FSPA adoration: 'an incredible, tangible presence that lets you know God is real'

Sister Sarah Hennessey in Adoration Chapel

By Sarah Hennessey, FSPA

I think there is a deep intuition in the human soul that we are all connected, and that in times of crisis we need to strengthen that connection. Constant prayer is a gift and often, a lifeline to people when they most need it. For those who are familiar with the Catholic practice of adoration, I think there is a sense of the unique gift of being in the real presence of Christ and being vulnerable before Christ. There is an indescribable, tangible presence that lets you know that God is real and that we are connected to all of creation. The presence of Christ is universal and today there is a loneliness and hunger to be united in prayer — a longing for connection that only adoration can reach. 

We, as Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, continue to respond to the needs in front of us, to those from all walks of life, to people throughout the whole world. We receive prayer intentions from Poland, India, Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria and many from Wisconsin. They are written by people facing cancer diagnosis, unemployment, homelessness, crippling illness, academic challenges, birth, death, and everything in between. Many people are isolated and this is their only way to reach out. A woman whose husband was abusive wrote, “Right now, I am writing to you locked in the bathroom, afraid for my life.” From Fiji, a man contemplating suicide composed a prayer request and I replied with phone numbers for hotlines in his own country. 

FSPA’s multi-pronged approach of adoration by mail, phone, text and internet makes it easy to connect wherever you are. The first text we received was from a woman who wrote, “Right now I am in labor with my fourth child; please pray for me.” People’s prayers are immediate and we are responding in the moment. Who ever knew that our ministry would expand this way? As FSPA moves forward, we continue to not only pray but to truly live adoration. We are meeting people where they are, expanding around the globe, and adapting to new technologies.

Pope Francis speaks of how we need a culture of encounter and I believe prayer is an important part of that. In prayer, we are not alone. We are supported by a cloud of witnesses holding us tight. We are embraced in God’s love — a power so much bigger than any one person. When I have struggled with my own mental health, prayer has buoyed me. I know that I am connected. 

For me, adoration is prayer tenfold, because it is held in a loving presence that stays with us. As a congregation with our partners we have taken adoration out of the chapel and into every aspect of our lives. This is what I think people sense when they come to us. We are people of prayer living lives of loving service in God’s name. 

In adoration we meet the face of Christ in the face of our neighbor. When that happens, I cannot stay the same. I am moved in my inner heart towards empathy, and the Gospel calls for such compassion to lead to accompaniment and empowerment. That is true encounter. We cannot stay in isolation and apathy, but we are moved ever closer together. Our world becomes smaller. Mumbai becomes just a breath away and we share our needs, lifting them up to a cosmic God who encircles us all. 

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