“It’s like being with someone you really, really love.”
That is how Doris Belanger describes the time she spends before the Lord in eucharistic adoration.
“You don’t have to say anything. You just be there with Him,” she says. “I just gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament and try to open myself up and just allow myself to do whatever God wants me to do.”
Doris is co-chair of the adoration program at the Rivier Chapel, located at Holy Cross Church in Lewiston. Extended adoration is offered at the chapel every day of the week, with continuous adoration from Thursday at 8 a.m. to Saturday at noon.
While two people must be present at all times when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, it is rare not to find a greater number kneeling or sitting in the chapel’s pews.
“Almost every hour, there are 8, 9, 10, or 12 people in the chapel,” says Peg Bissonette, who co-chairs with Doris. “It’s just been really incredible. People, time and time again, say that we need this. We have to have this. We are blessed to have this.”
“It’s through the grace of God,” says Doris. “People are hungry.”
“They’re praying more. They’re looking for the peace and the security that you get when you have that relationship with Christ,” adds Peg.
Currently, 255 people have signed on as guardians, also known as adorers. Most have committed to being in the chapel at least one designated hour each week. Others have agreed to be substitutes when scheduled guardians can’t make it. Far from being a burden, those who regularly spend time gazing upon the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament say it’s something they don’t want to miss.
“I look at the monstrance on the altar and Jesus is there. I get a feeling of His presence,” says Gerry Wilson. “For me, the next thing to a holy Mass, to receiving the holy Eucharist, is adoration.”
“I feel like if I don’t have an assigned Holy Hour, my day doesn’t go as well. It’s just a wonderful way to center my life on the Lord, and it seems like everything else in my life goes better,” says Connie Cabatingan.
“It’s being in His presence,” says Brian Wilson. “The most powerful thing we can do on this earth with our time is to spend it in eucharistic adoration. Nothing can do more to change the world, to bring about peace, to convert hearts.”
Adoration has been regularly held at the Rivier Chapel for about 17 years. Doris says she was looking for a way to get involved in the parish, and Father Daniel Greenleaf, who served in Lewiston in the early 2000’s and serves there again now, suggested starting an adoration program. For Doris, it was an ideal fit.
“I have always had a passion for the Eucharist. Even as a child, I couldn’t wait to make my first Communion,” she says. “I grew up in a Catholic family. We did the Rosary by the bed every night, and we did catechism lessons together, so I knew about the Blessed Sacrament, and I wanted to receive the Blessed Sacrament.”
Doris says her love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament increased even more after she attended a Cursillo weekend, a three-day experience aimed at helping participants to encounter Christ.
“After Cursillo, He was my Jesus, because I had a very special relationship with Him. That was my Jesus sitting there waiting for me. It still makes me emotional when I think about it because it’s not bread. I think that’s the piece that people are missing. They see a wafer. I see Jesus. I see Jesus sitting on a throne, waiting for me,” says Doris.
Helping Doris get the Holy Cross program underway were Margaret Marcotte and Connie, who, together, had previously organized adoration at St. Joseph Church in Lewiston. After the Lewiston parishes merged to form Prince of Peace Parish, adoration became centered at the Rivier Chapel, with Connie and Margaret taking over for Doris and continuing to lead the program until 2020. Through their dedication, the number of hours of adoration increased, with more people, including faith-filled members of the immigrant community, invited to participate. Connie and Margaret also oversaw chapel renovations.
“We wanted something lovely for the Lord,” says Connie. “We think it’s beautiful.”
Although Connie and Margaret have now stepped aside as organizers, they are still guardians and fervent believers in the gifts received through adoration.
“He’s so pleased to have us come in. He loves us and lets us know His love, and then, I can bring to others His peace, serenity, and love,” says Margaret.
“I do feel that the Lord is transforming my heart because I feel like I am able to give more to the Lord and to bring His love to other people in my life,” says Connie.
Those who participate in eucharistic adoration say it gives them a sense of peace.
“It’s a good meditation period in my life, just to sit back and think about my life and think about Jesus in my life. I’ve been blessed by it,” says Gerry. “With the world turmoil going on, there is so much that we need to be praying for, and I get that at adoration.”
“In these times when there is so much chaos and division in the world and wars and unrest, I experience a peace, and I try to take that with me outside adoration. If I find myself anxious with what may be going on, I just surrender it to the Lord and tell Him that I trust in Him,” says Connie.
“My faith is much deeper. I don’t stress out about a lot of things,” says Doris. “People will come in, and they look uptight, and they’re frazzled because they might be a few minutes late, or they just came from an appointment, or they just dropped off the kids at school, or whatever, and I would say that within seconds, you hear the same thing out of everybody who comes into the chapel: a big sigh of relief. And when they leave, there is much more peace and love. They’re smiling. It changes people. It’s the graces that you receive while you’re there. You may not even know it until you leave. It may hit you when you’re driving home or maybe not even that day, but then, you say, ‘I need to get back there.’”
Mitch Robitaille is among those who say eucharistic adoration changed her life. Nine months ago, Doris invited her to spend an hour in adoration, and even though she says her first answer was “Why? Isn’t Jesus everywhere?” she decided to go and has been going ever since.
“It did me some good, obviously, because I am still doing it now,” she says. “I could feel the difference, spending an hour. I could feel a presence, and I was ready to hear, to listen to whatever He was saying.”
