Perpetual Adoration in St. Paul-Mpls Archdiocese

The Star Tribune, not generally known for its spirituality, published this in the regional news section of today’s paper, not in the “Faith & Values” section that normally appears on Saturdays.

**Ancient Catholic adoration ritual draws many modern adherents **
**Jill Burcum
Star Tribune **
Published January 30, 2005

MAPLE LAKE, MINN. – Inside a tiny brick chapel at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church, Howard Selander, 77, kneels while his wife, Lucille, 72, fingers her rosary beads. Both stare straight ahead at the eucharist – the blessed bread Catholics believe is the body of Jesus – that’s enshrined in a glass case flanked by flickering candles.

It’s 12:38 a.m., and they begin to pray.

The Selanders, here every Wednesday from midnight to 2 a.m., are on the leading edge of a dramatic comeback of a centuries-old ritual. It’s a year-round, 24-hour eucharistic watch.
From International Falls to Sleepy Eye, candles and lights blaze through the night at 38 Roman Catholic churches as someone continuously adores the thin circular wafer at the heart of the Catholic mass. The practice, once done mainly by nuns and monks, is known as “perpetual adoration.”

“It’s a bottom-up phenomenon,” said John Boyle, a professor of theology and Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. “It’s been remarkable over the past 20 years to watch it grow, especially the past 10 years.”

About 30 other state parishes have chapels where adoration takes place most hours of the week.

“The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul … probably has the most chapels of perpetual adoration of any archdiocese in the country. It’s one of the most fruitful areas for this anywhere,” said the Rev. Victor Warkulwiz, a Pennsylvania priest who travels the country to help start adoration programs and has been in Minnesota every weekend this month.

People from around the world call Minnesotans for help in starting their own programs. Peggy Powell, coordinator of one of the state’s longest-running adorations at Epiphany Catholic Church in Coon Rapids, fields many of these inquiries. A few have even come from Protestants.

“I think we’re going to have an explosion this year,” Powell said. “People are just calling out of the woodwork. It’s amazing.”

Ways to adore**

At St. Timothy’s in Maple Lake, there’s a neighborliness and informality to the ritual. The Selanders chat with Dale Bothun, a teacher who had the previous shift, about an upcoming trip to Las Vegas as they settle in to do a rosary, pray for the sick and tend the candles.

“Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell,” Lucille Selander says, rocking as she intones a prayer she’ll repeat several times. “Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”

Things are more formal at Epiphany in Coon Rapids, where Paulette Nelson, 62, has a weekly morning adoration on Tuesdays.

There’s no chitchat with the six others praying in the chapel. Nelson’s voice drops to a hush as she enters and signs the log book. She genuflects at the back of the chapel, bows her head and kisses the chapel floor.

“It’s just as if Jesus were standing there,” Nelson said, reflecting the Catholic view that Jesus is actually present. “You wouldn’t go in and walk by him.”

Nelson does a series of prayers, then heads to the front of the chapel for her main adoration routine: making multiple signs of the cross and repeating five times: “My God, I believe in you. I adore you. I hope in you. I trust in you. I love you.”

Before she leaves, she will kiss the floor again. She’s been an adorer for years at Epiphany and has often filled late-night shifts.
“It’s almost like an angel wakes you. You want to go,” Nelson said. “It’s the best part of your life.”

Cecile Muehlbauer, 59, an adorer at St. Alice’s Catholic Church in Pequot Lakes, feels the same way.

“At night, it’s really a spiritual experience,” said Muehlbauer, adding that the setting is far more intimate than regular Sunday mass. “You’re not just praying. You feel like you’re really speaking with Jesus.”

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From the Middle Ages

Considering that perpetual adoration hasn’t been widespread through much of the Catholic Church’s history, its resurgence in Minnesota and elsewhere is considered miraculous by many parishioners and astounding by some religious studies experts.

“It’s very interesting. I don’t know what to make of it,” said Randall Balmer, who heads the Religious Studies Department at Barnard College in New York.

Balmer said he’s not aware of other religions with ongoing prayer like this. He said the movement reflects the conservative influence of Pope John Paul and a yearning for a return to more traditional worship.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there’s little evidence of perpetual adoration in the early Catholic church. But the practice flowered in the Middle Ages in some European areas. Its popularity among the laity waxed and waned through the centuries. For much of the 20th century, many parishes in the United States had certain times of the year for round-the-clock adoration but didn’t continue it all year long.

Now, however, there are 728 adoration chapels in the United States, according to the Real Presence Association of Chicago, a Catholic nonprofit that tracks and promotes adoration. Most chapels were started after 1981, when Pope John Paul began perpetual adoration at the Vatican and urged parishes everywhere to do the same.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of Minnesota chapels has doubled, said the Rev. Thomas Wilson, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Warkulwiz and the Real Presence Association’s Carol Seydel said that Minneapolis-St. Paul’s archbishop, the Rev. Harry Flynn, has been a strong supporter of the practice and they attribute the growth to his influence. Adoration is also widespread in Louisiana, where Flynn previously served, Seydel noted.

