By Tony DeGol
At 90 years young, Bob Christian is spry, charming, and devoted to the Catholic faith.
“My faith to me means everything,” he insisted. “It’s my life.”
He retired as a meter reader for Penelec 28 years ago, and he has since devoted much of his time to the Church.
A member of Saint Patrick Parish in Johnstown, Christian was a driving force behind the former perpetual adoration chapel on the Saint Patrick campus – a place where all Catholics had the round-the-clock opportunity to visit Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.
“For 21 years, I was the chapel coordinator,” he recalled. “I lost some of my helpers because of moving and other circumstances, but we made it through.”
Besides serving as the coordinator, Christian was also a regular in the chapel pews – often times in the middle of the night – spending quality time with the Lord.
“It was just so great, so peaceful,” he explained. “I loved the nighttime hours because it was quiet. It was just you and the Lord. It brought a lot of peace.”
Due to COVID-19 and the retirement of the pastor, the perpetual adoration chapel at Saint Patrick closed recently, leaving a deep void for those who would frequent the holy site.
The pastor of Saint Andrew Parish in Johnstown, Father Peter Crowe, recognized the need for such a spiritual refuge and decided to do something about it.
“Personally, I found my vocation spending time in adoration,” he noted. “The sense of being with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration was personally very important to me.”
Father Crowe realized that the chapel in the former Saint Andrew convent would be the perfect spot to house a new perpetual adoration chapel that would welcome Catholics in Johnstown and beyond.
Not much work had been done to the site over the past 50 years, so it needed a face lift to assure a safe, comfortable, and sacred space.
Among the enhancements currently happening at the space are painting, new flooring, ceiling work, lighting, secure doors, and upgraded heating, and cooling.
“I have someone who is doing some woodwork, and going to help make a beautiful space for our Lord,” Father Crowe said. “People are really stepping up and volunteering and doing a lot of the skilled craftsman work.”
Eileen Bohensky, a Saint Andrew parishioner who is handy with a paint brush, is one of the generous volunteers.
In recent weeks, she put two coats of paint on the sacristy walls, and she worked on grouting around a stained glass window.
“I’ll do anything I can to help get this chapel open, as well as promoting it to my friends in other parishes,” she added.
That promotion will be key since the Catholic Church requires at least one individual to be present at all hours of the day and night in any perpetual adoration chapel. When the new chapel opens at Saint Andrew, anyone can come at any time to pray, but regular adorers will need to be scheduled to ensure a constant 24/7 presence at the site.
Saint Andrew parishioner Terri Roy is recruiting people for shifts. She decided to first reach out to the usual adorers at the former Saint Patrick adoration chapel.
“It was like calling the cream of the crop,” she shared. “These people love God so much. I would be on the phone sometimes for half an hour with people telling me their stories about what the chapel meant to them.”
The anticipated opening date for the new perpetual adoration chapel at Saint Andrew is August 15 – the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the day the obligation to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses is restored in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Hopes are high the Catholics from all over will regularly take advantage of this special opportunity to deepen their relationship with Christ.
“So much peace comes to your life,” said Roy of the adoration experience. “When you spend an hour in quiet, it does change you. It brings a peace and joy that only God can bring. Once you go once, it’s like a magnet – just sitting in the Lord’s love and experiencing His warmth. It’s life-changing. You change. Our Lord changes you while you’re there.”
Bohensky shared that she has not had the chance to regularly visit perpetual adoration chapels, but she is looking forward to taking advantage of this new opportunity.
“As I grow in my faith, I know how important it is to spend that time with the Lord, to develop that relationship so He can guide me through life,” she said.
“Spending that time with the Lord, who’s really present in the Eucharist, is a hugely powerful thing,” added Father Crowe. “In the Gospel, Jesus pulls the Apostles aside to be with Him for some time, and then they go out into the fray. So that’s like when we come and spend quiet time with the Lord. It’s a huge grace.”
Christian plans on being at the new perpetual adoration chapel, and he is sending an invitation to his fellow Catholics to join him.
“You have to come and try it and find out what you’ve been missing,” he stated.
To register for a regular shift at the perpetual adoration chapel at Saint Andrew Parish, please call or text Terri Roy at (814) 255-5645 or email her at email@example.com. Those wishing to donate money to help cover the renovation expenses, please send a check to Saint Andrew Parish noting that the gift is for the perpetual adoration chapel.
Editor’s Note: For a behind-the-scenes look at the renovation work being done for the new perpetual adoration chapel at Saint Andrew Parish, watch Proclaim! TV August 1st at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photos: (Top) Eileen Bohensky works on a sacristy window at the new perpetual adoration chapel. (First Inset) Bob Christian, Terri Roy, and Father Peter Crowe anxiously await the opening of the chapel. (Second Inset) A look inside the chapel with new flooring recently installed.]