Belinda Rechenbach prays before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Omaha. Her early morning holy hour creates  “a beautiful quiet, just focusing on the Eucharist,” Rechenbach said. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF

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Nocturnal adorers find quiet, peace before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

Outside it’s dark and still at 5 a.m., when Belinda Rechenbach slips into a side door at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Omaha.

She heads toward the soft light of a side chapel for eucharistic adoration – a holy, quiet place for her to be alone with Jesus once a week, to kneel in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance.

After 20 years, Rechenbach can’t separate herself from this weekly, early morning ritual.

“It seems like it’s so much a part of me now,” she says. “It’s just a very special time with Jesus by myself. It’s just a very special relationship.”

Five in the morning might not be an ideal time for many people to pray, but for Rechenbach and other eucharistic adorers, the overnight hours are perfect. They’ve grown to love their quiet, undistracted time with their Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Second Vatican Council teach that Jesus “is present in many ways to his Church,” but “most especially in the Eucharistic species.” 

“In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ … the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained,’” the Catechism says (no. 1374), quoting the Council of Trent.

That presence endures as long as the eucharistic species subsists, according to Church teaching.

“The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship,” the Catechism says (no. 1380), quoting St. John Paul II. “Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”

Parishes such as Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Mary in Bellevue heed that call with their perpetual adoration programs, where adorers maintain a 24/7 vigil with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. At Our Lady of Lourdes, that vigil has gone on for 38 years, at St. Mary for 64 years.

Some individual adorers have kept their weekly appointment with Christ for decades – including those with the overnight hours, said Susan Moylan, perpetual adoration coordinator at St. Mary.

Finding people to take those time slots can be difficult, she said, “but once they get hooked on it, they stay with it” and often tack on an extra hour of time at church.

NOCTURNAL ADORATION SOCIETY

An international organization, the Nocturnal Adoration Society or Adoración Nocturna, exists to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and has chapters in the archdiocese.

The group says part of its purpose is to “provide a fervent response to Christ’s invitation to keep prayerful vigil with Him.” That invitation came when Jesus said to his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Remain here and keep watch with me.”

Members of the Nocturnal Adoration Society participate in structured liturgy before the Blessed Sacrament, but others’ worship is less formal.

Nighttime adorers say they enjoy the peace, quiet and “alone time” they have found with Jesus. He renews them for the day ahead, they say, and has helped them through times of sorrow and pain.

“It’s important to have that quietness to develop a relationship with God,” said Rechenbach. For her, finding the quiet, even in an empty church, took time, as she had to become accustomed to boiler noises and other sounds in the old church.

Now, after many years of practice, “it’s a beautiful quiet, just focusing on the Eucharist,” she said.

The predawn time spent with Jesus is a “whole new beginning, no matter what I go in with,” she said. “I get to start over, a do-over, another day to love and serve God.”

‘JUST ME AND HIM’

Dale Bauermeister said that during his 1 a.m. hour at St. Mary Church in Bellevue, “the silence is deafening. … It’s just me and him.” 

He said the first time he went to eucharistic adoration a year ago, “I felt goosebumps.”

He said he can feel the presence of God and his deceased loved ones. “My mom, dad, sister and Christ are with me.”

Bauermeister, a military veteran who just recently entered the Catholic Church, said God has helped him find peace and the ability to forgive after his sister, Beverly Diane, was killed in 2017 and his elderly mother, Beverly Jane, was left to die in the incident.

After his nighttime holy hour, Bauermeister feels “peace, solitude, comfort and refreshment. It’s just the power of Christ within me.”

He said he has “a yearning to where I want to feel Christ’s presence all the time. … When I leave I just feel charged.”

‘LOOK TO ME’

Aleacia Herbolsheimer, of Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington, began a 3 a.m. holy hour before the church tabernacle in 1997. 

“I felt like the Lord chose it for me,” she said. She later added a 5 a.m. hour on a different day.

In 2017 Jesus told her in prayer: “The outcome of any situation doesn’t matter. What matters is that you look to me, and in trust and gratitude take one step at a time.”