But the Rev. Joseph Johnson, assistant chancellor for the archdiocese, said there’s also a divine influence at work. As much as church leaders support the practice, parishioners must take the lead in making adoration work.

"This is not something the priest can walk in and say, ‘Gee, folks, this is what we’re going to do,’ " Johnson said. “This is not for the weak-kneed. It takes sacrifice and commitment.”

Jeff Webb, 57, and his wife, Bonnie, were well aware of that when the priest at their church in St. Michael recently asked for help in starting a perpetual adoration program. The Webbs, who had moved to Rogers and switched churches, had long been adorers at their old church in Brooklyn Park and still drove there regularly.

Because the eucharist when on display can never be left alone, the ideal minimum is two adorers in case one gets sick or doesn’t show up. With 168 hours in the week, that’s 336 slots to fill and “a lot of people to manage,” said Webb, who runs an in-home day care with his wife.

Still, within minutes of talking over their priest’s request in their car after church, they knew they had to do it. “We had a real feeling of calling,” Webb said. “We both were just like, ‘OK, let’s go.’ We knew it had to be.”

Warkulwiz flew in a week ago to give an adoration pep talk. The Philadelphia physicist-turned-priest isn’t a dynamic speaker, Webb said, but the response to his plea for adorers was overwhelming.

After the last mass last Sunday, more than 450 people had volunteered to take a weekly shift, Webb said. Many asked for the middle of the night.

“We were really just in awe,” Webb said. “The Lord is working through his people and guiding them back to him.”

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Adorers ‘protected’

Many adorers believe there’s a divine presence watching over those who come in the night.

Judy Loeffler, 43, of Elk River covers a weekly predawn shift at Epiphany in Coon Rapids. She’s never worried about her safety when she’s gone out unaccompanied or battled a snowstorm, as she did last weekend.

“Knowing that I was going to see our Lord, I knew I would be protected,” Loeffler said. “I don’t think I could do any other time. I just love it … the quiet, the peaceful feeling of being with the Lord is so powerful in the middle of the night.”

Just in case, though, many chapels have alarm systems or phones to summon police if there’s trouble. Archdiocese officials said there have been no reports of adorers being accosted.

At St. Timothy’s, adorers have pressed alarm button hidden behind a plaque depicting Jesus and his heart-shaped soul a couple of times when drunken people accidentally wandered inside.

In addition to log books, many chapels have notebooks where adorers can list the small, everyday victories attributed to the ritual.

“Thank You Lord for my son-in-law finding a job,” reads a Dec. 17 entry at St. Timothy’s.

“Thank You that the car accident wasn’t more serious,” reads another.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis attributes a significant achievement to perpetual adoration. Wilson, the director of vocations, said the number of seminarians – men studying to be priests – has increased 70 percent since parishes began embracing the ritual in the mid-1990s.

Fifteen men will be ordained this spring, the most since the 1960s.

In Maple Lake, the night is clear and cold after the Selanders’ two-hour shift at St. Timothy’s. The couple may be self-proclaimed night owls, but their yawns suggest the late hour is taking its toll. They quickly say hello to their replacement, Marge Pavlik, and get in their Chrysler for the short ride home. They’re tired, but grateful for their time at the chapel.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” said Lucille Selander. “It’s something we need to do. … There’s just such a peace that comes with it.”


Real Presence Association

Apostolate for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration
List of Perpetual Adoration Apostolates

Sample FAQ on Adoration

I read that article, too, after our priest brought it up during his sermon today. I go to Epiphany so hearing our chapel was on the front page goaded me to buy a copy today.

Now I’m just waiting for the anti-Catholic fallout. Getting ready to defent the Eucharist from people who are all to ready to attack our beliefs as “wafer worship” or other such nonsense.

WCCO (our local CBS affiliate) has picked up on this as well, see their summary of the report (fairly well done!) at


This is wonderful to hear. The adorers have no doubt contributed to the increase number of vocations in St. Paul-Minneapolis. Through my connections in Baton Rouge I’ve learned that they’ve experienced a similar phenomenon.

There’s a website: where you can go and log adoration hours for vocations. My husband is registered with it and he gets emails from all over the world with specific prayer intentions that he uses when he does his weekly holy hour.

We have finally gotten adoration at the Cathedral in St. Paul.
It is on Tuesdays from 8am to 7pm. Stop by and adore the Lord with us, He is waiting there for you!!!

Wonderful column. Exciting to read and so positive!

We have Adoration every 1st Friday all night and every Sunday at the Poor Clares Monastery. I love to go right after Mass and bring all my prayers. I leave the Chapel floating on air.:slight_smile:

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