For the last 25 years, the Divine Mercy Chapel at St. Martin of Tours Church has been open for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every day, 24 hours a day.
That’s 219,000 hours of prayer.
Some of those who pray bring prayer books and kneel, silently following their own ritual. Others simply sit in silent prayer.
There’s no “right way” to adore the Eucharist, said Father Paul Beach, pastor of St. Martin. In fact, some who come to pray aren’t Catholic, “but they feel something.”
That feeling is the presence of Jesus, alive and as present in the Eucharist today as he was in life 2000 years ago, said Mary Jo Horrell, a parishioner of St. Martin who regularly prays in the chapel.
During a conversation after the noon Mass on Easter Monday, April 5, she said, “We will have fledglings who will say, ‘Tell me what to do.’ I tell them, ‘You are sitting at the feet of the risen Christ today. He is alive today.’ ”
Beyond that, she said, “The best way to pray is the way you pray best.”
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, eucharistic adoration “is an extension of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which occurs in every Mass: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.’ Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament flows from the sacrifice of the Mass and serves to deepen our hunger for Communion with Christ and the rest of the Church.”
Perpetual adoration at St. Martin makes adoration available at all times to all people. In fact, St. Martin has a live webcam focused on the monstrance, which holds the Eucharist, so people all over the world can — and do — tap into the chapel’s holy space. It can be viewed on the parish’s website: stmartinoftourslouisville.org/adoration.htm.
Horrell and another parishioner, Rose Mazar, coordinate a list of volunteers to ensure a prayerful presence is always accompanying the Blessed Sacrament.
“That is the goal; always the challenge,” said Horrell, who said there are about 160 adorers who fill assigned hours each week. “Some of these beautiful souls pray multiple hours throughout the week. One adorer prays three hours a day.”
Others, she said, come as they’re able.
Father Beach expressed a measure of awe at their dedication.
“When we have bad weather, we have people who will stay the night; we have certain parishioners who will provide that accompaniment,” he said.
The webcam in the chapel, as well as one that focuses on the church sanctuary — has drawn people to the parish from around the world, he noted.
“People will say I had to come to this church because I saw the webcam,” he said. “It’s funny how often people come up to me and say, ‘I had to visit.’ ”
The chapel was dedicated on April 14, 1996, coinciding with Divine Mercy Sunday, which is celebrated the Sunday after Easter.
The 25th anniversary will be celebrated this Sunday, April 11, which is again Divine Mercy Sunday. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The eucharistic procession will be at 11:30 a.m. followed by Benediction. The parish plans to give away special rosaries to commemorate the occasion.
Father Dennis Cousens, who was pastor in 1996, said a fire in the rectory that February nearly derailed the chapel. Investigators believed the fire was deliberately set, according to a report in The Record.
“There was a huge amount of damage to the building. Everyone thought we would put off the adoration chapel. And I said no, then the devil wins,” Father Cousens said in an interview April 5.
The driving force behind the chapel was Bud Ober, who with his wife Dolly was among those first excited about the prospect. Dolly Ober died in a car accident in the fall of 1995, Father Cousens said.
After that, “Bud really took it and ran with it,” he said. “Everybody thought that she was one of the intercessors in heaven.”
Perpetual adoration had been a dream for some time. Until that point, Father Cousens said, two parishes — St. Martin and St. Louis Bertrand — along with the chapel at the old St. Anthony Hospital provided adoration in three shifts that combined to make 24 hours.
Among the biggest challenges, he said, are financing the security and keeping people signed up for adoration. The parish pays for a security guard around the clock.
He believes the chapel has also brought a lot of blessings.
“The parish flourished after that,” he said. “From the very beginning, it’s been a parish with tragedies: Bloody Monday, a tornado, a school fire, the 1937 flood, the deterioration of the parish, the renaissance with Father Vernon Robertson who laid the foundation for the rebirth of the parish, the fire.
“I used to call it the parish that walks on water — as long as it focuses on Jesus it doesn’t sink.”
At Sunday’s celebration, Father Paul Beach will be the celebrant. It will be a “full-circle” moment for him. He was a seminarian when the chapel was dedicated and served the Mass that day as a member of the parish.
In fact, during his Christmas break that winter, he stripped and refinished the pews that are in the chapel. Perhaps that’s why he believes it’s time for a renovation.
“I know the guy who did it,” he joked. “He didn’t do a very good job.”
St. Martin parishioners are planning a $30,000 renovation of the chapel that will include a quieter heating and air system, hardwood floors and stenciling on the walls that will more closely resemble the main church.