Following in the footsteps of their patron saint, St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg held a Forty Hours Devotion at their parish from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31 in order to pray for the Church and the world.

“This time of scandal, crisis and confusion demands fidelity to prayer with and for the Church,” said Father Kevin Regan, the parish’s pastor, adding that the Forty Hours Devotion felt appropriate, given that the parish is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

Over the summer, Father Regan took a trip to Italy and had the opportunity to visit the tombs of some of the saints who were the biggest promoters of this devotion – St. Philip Neri, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. John Paul II, all of whom Father Regan said promoted the Forty Hours Devotion as a means of renewal. St. John Neumann, the only canonized American bishop, encouraged the devotion in the United States.

The parish already has a 24 hour Adoration chapel, but by placing the Eucharist in a large monstrance in the main sanctuary, the parish is opening it up to more people than can fit in their small, 12 seat chapel.

“I usually come to the chapel…I’ve never done it in the church, and it is beautiful,” said parishioner Mary Nishan. “It is so fulfilling. You feel He is listening to you; He is holding you. With everything going on in the world, if more people, whether they have faith or not, could feel His love – it is very emotional.”

As he finished his time of prayer, Tom Whippen said, “It helps me grow closer with God…It clears your mind and opens your heart. There is no better way to do that than to be with the Lord.”

The Forty Hours Devotion began with an Opening Mass and Solemn Exposition at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29th, and continued through a bilingual Vigil Mass of All Saints on Oct. 31, with people visiting at all hours of the day and night in between.

“It reminds us, in the midst of suffering as individuals and as a community, Christ promised never to leave us,” said Father Regan.

On the evening of Oct. 30, the priests of the parish knelt before the Blessed Sacrament following Mass and renewed their priestly vows as a sign of fidelity to the Church.

The idea for them to do this renewal of vows came from a young member of their parish council, who Father Regan said has been “innocent, humble and vocal about hopes for the future of the Church.”

“For everyone in any sort of committed life…every day you have to choose to say ‘yes,’” said Father Regan, adding that the same is true of marriage or religious life. “Every time I celebrate Mass here and I serve the people, I say ‘yes.’”

So while the act of once again saying ‘Yes’ to the priesthood is in one sense the same as always, “on another level it reminds me of the call to fidelity,” Father Regan said.

“We got where we are because of infidelity to Christ,” he said. “We will only get back through fidelity; each person responding to the grace God has given them for the call to holiness.”

For parishioner Gioconda Roman, her participation in the devotion “is a reparation for whatever is happening in the Church.”

“We are shaken,” she said, adding that she is there, “just to pray to the Lord to give us faith. We feel asking Him is the best we can do.”

Because the parish is doing the devotion leading up to the Feast of All Saints, and “in the end we all want to get to Heaven,” parishioner Tom Singer said, “It is a prelude to our destiny.”

“In the end, we were made to be present to God and present to each other,” he added.