With the suspension of public Masses throughout the Diocese of Phoenix, the Church has more “adoring” fans now than ever. While the faithful are unable to receive Holy Communion, one pastor brought Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to their homes.
Fr. Billy Kosco and Fr. Ryan Lee brought the Eucharistic Lord through three neighborhoods — about a mile each — of St. Henry Parish in Buckeye March 22 via a small procession. The priests knew Catholic families lived there and told an approximate time they would be by.
“They spread the word through the grapevine and point out the homes of other parishioners who are expecting us,” Fr. Kosco said. “Some people did not know we were coming but came out of their homes when they heard the bells or our singing.”
If residents made the sign of the cross or kneeled, the priests stopped in front of their home and gave a benediction. At the home of a cancer-stricken parishioner, Fr. Kosco brought the Eucharist in the monstrance to the screen door and blessed the ailing wife and the husband who wasn’t feeling well. A text from him later read, “Thank you for bringing Jesus to me. It lifted my spirits.” He died unexpectedly the next morning.
Fr. Kosco knows there’s a Eucharistic love embedded in the Latino culture but was still impressed with how much the procession meant to people. It was “very touching and affirming of my role in their lives and of the desire they have to be near Jesus,” he said.
The concept isn’t completely foreign. Several parishes hold a Corpus Christi procession around its feast day each May or June — it’s a moveable feast. The faithful then walk behind the monstrance praying and singing and stop at several designated points where the Lord is briefly adored on a makeshift altar. There weren’t any altars this time though, only worshippers.
“Many people came out of their homes, stopped what they were doing, and some spontaneously began to follow us and sing ‘Bendito, Bendito.’ It was amazing. The Church in Buckeye is strong,” Fr. Kosco posted to the parish website.
A Facebook post highlighting pictures from the event garnered 384 likes, 60 comments praising the effort and 104 shares. The Phoenix Diocese shared the same pictures eliciting another 651 shares.
Of the 40 Eucharistic Adoration slots Prince of Peace Church offered in its March 15 bulletin, seven had only one or two committed adorers. Another 15 slots had three adorers committed at the Sun City West Church. Only two slots had more than five.
Days later, upwards of 20 people sought Eucharistic Adoration or private prayer at any given time. The spike, at any other time in history would be heaven-sent, but this one closed that church and its parish partner, Our Lady of Lourdes.
Temporary rules issued by the Diocese of Phoenix in response to a nationwide effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus limited gatherings to 10 people — and suspended public Masses altogether.
Even then, those 10 in private prayer were to observe “social distancing” to minimize infecting others. Creating a system of who was next in line, enforcing how long someone could pray or turning people away were not viable options. Parish leaders closed the churches instead.
A couple of parishes avoided that dilemma altogether with its Adoration approach in these days of social distancing. St. Anne in Gilbert launched a livestream of Eucharistic Adoration at stanneaz.org/adoration.
A parish in Maryland created a way for dozens to safely adore the Blessed Sacrament via a drive-in experience. Nearly 150 cars participated March 19. Parishioners remained in their vehicles but were able to adore the Lord in a monstrance outside the church.
“There’s a very beautiful paradox taking place,” Fr. Dan Leary told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. “There’s a contradiction in people’s lives in the fact that they’re starting to realize what they don’t have. The absence is creating a longing for presence. What God is allowing is this divine encounter of love. He’s turning the hearts and eyes of the people back to Him.”
Meanwhile, in the Diocese of Green Bay, Bishop David L. Ricken ordered that all perpetual Adoration chapels be closed, and all public Eucharistic Adoration be suspended, effective March 20. Adoration chapels are usually small, area priests said. The bishop did ask that churches remain open for private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.
Fr. John Girotti, vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the Curia, acknowledged that people will express concern that “at the very time we need our Eucharistic Lord the most, we’re keeping people from Him. The answer to that is we are keeping the churches open.”
Back in Arizona at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, the first diocesan parish to offer perpetual Adoration — 33 years and counting — temporarily reduced Adoration from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The committed adorers are still signing in, and there have been a few more drop-ins than normal the first couple of days after the suspension of public Masses.
“We’re hoping we can keep it open because without the Eucharist, at least we can still have Adoration,” said Cathy Giedraitis, Adoration coordinator at OLPH. She herself likens Adoration to vital relationship maintenance. “You spend time with someone you love,” she said.
Catholic News Service contributed to this article.