February 23, 2024

Aurora Catholics see new perpetual adoration chapel as ‘a game changer’

Father Jonathan Meyer kneels in prayer on Feb. 14 before the Blessed Sacrament in the Lourdes Chapel at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Aurora. Assisting Father Meyer are altar servers Andrew Oelker, left, and Levi Christy and Deacon Kevin Daily. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Jonathan Meyer kneels in prayer on Feb. 14 before the Blessed Sacrament in the Lourdes Chapel at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Aurora. Assisting Father Meyer are altar servers Andrew Oelker, left, and Levi Christy and Deacon Kevin Daily. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

AURORA—Aurora is a small town along the Ohio River in southeastern Indiana. Not far away to the east is the large city of Cincinnati. Other large cities along the river include Pittsburgh, Louisville, Ky., and Evansville, Ind.

But on Feb. 14, something happened in little Aurora that, according to Father Jonathan Meyer, “is going to change the world.”

On that Ash Wednesday night, Father Meyer led members of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Aurora in beginning adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the newest perpetual adoration chapel in the archdiocese.

The blessing of the chapel took place after a Mass and a eucharistic procession in the hilly streets of Aurora. (See a photo gallery from the event)

The parish’s small Lourdes Chapel is located in a former convent on the high point of its property, which sits on the side of a hill in the town. The chapel is named after the small town in southern France where Mary appeared in 1858, identifying herself to St. Bernadette Soubirous as “the Immaculate Conception.”

Only four or five people at the most can pray in the chapel at a time. But at least one person will be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week praying to Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.

“Right now, there’s a chapel on Fifth Street. And it is empty. It is empty,” said Father Meyer in his homily during the Mass. “At the end of this Mass, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, is going to process through our streets, and he is going to make his home there. And he will reign there, God willing, until the second coming.”

With this view of what was about to happen in Aurora in mind, Father Meyer described the new adoration chapel as “a game changer.” He told the worshippers present that “you’re among the most blessed people in the whole world to be here tonight.”

Patti Lohmiller certainly felt blessed and filled with emotion as she took part in the Mass and the eucharistic procession. The Lourdes Chapel is special to her because her husband Tom, who works as a contractor, donated more than 100 hours of labor to renovate it.

“When I got up to the top and Father Meyer was there with the monstrance and everyone was there, I almost burst into tears,” said Lohmiller. “I was able to hold it in. But it was pretty rough.”

She spoke of her hopes for the effect that the chapel will have.

“I hope that we all come closer to God. My real reason for wanting this is not only for the community, but for my family,” said Lohmiller, a St. Mary parishioner.

Anna Townsend, another St. Mary parishioner, was also brimming with emotion when talking about the effects she hopes perpetual adoration will bring to Aurora.

“Conversions. Really. Conversions,” said Townsend through tears. “It’s so beautiful. It’s why we pray before the holy Eucharist. We’re praying for the conversion of people, of the world.

“We need to pray more. That’s what the Blessed Virgin Mary has been telling us. The name of the chapel is Lourdes. She tells the people to pray for the conversion of sinners.”

Townsend, who works as secretary for St. Mary, St. Lawrence Parish in nearby Lawrenceburg and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright, has experienced the blessings of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in those faith communities, which each have offered 12 hours of adoration one day a week for a few years.

“It’s just spending an hour with Jesus,” Townsend said. “You have a quiet moment, up close and personal. You can talk with Jesus. Unload whatever you’re feeling in your heart or mind. Say your prayers. Or just listen. The Holy Spirit will come.”

Father Meyer, who serves at St. Mary and the other three parishes in Dearborn County, knows from experience the multitude of positive effects that a perpetual adoration chapel can have.

He ministered as a parochial vicar in two parishes, Our Lady of the Greenwood in Greenwood and St. Luke the Evangelist in Indianapolis, where adoration chapels were already present.

Since becoming a pastor, he has started three such chapels: at St. Mary Parish in North Vernon, at All Saints Parish in Dearborn County on its St. John the Baptist campus, and now at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Aurora.

Each of these chapels has included a small library stocked with Catholic reading material for use by adorers.

Father Meyer, who was also named a national eucharistic preacher in 2022 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an interview with The Criterion that perpetual adoration chapels “create highly engaged parishioners.”

“When they do that holy hour, one, they’re praying. They’re developing an interior life,” he said. “But it also encourages intelligent, catechized parishioners because they’re reading good Catholic books and literature.

“Because you spend time with Jesus, you then want to be like Jesus. So, it creates charitable and self-sacrificial parishioners because they become eucharistic in a very true sense.”

Father Meyer has been amazed by the way that regularly praying before the Blessed Sacrament has changed lives of individuals and families in the parishes where he has served.

“In every community where I’ve brought adoration, I’ve found peace,” he said. “You find reconciliation, marriages being strengthened. It’s not just a cliché. It really does work. People come back to the Church. People are converted. When you bring people to Jesus, it works.”

But he was quick to emphasize who creates all these changes.

“All I have to do is put Jesus on the altar,” Father Meyer said. “He does all the work.”

(Information about the 14 perpetual adoration chapels in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.archindy.org/adoration.)

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