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(Editor’s note: To help mark the Year for Priests, The Criterion is inviting readers to share stories of priests who have ministered to them in a special way. This week, we share a reflection from Sister Mary Ann Schumann, coordinator of the Divine Mercy Chapel in Indianapolis. At 20 years, it is the oldest perpetual adoration chapel in the archdiocese. Sister Mary Ann reflects on the priests who have supported the chapel during the past two decades.)
I am greatly aware that this endeavor could not have been possible without the support of many of our priests. I did not grasp at the time of its founding that maintaining a parish perpetual adoration chapel was a difficult task and a tremendous pastoral responsibility.
Yet, Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, at the time the principal of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, never said “no” to the possibility. He listened, helped find a place for the chapel and learned the guidelines established to maintain perpetual adoration.
Father James Bonke, the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis at that time, gave his support and helped with many underlying issues.
One thing remained: to contact Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara for his consent. Msgr. Schaedel presented him with the plan. Being a great comrade of the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Archbishop O’Meara was delighted to think his priests were willing to embark on parish adoration.
A meeting was scheduled with Msgr. Schaedel, Father Bonke and Father Paul Landwerlen, at the time the pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, in anticipation of the establishment of a perpetual adoration chapel in the Indianapolis West Deanery.
Archbishop O’Meara set the date of Sept. 14, 1989, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, to begin adoration at 9 p.m.
Msgr. Schaedel, Father Bonke and Father Landwerlen offered sermons on eucharistic adoration in their parishes.
After less than two months, every hour each week was covered except one. It was 2 a.m. on Tuesday. Despite his pressing duties at Cardinal Ritter, Msgr. Schaedel took the hour. What a witness to the Real Presence.
When Msgr. Schaedel was named the vicar general in 1994, he continued to give ministerial support to the Divine Mercy Chapel. He also gave guidance in the establishment of most of the 11 perpetual adoration chapels in the archdiocese.
Father Landwerlen gave great witness to eucharistic adoration. Every Friday at midnight, he took his turn at the chapel. If no one else was present, he would chant praises or dance before the earthly throne of God as David must have danced with God at the Ark of the Covenant.
When he was the pastor of St. Michael Parish, Father Anthony Volz assisted in having a missionary of the Blessed Sacrament speak on the importance of adoration when the number of those taking hours in the chapel had declined. Ninety people soon committed to praying for an hour a week there. Father Volz also witnessed to the Real Presence as he prayed the Liturgy of the Hours once a week in the chapel.
Msgr. Paul Koetter offered encouragement and personal thanks in amazement that so many people remained faithful to a weekly hour of quiet prayer—“watching and praying.”
Much more could be said, but one thing I know is that all coordinators of our parish perpetual adoration chapels would join together to express gratitude for priestly witness. They support us in the vision of the Servant of God John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in evangelizing for the Eucharist, in the Eucharist and from the Eucharist.
Without their “yes” to embody the very source of infinite mercy, we, the people of God, cannot share in the mystery of the Eucharist: our life eternal.
(If you would like to share a story of a good priest, e-mail it to Sean Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to P.O. Box 1400, Indianapolis, IN 46206.) †