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Every Sunday she heads to St. Patrick Parish in Natick, at 2:30 a.m., not for Mass but to adore Jesus Christ. It’s been a ritual O’Brien has been following since she chose her 3 a.m. timeslot 10 years ago when St. Patrick’s began the perpetual adoration in a chapel next to the church.
“It’s a difficult time. I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” she said. “After you get your first foot out of bed, the rest of it is easy.”
O’Brien quickly adds that many others have taken an hour during the night to worship the Lord for the past 10 years. One man comes every night from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m., and a woman from Sharon drives over at 2 a.m., she said.
“There are so many people who come like that,” she said. “My little bit at 3 a.m. is nothing compared to them.”
St. Patrick’s began holding adoration on the first Friday of each month years before the perpetual adoration began. The pastor at the time, Father Joseph Greer, helped expand the amount of time people could come to worship Jesus’ eucharistic presence. After he passed away, the new pastor, Father Daniel Twomey, helped make the adoration perpetual on Nov. 1, 1995.
“It’s a great grace and a great blessing,” said O’Brien. “The Eucharist is the same host and the same body of Christ that was consecrated at Mass.”
O’Brien acknowledges that holding perpetual adoration — 365 days a year, 24 hours a day — is not always easy. She has been a coordinator and has helped fill timeslots for the past 10 years. There is always one person on the schedule, but they try to schedule at least two. Slots, especially if there are cancellations, can be difficult to fill, but organizers are dedicated to making it work.
“We never leave Jesus alone,” she said.
The adoration chapel attracts people from Framingham, Norwood, Weston, Maynard, Hudson, and Natick, she said, adding that some of those people have committed timeslots.
“They know where to come, and they know that this is where they have their peace to deal with the problems they have in their lives. It’s a matter of great faith,” O’Brien said.
“I’ll have people cry to me and say, ‘My life is different,’ and I know my life is different,” she added. “I know I have a greater peace.”
St. Patrick’s pastor of four years, Father Brian Kiely, called the chapel a “spiritual oasis in the middle of downtown Natick.”
“It’s a wonderful gift. It’s a great blessing for the parish,” he said. “The people’s relationship with the Lord develops and increases.”
Since Pope John Paul II declared 2004 the Year of the Eucharist, adoration has received a great amount of focus from the Church, he added. That, along with the upcoming 10th anniversary of St. Patrick’s adoration, has prompted a visit from Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley who will come to celebrate Mass with the parish on Dec. 2.
“This is what we believe, that Jesus Christ is really, truly present. This is not a symbolic act. This is really Christ, and that I think is important for people’s awareness,” said Father Kiely. “People are lonely, and I think to be able to spend some time with Christ is just one of the most powerful experiences that someone can have. I’m delighted to be in a place that allows that at any hour of the day.”
Father Kiely gives the credit to the lay people who coordinate and run the perpetual adoration.
Susan Carr, who has participated for the past 10 years, said the experience has strengthened her faith and prompted her to invite others to come.
“It just keeps you very happy to be able to spend that time with the Lord each week,” she said.
Carr and O’Brien both want to share that feeling of happiness and peace with others.
“Jesus needs to be reached and known,” said O’Brien. “We have to make Him known. That’s our mission. It has to be.”