Fr. Dan Leary, pastor of St. Andrew Apostle Catholic Church in Silver Spring, exposes the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning of a 24 hour period of adoration at the church. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Fr. Dan Leary, pastor of St. Andrew Apostle Catholic Church in Silver Spring, exposes the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning of a 24 hour period of adoration at the church. (CS photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Nearly 100 people gathered in the early morning hours Oct. 4 at St. Andrew Apostle Parish in Silver Spring to begin a 24-hour adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in response to publicized sex abuse allegations that have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States.

A similar 24-hour Eucharistic adoration was held at Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata. Throughout the day and all through the night, hundreds came to pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

“When we go through struggles, our tendency is to look for someone to console us,” said Father Dan Leary, pastor of St. Andrew who was one several priests who inaugurated the adoration effort. “But, we enter into the mystery of the Church not just in commiseration, but in hope.”

Priests and laity of the Archdiocese of Washington were invited to participate in the adoration of the Eucharist to pray for victims of abuse, to pray for priests and to pray for healing within the Church.

“We had tremendous response throughout the day and night,” Father Leary said after the event. “I really think that people are looking to respond spiritually before the Blessed Sacrament to the pain in the Church.”

The effort – titled “Repair my House” – was started by priests of Sacred Heart Parish and St. Andrew Apostle Parish and was planned to coincide with the Oct. 4 Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The theme “Repair my House” is taken from the famous account of St. Francis of Assisi. The 13th century mystic and stigmatic was praying before a crucifix in the Church of San Damiano, when he heard the Lord tell him three times, “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.”

A Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released in mid-August had described sexual abuse suffered by more than 1,000 survivors over the past seven decades by 300 priests in six dioceses in western Pennsylvania, including in Pittsburgh, which was led by then-Bishop Donald Wuerl from 1988 until his appointment as archbishop of Washington in 2006.

In June, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington had learned that their retired archbishop, then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, had been credibly accused of abusing a minor 50 years earlier while he was a priest in New York, and that he had been accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians while he was a bishop in New Jersey. Archbishop McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals was subsequently accepted by Pope Francis, who said that prelate could not serve as a priest in public and should live a life of prayer and penance.

In a letter inviting “brother priests” to participate in the adoration, the priests of St. Andrew Parish noted that “as St. Francis was invited to repair God’s House as it was ‘falling into ruin,’ so we too wish to call down God’s mercy on all of the people of God.”

Adoration began immediately after a Mass was offered in honor of the Feast of St. Francis. The faithful prayed “to repair the entire Body of Christ,” and offered prayers for priests that God would “stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.”

“We had a number of priests and deacons who came by. I was very pleased to see the response of love on the part of people (to this crisis),” Father Leary said.

Adoration at St. Andrew Apostle Parish and at Sacred Heart Parish continued until Benediction on the morning of Oct. 5.

“People came in answer to the question, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ (John6:68). They know Christ is present in the Eucharist,” Father Leary said. “They came because they love the Church and they want to love the bishops. They want there to be a communion of the body of Christ.”