By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — For 30 years Iowa City Catholics have devoted their time to the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at St. Patrick Parish.
A potluck to celebrate the milestone will be held after the 4:30 p.m. Mass on April 9. There, parishioners and adorers will share memories about the adoration chapel.
Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor, said, “We at St. Patrick are blessed to have the adoration chapel here. It has provided a place for spiritual comfort and guidance for many people throughout the years. As St. Pope John Paul II was apt to say, ‘Anytime spent with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is time well spent!’ ”
The chapel opened Jan. 14, 1986, because of the efforts of parishioners Mark Boever and Gary Lanoe, said Ellen Rethwisch, who recently took over as the chapel’s new coordinator.
The pastor at the time, Father Eugene Benda, brought the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel, which was in the rectory’s basement. The adoration chapel remained there until a tornado struck the church and rectory on Holy Thursday in 2006, said Janet Strand. She served as the chapel’s coordinator for more than 25 years.
After the tornado, the adoration chapel relocated across the street to a space in the parish hall, she noted. Parishioners built a new church on the east side of town. That building and its adoration chapel were dedicated on Nov. 29, 2009 by Bishop Martin Amos.
Strand said the chapel offered 24 hours of perpetual adoration right from the start. “It sounds awful that it was in a basement, but it was such a neat place. Our Lord was there with us.”
When she learned about the chapel starting up, she knew it was something she could do. “I had little kids and I could do it at night. I could give time to the Lord. It was peaceful. It was wonderful,” she said of her hour-long slot at midnight for years.
She encourages people to spend an hour “in a true relationship with the Lord. Life seems to go better. Give a little time and you will learn so much.”
Strand’s dedication and deep faith inspired Rethwisch. “When I called Janet in 1993 to sign up for an hour of adoration, she said ‘the chapel will change your life’, and it did! It is a great privilege to be in the presence of our Lord. The people who spend time here are such wonderful souls! I am so grateful to Gary and Mark, who started this chapel, to Janet’s dedication and to all who have spent time here with Jesus over the years, but especially to (God) who is always here for us.”
Last year, Father Victor Warkulwiz from the Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament visited for a weekend. He gave homilies on perpetual eucharistic adoration and encouraged people to sign up for an hour time slot. “We had about 70 new people enthusiastically sign up,” Strand said. “Many commented, ‘I’ve always wanted to sign up for the chapel but just didn’t get around to it!’”
More than 200 people from parishes in Iowa City and the surrounding area help with the adoration chapel, including many young families and members of the parish’s Hispanic community.
Rethwisch shared some adorers’ reflections:
• “In this place there is peace, and hope, and healing. In this Blessed Sacrament the Lord showers me with his love, that I might receive it and be more loving in return.”
• “Adoration has been an amazing blessing in my life. The moment I walk into the chapel my heart fills with love. The Lord has used this hour to bring me closer to him. As I reflect over my journey, it is so amazing to think of the impact that one hour a week has on my life. I am amazed at the small baby steps the Lord has used to bring me to just a wonderful place to grow in my faith. Amazing things happen in you without you even realizing it at the time. Anyone who is searching for more love, understanding and peace should just start spending one hour a week with the Lord.”
Cheryl Schropp is helping to organize the 30th Adoration Chapel celebration. Another St. Patrick parishioner, Patricia Ullrich, will speak on improving chapel communication by email and a Facebook page.
“Anyone who has helped with adoration at the chapel over the years, all current adorers and past adorers, are invited and encouraged to come to this wonderful celebration,” Rethwisch said.