Mitch credits her time spent in adoration with bringing her back to the Church. She says she had stopped going to Mass because she felt she wasn’t getting anything out of it but says through adoration, she came to understand the importance of attending.
“It’s your faith that keeps you strong. I’ve reclaimed my faith through adoration,” she says.
Mitch says she also received the gift of sobriety through adoration, something with which she had struggled.
“I’m touched, and I’m blessed that He came into my life and got this out of my system. I never thought I could do it, and I’m thankful,” she says. “There are always reasons why things happen the way they happen. You may not see it right off, but you will in time if you believe in Him.”
Mitch says she believes adoration would make a difference in other people’s lives, too, if they gave it a try.
“It’s not like praying at home, because there are a lot of distractions at home. You’re thinking, maybe I should go put in a load of wash. But there, it’s all Him,” she says.
Mitch says when she started going to adoration, she used to pray the Rosary, but now, she will often read one of the faith-enriching books available in the chapel. Either way, she says, “The hour goes by so fast.”
Doris and Peg say people often worry they won’t know what to do while in the chapel, but they say that they shouldn’t. The advice Doris gave to Mitch when she was starting out was “just be yourself.”
“There is the fear factor. ‘What am I walking into? What do I do when I get in there?’ That is one of the reasons we’re trying to make a video to welcome people to our chapel. This is how you come in. This is what the chapel looks like,” says Peg.
They also put together a pamphlet with some suggestions, but the reality is that there is not just one right answer.
“You can pray. You can read. You can sleep. You can listen to Scripture on your earphones. You can just stare at the Blessed Sacrament,” says Peg. “I may read. I may write. I always do a Rosary. I may do a chaplet. I may just sit and think. It depends on what is going on.”
“For me, it’s having quiet time to listen to the Lord outside of Mass. That is so important. I’m not reciting vocal prayers. I’m actually listening, or I might be discerning something. I might have a question for the Lord about what direction I should go in, or I might intercede for people in my life,” Connie says.
“Initially, when I go in, it’s just a matter of centering myself. You do the genuflections when you’re entering, but then, I just kneel there for a while and gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament,” says Doris. “Sometimes, I’m compelled to read. Sometimes, I’m compelled to do the Rosary, or many times, I just sit there and listen and speak quietly in my heart to the Lord. Frequently, I just tell the Lord that I love Him a lot. Several times, I say, ‘I love you Jesus. I love you Jesus.’”
“I was just sitting there the other night and looking at Him, and He was looking at me, I’m sure, and I was just feeling and remembering and, in gratitude, thinking of Jesus and His carrying the cross and His crucifixion because of His love of all of us, for love of me. And I’m thinking, ‘Look at you here. You are sitting on that altar so quietly, lovingly,’” says Margaret.
While these guardians all share a desire to be with Jesus, Doris and Peg say it’s important to remember that He wants to spend time with them, too.
“You can speak with the Lord. You can look at the Lord, but He wants to look at you, too. He wants to talk to you. He wants to see you,” says Peg. “A lot of us don’t feel worthy, but we are worthy, and by the grace of God, which is free, we have it before us. We just have to take it and accept it.”
“He’s making time for me. He’s sitting there, waiting for me. I’m a sinner, and He’s waiting for me, and He’s happy to see me when I get there,” says Doris.
The guardians say when they go to the chapel, they often bring with them prayer requests from others, sometimes placing slips of paper in a basket at the foot of the altar.
“They have a concern about a person or an issue and ask would you please pray for this person? Would you please put their name in the box at the foot of Jesus? So, I have, many times,” says Margaret. “People ask for all kinds of things. Once, I saw a pack of cigarettes in the basket.”
“So many things have happened over the years where I know God is hearing prayers,” says Connie.
In addition to individual prayer, the Rosary is prayed in the chapel every day at 10 a.m. The Angelus is prayed at noon and 6 p.m. and, additionally, at 6 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is recited every day at 3 p.m., except for Saturday when it is prayed at 11:30 a.m. There are also special Holy Hours, for instance for vocations and for those battling cancer and chronic illnesses. Doris and Peg are also working with a group of parents on having children’s Holy Hours.
Those who participate in eucharistic adoration in Lewiston say they are grateful to Father Greenleaf and the priests of Prince of Peace Parish for their continued support.
“They are working so hard to bring us closer to our Lord and one another. We are really, really blessed in this parish,” says Connie.
The guardians are grateful, too, to Doris and Peg for all they do to continue to strengthen the adoration program.
“My heart goes out to them. My blessing is for them, for what they do,” says Gerry. “It’s been a blessing for us.”
Gerry says adoration will be a blessing to others, too, which is why he hopes more people consider participating and becoming regular guardians.
“They are missing out on what I’m getting so much of. It’s there. Come and witness it. If they did, they would stay for sure,” says Gerry. “Once they go and pour themselves out to Jesus, they will return.”
Doris says that she and Peg know that their role is just to continue to invite people because they are confident that if someone tries adoration, Jesus will take it from there.
“If you sit there with an open heart and an open mind, He will do the rest. He will help you understand. He will help you see. He will help you feel His presence,” Doris says. “If people could only realize who they were sitting with, the chapel would be full. Our churches would be full. People don’t understand.”