Dee Leuck, who helped establish perpetual adoration at Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert Parish in Omaha, stands beside a chart tucked away in the adoration chapel at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, which helps her keep all 168 weekly hours of worship filled. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF

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Founder, coordinator, recruiter, mentor and pray-er

Faithful parishioner has buoyed perpetual adoration for 40 years

When Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert Parish in Omaha celebrates 40 years of perpetual adoration on March 8, perhaps no one will appreciate the anniversary more than Dee Leuck.

Leuck helped establish the program in 1981 and remains its coordinator.

She knows all the crucial elements that have gone into maintaining a 24-7 prayer presence before the Blessed Sacrament through the years: steadfast adorers; committed captains who’ve helped make sure all hours are covered; priests who’ve recognized the importance of the practice and promoted it; the initial backing of the parish’s Legion of Mary; and support and advice from a parish that had already launched perpetual adoration decades earlier, St. Mary in Bellevue.

All those ingredients have been key, said Leuck, an 83-year-old retired nurse. But above all she credits the Lord, who’s answered prayers and through perpetual adoration has blessed the adorers, the parish and its south-central Omaha neighborhood.

“It’s God’s work, totally,” she says. “He started it.”

Leuck, though, might deserve at least some credit for her role in maintaining perpetual adoration.

She not only coordinates the program, recruiting adorers, keeping the 168 hours filled and praying several hours a week as one of the adorers – she is a mentor in prayer and pro-life work, her fellow parishioners have said.

Her pastor, Father John Pietramale, also has acknowledged her efforts.

“Dee has always been one to welcome those who join our parish family and invite them to consider an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Pietramale said by email.

‘PRAYS FOR EVERYTHING’

Cindy Jandrain, who lives next door to Our Lady of Lourdes Church, met Leuck 25 years ago when her family moved into the neighborhood. Jandrain said she wanted to participate in adoration and soon met Leuck.

“I think it’s a wonderful ministry in the parish,” and Leuck has helped keep it thriving, said Jandrain, who is now one of the daily captains.

“She prays for everything,” Jandrain said, including that every hour would have at least one adorer.

“The Lord will send us somebody,” Leuck has told her.

“Her faith is outstanding,” the friend said. “We’re all probably better adorers because of Dee.”

Father Mike Eckley grew up in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and as a young man could be counted on to take at least one of the late-night hours, Leuck said.

Father Eckley, executive director of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese who now resides at Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert, said his attraction to the Eucharist has played an important role in his calling to the priesthood.

He can remember 40 years ago when perpetual adoration began and a priest spoke at all Masses encouraging people to participate. He was 15 at the time, Father Eckley said, and he remembers walking home from Mass thinking, “I want to take an hour.”

He, Leuck and others say they’ve seen many graces in the parish that have resulted from perpetual adoration, including religious vocations.

Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert not only has “a very strong core group of people,” but an increasing number of parishioners overall, especially when other parishes have seen declines, Father Eckley said.

Adorers continuously praying before the Blessed Sacrament has helped give the parish and the entire neighborhood stability, he said.

Since moving back to the parish, he has taken up a holy hour again.

EXPOSITION

Adoration is one-to-one time with Jesus, Leuck said. Many adorers have told her: “I don’t know what I’d do without this hour.”

For many years, worshipers adored before the Blessed Sacrament in a tabernacle, but in November 2011 Father Pietramale began exposition of the Eucharist in a monstrance in the adoration chapel at Our Lady of Lourdes. That was “a special gift to the parish,” Leuck said.

A book where people write prayer petitions has also been a blessing, she said. “It’s a relief to know that others are praying,” she said. “There’s so much need and sickness out there.”

Leuck serves as a captain for three days of the week, making sure all the hours on those days are covered. She also is an adorer at least four days a week, for a total of at least six holy hours a week.

Leuck “affirms those who have taken an hour of adoration,” Father Pietramale said. “She works with our daily captains in helping them fill vacant hours when people move or pass away. … We really haven’t had any hour totally empty, due to Dee’s guidance and encouragement.”

In 2016 the Omaha Urban Council of Catholic Women named Leuck Outstanding Catholic Woman of the Year.

At the time Father Pietramale helped laud her not only for being a founder of the perpetual adoration program, but for her pro-life work and more.

EMBODIES GOSPEL LIVING

For years Leuck has prayed and counseled women outside abortion clinics and participated in the annual Life Chain, a prayerful pro-life demonstration.

She and her late husband, Dan, manned a pro-life booth at the parish’s fall festival “for as long as I can remember,” Father Eckley said.

She’s used her nursing background in caring for the homebound in the parish and for years participated in a block rosary in her neighborhood, her pastor said. She also was a member of the former Legion of Mary and Women’s Guild groups in the parish.

The mother, grandmother and great-grandmother continues to join others in the parish in making meals for the homeless at Stephen Center in south Omaha.

Leuck embodies Gospel living daily, Father Pietramale said.

Carrie Cherek, who’s been in the parish for 28 years, said she admires Leuck for being so involved at Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert, leading by example.

“Dee just exudes love,” Cherek said. People are “attracted to her goodness. She makes you think, ‘I want to have what she has.’”