Two weeks later her husband, Burnell, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During the surgeries and treatments that followed, she took Jesus’ words to heart, “releasing to the Lord” whatever he willed to happen.

“That carried me through the whole thing,” the mother of five said. Her husband recovered with few lingering effects.

The trust she learned continues to keep her from becoming anxious in difficult situations, Herbolsheimer said.

‘NEED TO BE THERE’

Having an hour of eucharistic adoration helped Rechenbach – a cradle Catholic and self-described “revert” to the faith – find a deeper relationship with God, grieve the deaths of several family members, including her husband, Tom, and transition from a career in retail to one as a certified life coach.

“It gave me the strength to get through,” she said.

Having an established relationship with God, steeped in a weekly holy hour, helps Rechenbach find her Lord elsewhere, seeing his love as birds splash in a birdbath, or when a butterfly breezes by.

“I get spiritual energy from that,” Rechenbach said. “When my mind goes to a dark place, he consoles.”

Bauermeister said his friends are seeing a changed man who’s taking better care of himself, eating right, losing weight and trying to eliminate cursing.

“I keep myself busy in all the right directions,” said Bauermeister, who can be found at church six days a week for Mass, adoration or other forms of worship.

‘TIME FLIES’

Jim Jandrain and his wife, Cynthia, help cover several overnight hours at Our Lady of Lourdes.

“I think the Lord wants us to pray more,” Jim Jandrain says with a smile.

During a 5 a.m. hour, “the time flies by,” he said.

“There’s a lot to pray for when we’re here,” he said, including the needs of family members and friends, communities and nations. “I pray a lot for faith, hope and love.”

“There’s a discomfort of getting up early,” Jandrain said, “but once you do it, you’re so happy. It’s worth doing.”

“It’s good discipline for me,” said the self-employed certified public accountant and father of eight, who lives across the street from Our Lady of Lourdes. “I have to get up early, but I would feel lacking if I didn’t have an hour.”

PRAYER PARTNERS

Sue Trigg and Sam Judkins, both retired registered nurses, share their early morning worship. Each woman prays in a three-hour stretch at the eucharistic chapel at St. Gerald Church in Ralston, with two of their hours overlapping.

“It’s just beautiful,” Trigg said, “the two of us together to worship and pray with Jesus present.”

“I find those night hours quiet,” she said. “The lights are dimmed down, and I just try to focus my gaze on Jesus.”

There, in the chapel, she finds “a peace that’s indescribable.”

For most people, the overnight hours are more difficult to cover. But Trigg is willing. “I figure, why not? I can do this for the Lord.”

Judkins slips off her shoes before entering the chapel, a gesture of reverence toward the holy place she is entering. Once in the chapel, she typically sits or lies down before the monstrance.

 “I love sitting on the floor, sitting at the feet of Jesus. … We can sit at his feet, the God who made everything,” Judkins says. “I still get blown away by that.”

CALLING INSOMNIACS

The people who fill the overnight hours come from all walks of life, including people who have to get up and go to work the next day, Moylan said. At St. Mary, men have traditionally taken the nighttime hours, she said.

People who have been unable to be present at Mass because of coronavirus concerns might consider taking an hour of adoration at church, where crowds and social distancing would be less of a concern, Moylan said.

Those who suffer from insomnia might also consider an overnight holy hour.

“There are a lot of people who always wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning,” Moylan said.
“Maybe the Lord’s calling them. Who knows?”

Many parishes offer eucharistic adoration, some with nighttime hours. Anyone interested in a holy hour – during the day or at night – should check with their parish, or a neighboring one, through bulletins or websites, or by calling the parish office.

“My wish or prayer is that everyone would take a holy hour,” said Herbolsheimer of Holy Trinity Parish, “so that in conversation you could say, ‘So when is your holy hour?’”

Ideally, at least two or three adorers would be there for each hour, she said.

Being constantly aware of Christ’s presence in church would help, Herbolsheimer said.

“If people always have an awareness of where they are in relation to the tabernacle, then they would be drawn to spend more time with him.”

“I have no doubt that if we did fill our holy hours, we would be invincible . . . we would be protected.”