Community