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Making a difference in heart and soul of faithful
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Prayer from the heart and soul is what the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is all about at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church 24 hours a day seven days a week. A Manteca couple is seen on their knees before the consecrated Body of Christ where miracles are said to have taken place and depressions reversed. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Prayer – when all else fails – brings hope and love into life’s equation resulting in what has often been seen as being miraculous interventions in what was  believed to be inevitable.

Depressions suffered more intensely during the Christmas season have been turned around in the past through around-the-clock prayer and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in a chapel secreted behind the altar at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.

The Blessed Sacrament – in the form of a consecrated wafer – sets on top of a golden tabernacle in front of several pews where nearly 250 faithful Christians spend at least one holy hour a week in adoration of what they believe is truly the Body of Christ.

St. Anthony’s parishioners are currently organizing a program set to seek out fallen away members of the church in the upcoming month.  It is a time when former members of the church will be reminded of the heart and soul aspect and the forgiving nature of their church community.

Mary McCleary knows well the value of spending a holy hour behind locked doors as often as possible.  She has lived in Manteca since 1953, raising her family here with her late husband Bill and continuing her holy hour devotions for much of that time.

Mary is there every morning after attending morning mass.  

“I’ve seen people in there crying and joyous,” she said.  “It’s hard to describe what it does for you.  It keeps me strong and encourages me to get through the days – I think it keeps us going,” she said.  

Prayer brings positive changes
Susan Morresette serves as the coordinator for those signing up for their holy hours in the chapel.  As a fourth grade elementary school teacher with a family, her days are already jam packed, but she has found the time to volunteer for her faith.

She noted that since she started the religious habit of praying every day, her family has seen a positive change in her character and in her demeanor.

Susan had admittedly fallen away from the church in her teen years, because of the lack of time she felt she had then to devote to her religion.  She described herself as a cradle member of her religion.

“I returned to the church in 1995 – 15 years ago, at 35 – and later in 1997, I heard a lay parishioner speaking from the pulpit about adoration.  Like many Catholics, I had no idea what it was, never having heard of adoration,” she recalled.

Susan said she quickly sought out the speaker and ended up registering for a Monday holy hour, saying she was not sure exactly what she was going to be doing in her church community.  The lady later sent her “the sweetest letter” explaining that this is a time to spend an hour with Jesus as my friend,  “working on our friendship, deepening our relationship and giving me a chance to listen to Him.”

She now has a regular holy hour in the evening when the chapel is totally quiet.  “It’s just me and the Lord in a one-on-one,” she said.

“I’ve had people come in who are crying and distraught over life’s circumstances and they have found solace in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.  I would say that every single person would tell you that their relationship with Jesus gets deeper and deeper with the time they spend in front of the Blessed Sacrament,” she insisted.

Helps get her feet back on the ground
Susan told of a friend who had been a faithful protestant who came to her in a prayer group and eventually to the adoration chapel.  As a result of her time in the chapel, she has converted to the church, she added.

She said the other thing she feels should be noted is that people like her are just running round in their lives – all just so busy, busy, busy.

“You know, we get up in the morning.  Our day starts and we have some coffee and we are off and running.  Then, we are going for 11 or 12 hours a day.  My scheduled time in adoration with Jesus is the time that I have set aside in my week to go, sit down and just turn my brain off and work on my relationship with God.  For me – just because of my busy schedule – I depend on that time,” she said.

“That gets my feet back on the ground.  It settles my life down. It settles my heart down.  It settles my mind down,” Susan gently recalled.

Susan said she has seen “absolute miracles” come out of the chapel holy hours by those devoting their prayer time before the Blessed Sacrament.

There was one time when she remembers hearing a woman crying inside the church proper adjacent to the chapel walls.  She said she was in awe wondering how the woman had gotten into the church during the nighttime hours – the front door had been locked from outside.

“So I’m on the other side of the glass from her.  I asked how she got in and she said she had come through ‘that door’ – the door that was locked,” she said.

Susan quoted her as saying: “God was calling me and I don’t know what to do!”

She added that she then walked around the outside of the church to confirm the door had been locked – and it was locked tightly, she said.  “I don’t know how she got in.”

The two women spent the whole hour talking.  The visitor had been away from church for a long time. She was having a real hard time in her life and didn’t know anything about the adoration chapel, Susan said.

“I’ve had people knocking on that door, saying: ‘I don’t know why I am here but God told me to come here.’”  

Susan is truly convinced she is seeing people with challenges in their lives that God has literally sent to the door of the chapel.  “They come yearning and I believe they feel the presence of God there,” she said.

After hearing their knock, you open the outside door and they will say: “I don’t know why I am here, but God told me to come, ” or  “I need to spend some time with God.”

She said she feels that the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament calls out to souls, especially those who are really struggling, to put their troubles into prayer before the Body of Christ.  And for anybody considering going back into the church she added that she cannot stress highly enough how visits to the Blessed Sacrament will clear up their past and present questions about the church and their faith.

“The time in the chapel is a time to spend in meditation or really thinking about the word of God.  The time can be used for journaling as well – I sit in there and journal.  Sometimes it’s just sitting there and listening to God, because when do we have time to meditate or do any of those things in our busy world?  - We don’t,” she said.

For anyone wanting more information on attending the chapel holy hour devotions, they may call the church office at 823-7197.