CHARLESTON — Someone has been at prayer in the presence of Christ every hour of every day since 1984 at Blessed Sacrament Church.
This month, the parish is celebrating the 25th anniversary of perpetual adoration there, and those who regularly participate hope the commemoration will lead more people to appreciate the beauty of the practice. The anniversary will be celebrated officially at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 with a Mass and reception.
Perpetual adoration at Blessed Sacrament started on Corpus Christi Sunday in June of 1984. Since then, dedicated volunteers have made sure someone is present for each of the 168 hours that make up a week. Adorers come from around the Charleston area.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have committed people who have worked to keep it going,” said Jack McGovern, director of stewardship and development for the parish. He attends adoration on Wednesdays. “We’ve also been very fortunate because our current pastor and all of the pastors have been very supportive of the effort,” he said.
Ken Badger has been a regular participant for the entire 25 years, attending one hour a week in the early morning. He begins with the rosary, and spends the rest of the time in different forms of prayer. Sometimes he prays for intentions written on the parish prayer board, while at other times, he said, he sits in total silence and listens for Christ’s message for him.
“To me it’s the most peaceful hour of my week,” Badger said. “I originally started out thinking adoration was me doing my part to enable the church to remain open 24 hours a day like it was in the old days. Over time, I learned it was much more than that.
“Adoration is a gift that’s been offered to me and to all of us, a chance to enjoy something that’s absolutely free. We get much more benefit from the time we spend with Christ than anything we’re doing to keep the program going,” he said.
Badger said it takes real dedication to make sure someone is always there. He said if volunteers cannot attend because of illness or another reason, they are asked to find a family member or friend who can fill in for them. If that doesn’t work, they contact one of the captains, who are in charge of coordinating volunteers for six-hour segments. The captain then finds a volunteer to fill in or takes the vacant hour-long shift.
Anne Fontanelle, a member of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, started attending adoration at Blessed Sacrament when her husband Wayne was deployed to Afghanistan with his Army National Guard unit in 2002.
“My heart felt anxiety and loneliness, and I knew I needed to pray for their safety while they were gone,” she said. “I was already attending daily Mass and praying the rosary, but I wanted to make another devotion. That’s when I thought of adoration. I started attending once a week, on Thursday, and soon found I couldn’t stop going. I couldn’t wait to get there. The way you feel at adoration, the serenity changed my life.”
Fontanelle said it has made her a better person.
“It enriches my life,” she said. “I feel what I like to call holy boldness. I feel closer to Christ and because of that, it’s easier for me to face things in life.”
Don Longenecker, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel on Folly Beach, has attended adoration in the wee hours of the morning, 3 to 4 a.m. on Mondays, since 2002. Longenecker is a convert who said he first discovered the beauty of the practice when he saw a procession of people on their way to Holy Thursday adoration at a small parish in Pennsylvania.
“I really enjoy it because 90 percent of the time I’m the only person there … it’s just Jesus and me,” he said. “Adoration is really just a closer walk with Christ. It doesn’t take the place of the Eucharist, but you get a much closer feel for your relationship with Christ.”