by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — What is the most important aspect of a successful faith community?
According to Pope Francis, it’s simple: adoration.
Pope Francis discussed his theme at length in his daily homily on Nov. 22. But the concept was not a new one to the parishioners or pastor of Christ the King Parish in Topeka.
In 1993, Stan and Maxine Wiechert, founding members of the parish, approached then-pastor Father Norbert Lickteig about starting a perpetual adoration ministry. The ministry is a simple one. A parishioner signs up for one hour of prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament in the parish’s chapel. The prayer can be formal — such as a rosary — or informal. It is up to the individual.
The inspiration for spending that specific amount of time in prayer is drawn from the Gospel of Matthew. After the Last Supper, Jesus takes a few of the apostles with him to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Arriving in the garden, Jesus goes off to pray. Upon his return to the apostles, he finds Peter asleep and says to him, “So you could not stay awake with me for even an hour?”
At Christ the King, when the hour is done, the next person rings the doorbell just outside the chapel’s doors and “relieves” the person at prayer. The process continues around the clock, 365 days a year. The only exception is during Mass and during the Easter Triduum.
In the case of Christ the King, adoration has been continual since Nov. 7, 1993, with the Wiecherts still serving as the coordinators.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ministry, the 350-plus parishioners participating in it were invited to a Nov. 3 potluck in the parish’s social hall, followed by a shortened hour of eucharistic adoration, Benediction, during which Father Mitchel Zimmerman, pastor, led one set of mysteries of the rosary.
Father Zimmerman took the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices made by those involved and offer words of appreciation and gratitude on behalf of the parish for the countless hours spent in prayer by those individuals before the Blessed Sacrament. Those words touched the heart of parishioner Jeanette Nelson, who, along with parishioner Kay Fangman, has held the same 8 p.m. hour every Thursday.
“He said thank you and stressed upon us the importance of what we have been doing. He knows the prayers and the time we have spent have helped our parish, plus he knows the sacrifices we’ve made,” Nelson said.
The sacrifices, of course, involve time that could be spent doing other things, not to mention the fact that sometimes it would be easier to stay home, especially on nights when it’s extremely cold, rainy or snowy. The sacrifices though, Nelson said, are definitely worth it.
“[My eucharistic adoration hour] has totally made my life easier,” she said. “If there is anything going on in your life — good or bad — it’s a time to say thank you, and it can also be a time to ask for help. I do both, and I use the petition book a lot for friends, family members and other parishioners.
“It’s just a special time before Jesus.”
The petition book that Nelson mentioned is a notebook placed near the adoration hour sign-in sheet. Parishioners are invited to write their petitions there, even if they do not wish to leave their name. Those coming into the chapel for their adoration hour then pray for their own intentions, plus those in the notebook.
Perhaps the notebook — not to mention the comings and goings of the adorers — helps explain one of the major benefits of the ministry, said Maxine Wiechert, in that eucharistic adoration promotes a sense of community.
“Adoration is a wonderful way of uniting a parish community,” she said. “You get to know the people who share your hour and those who pray before and after you. You know when there is sadness in their lives and when there is happiness. Their sorrow is shared and their joy is multiplied.”
In addition to unifying the parish community, Father Zimmerman said there are many other benefits for the parish.
“Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament purifies,” he said. “When we see how humbly the Lord waits for us in the Eucharist, when we dare to wait in stillness before him, it awakens the ears and eyes of the heart.
“It purifies our relationship with God and one another, and focuses us on that which endures.”
Besides affecting individuals’ lives, Father Zimmerman said the pastor of any parish with eucharistic adoration benefits from it as well.
“The pastor benefits tremendously from all the prayers in adoration. And the parish does, too,” he said.
“Just think of all the prayers offered that wouldn’t be if adoration was not encouraged — if people were not committed,” he added. “The constancy of the prayer is the heart of the parish. There’s nothing like it.”