Story by Sarah Campbell and photos by Laurey Glenn
There’s a quiet refuge nestled into the lower level of the Our Lady of Sorrows’ church administration building. Birmingham’s only perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapel, The Chapel of Our Savior, is just steps from Oxmoor Road but a world away from its hustle and bustle. “I think sometimes when I’m in there…I can look at Him, and He looks at me, and it’s just such a wonderful deep feeling to know that He’s there, and He needs our prayers—He’s listening,” says Mary Claire Brouillette, one of the chapel’s lay co-founders and an ongoing chapel coordinator.
Since 1992, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, hundreds of volunteer adorers have spent a dedicated holy hour in prayer and meditation. Since 2000, adorers have recited the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (a prayer sequence divinely channeled through St. Faustina) over an ordinary rosary to begin their holy hour. It guides their focus and devotion to the worship of Jesus, the real presence of Christ as exposed in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the mercy that Christ’s body and blood offers. And since 2016, a live ‘adore cast’ has streamed online, making perpetual adoration possible anywhere (the live stream has been viewed by over 2 million people in over 61 countries so far). “All of these people now that are coming allover the world online to pray with us—it’s incredible,” Brouillette says.
A prayer group inspired MaryClaire and her friend Ida Wilker, the chapel’s other lay co-founder, to pursue perpetual adoration at OLS—something that, in 1981, Pope John Paul II had urged for every parish in the world. “We in the prayer group used to have adoration just on one Friday a month…it’s hard to remember once a month,” Brouillette says. “But if you get your hair fixed once a week, if you get your nails fixed once a week, if you play golf once a week, you keep that committed hour. So we thought it would work better if we actually did have committed hours 24/7.”
The two women did their research,contacting a priest from Texas as well as a church in Huntsville that had established a practice of perpetual adoration six years earlier. “We called them and got all the information how they did it, how they set it up, what kinds of books they used to keep track of everybody, if they had co-captains,” Brouillette says. The priest from Texas visited OLS and spoke at each mass of his trip. Between those two resources, “we kind of figured out what was the best arrangement for us as far as keeping track of it.” Today, all 316 adorers and 40 to 50 subs are part of an online volunteer system that automatically sends out a message if an hour needs covering.
After receiving permission to start perpetual adoration from OLS Monsignor Martin Muller and the bishop, Brouillette admits that the pastor initially had reservations about the ability to fill middle-of-the-night hours. But the parish response was clear. “Father put out a clipboard and 125 people signed up…People jumped quick to do hours in the middle of the night because we knew it was going to be perpetual. and those hours had to be covered,” Brouillette remembers, noting that in the early days Wilker sometimes served as a middle-of-the-night adorer to prevent gaps. That’s not the case now. “Father Muller comes in sometimes at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning for a visit and he’s always thanking the people who are there. And they say, ‘Father, this is my blessed hour of the week. This is the most important hour of the week to me.’”
Longtime OLS parishioner John O’Brien agrees. O’Brien, who prays in the chapel for two hours each week, will mark a decade as an adorer this September. “The way I look at it, and this is a little bit of a different approach—when we’re in that chapel, we’re a community,” he says. Inside the chapel door, a sign-in table holds a book of answered prayers as well as a book of petitions—adorers begin with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy but finish their hour in individual prayer. “People ask each other to pray for special intentions, and we try to do that. I know I try to do it,” O’Brien says. “It’s changed my outlook in the sense that we need each other spiritually.”
Brouillette sees blessings she never could have imagined 27 years ago at the chapel’s outset, donated gifts of time and money and skills—everything from tiling to decorating and more. “Father Muller has always been so supportive of anything we want to do,” she says. “I don’t make any decisions without making sure it’s okay with him. It’s his chapel and his parish and his church. We’re just there to be of help.” She is there every day to ensure details are taken care of in addition to her dedicated weekly hours. “I think everybody’s so in love with their hour and being with our Lord and knowing there’s a place to pray. I just think it’ll go on forever and ever.”