John Howard talks to Mags Gargan about the growth in Eucharistic Adoration
A small team of lay volunteers have created a grassroots movement in the Irish Church that is building momentum, diocese by diocese, parish by parish, with people across the island dedicating themselves to Eucharistic Adoration.
There are about 2,000 centres of adoration in 21 of the 26 dioceses in Ireland, thanks to the hard work of people on a parish, diocesan and national level.
John Howard, Brendan Cleary, Katherina Pettit, Joe Connolly and Mike Kumar make up the national committee for the Apostolate of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. The head office is based in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Navan, Co. Meath, in a diocese that has really been a pioneer in the spread of Eucharistic Adoration.
For the last two years there has also been a member dedicated to spreading the new ‘Children of the Eucharist’ programme throughout schools, particularly to classes in sacramental preparation.
Since early 2013 John Howard has been National Co-Ordinator for Eucharistic Adoration in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Many people would know John from his time as the local rep for the International Eucharistic Congress, but locally in Navan he is also known as the former principal of St Oliver Plunkett Primary School for 25 years, before he took early retirement and dedicated his time to Eucharistic Adoration.
John started attending Eucharistic Adoration weekly in Navan in 1988 and since then he became involved on a diocesan and then a national level, and has seen the movement grow in strength, particularly in the last 10 years.
“From 2003 onwards there was a massive development in the spread of adoration in Ireland,” he says. “That probably came about for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Year of the Eucharist was declared by Pope John Paul II and you had that great encyclical Ecclesiade Eucharistia. That certainly focused parishes and priests, and I remember Pope John Paul saying in 2000 that the 21st Century was going to be the most Eucharistic century of all time. We now see the wisdom in his words as we see adoration spreading like wildfire.”
Back then there were three diocesan committees in Ireland and that has multiplied to 21 thanks to the work of the volunteers and the co-operation of priests and bishops.
“It came about through the invitation of the bishops,” John says. “The bishops saw it underpinning a lot of Church renewal in dioceses and parishes, and began to get more interested in what we were doing and how we were doing it.”
John explains that a diocesan committee is a group of people who come together under the auspices of their own bishop, with the support of the priests of the diocese. “They are trained and formed by us over a three-month period. We give them a template or the bones of the programme for promoting it, and then some of them are trained to speak at Masses at the weekend, where they would invite people to commit themselves to an hour a week in their own parish for Eucharistic Adoration. So the Diocesan Adoration Committee would over a period of time, visit all the parishes in their diocese,” he says.
“Whatever diocese we would go into, the national committee would visit two sample parishes and the people in training would come along and watch what we do. We would speak at the Masses and have a meeting the following Monday or Tuesday to get people into a local committee to keep the organisation going in the parish.”
The aim is to always try to have three or four people present for every hour that the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, so the parish team are responsible for making sure to keep their number steady.
“After the diocesan committee the vital, core group is the parish team,” John says. “They meet once a month and they start off with two or three people per hour. Maybe once or twice they have a gathering for adorers with the local priest or a visiting priest just to give a bit of encouragement and maybe a bit of spiritual guidance.”
The movement’s spread to Britain came about when English bishops visiting Ireland for the International Eucharistic Congress invited the national team to England to train a diocese as a starting point. The team set up the apostolate in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. There are now local teams in nine parishes and they in turn with the help of the national team will train the neighbouring Portsmouth diocese.
John puts the success of the apostolate down to the effects of the personal experience people have in adoration. “I think it is that encounter with the Lord that they experience on a one-to-one basis.
“The Curéd'Ars (St John Vianney) used to point at the tabernacle and say ‘he is there’. People get to see this is the real Jesus, the Jesus that walked the Holy Land and performed all the miracles. It is a personal encounter with the person of Jesus,” he says.
“We live in a very busy, speedy, noisy world and I think maybe that hour of adoration might be the only hour of peace that people might experience in the whole week.”
*The Apostolate of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration will have their annual pilgrimage to Knock on the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 19) with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Michael Neary. For more information on their work contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01-6625899/087-2478519