NEP Day 4: Jesus Speaks in Quiet Places

This article was posted on: April 29, 2024

Day four of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage takes us into the heart of Wisconsin. Here, small-town parishes, often born out of steadfast frontier farming communities, continue to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.”

The Power of Prayer

Day four of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage takes us into the heart of Wisconsin. Here, small-town parishes, often born out of steadfast frontier farming communities, continue to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici) The pilgrimage resumes after celebrating Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Wisconsin Rapids, which is the oldest church in the Rapids area and was established by a pioneer missionary in the 1830s. Nourished by this participation in the sacred mysteries, the procession moves northward to the community of Ellis.

A Saint in Our Backyard

What designates this unincorporated region as an official stop on the Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage isn’t a particular church of renowned beauty or the site of an apparition. It is the home of the second American citizen to be declared a martyr, Blessed Brother James Miller.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will stop for a prayer service at Blessed Brother James’ grave in Ellis. Since his beatification as a martyr by Pope Francis in 2019, many people have prayed for this humble and hardworking man’s intercession. The next step in the canonization process is a miracle being attributed to Blessed Brother Miller. The opportunity to honor one of our diocese’s spiritual heroes alongside many who knew him and pray for his intercession will be a memorable event on our leg of the pilgrimage.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will continue along Veterans Parkway to St. John the Baptist Church in Marshfield. The parish will host a missions display, created by the diocesan Mission Office, highlighting the supportive relationships many parishes have developed with communities worldwide. This display will also feature the stirring Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit of Blessed Carlo Acutis. For the unfamiliar, the young Blessed Carlo’s love for the Eucharist led to his compiling over 150 miraculous revelations of Jesus’ real presence in the consecrated bread and wine. The evening will conclude with an extended period of eucharistic adoration, an apt devotional tradition for the Marshfield Catholic community.

An Invitation to Be Still 

In 2007, a small room of Sacred Heart Church in Marshfield became the site of a grassroots effort to establish eucharistic adoration in the Marshfield Deanery. Over the next five years, the program grew and needed a larger space, so it moved to Our Lady of Peace Church. Jean Kaiser, a longtime member of the Deanery Adoration Committee and parishioner at St. John the Baptist, saw potential once St. John’s had cemented and finished their basement. She shared her vision of a permanent adoration chapel with then-pastor Father Sam Martin. The space boasted a prayerful, crypt-like feel and had more space for the growing number of adorers. Father Martin developed this idea with deanery support, even beyond his time as pastor in Marshfield. In 2019, the St. John Paul II Adoration Chapel was completed, and a permanent home was established for the deanery’s adorers.

Since 2012, the community has maintained perpetual adoration, meaning that the Blessed Sacrament is exposed continuously throughout the year, with the exception of Good Friday. Two adorers are scheduled for every hour, and it remains open to anyone who would like to come and spend time with Jesus in the Eucharist.

The chapel is named after Pope Saint John Paul II and prominently features his biography for all adorers to view.

Father Daniel Thelen, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, spoke about the positive impact that these men and women have had on their community. He said, “It’s a blessing for our deanery to have people who are constantly praying. People are walking by the rectory day and night, and it’s a great visible witness of people coming to spend their hour with Jesus and the spiritual graces that come from the commitment to prayer.”

Father Thelen experienced the power of adoration firsthand during his journey to becoming a priest. One day, while praying outside Notre Dame Parish in Chippewa Falls, a woman approached him and invited him to continue his prayer in the adoration chapel. Over the course of several months, Father Thelen spent time in the Goldsmith Adoration Chapel, where he felt a strong confirmation of his calling to the priesthood in the presence of Jesus.

Praying in the Presence of the Lord

Prayer in the presence of the Lord bolsters lay men and women in their vocations, as well as our priests. One such adorer is Troy Kroening, husband, and father of eight children, who has been steadfast in honoring his holy hour for 15 years. He and his wife, Lindsey, and their children, attend every Wednesday at 7 p.m. “It’s always been a family thing. There have been a few times when things have popped up on Wednesday nights, and we have had to squash them to keep our hour going,” Troy explained. 

Troy’s commitment was born from his first encounter with Christ during eucharistic adoration. “I remember going to adoration for the first time,” said Troy. “The entire hour passed, and I just sat there, talking like it was a conversation. I was completely engaged; I didn’t even have a book in front of me. I simply sat, looking at Jesus and was lost in Him.” 

He admits that as his family’s size has changed, so too have his experiences in adoration. “Having eight kids and trying to go to adoration when they’re young is not always the most rewarding of experiences because, throughout the hour, you have to ‘Shh, shh’ the kids. Even with that, adoration has always lifted me.” 

The impact of adoration on one’s soul isn’t determined by whether a person has a profound emotional experience or realization. It’s about the person the adorers behold, Jesus Christ, in His body, blood, soul and divinity. The goal of the National Eucharistic Revival and, specifically, the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in America is to create opportunities for these precious encounters with Jesus across the country.

“Just as Jesus is silent in the Eucharist, He’s silent in adoration, but the effects are powerful,” reflects Father Thelen. “You don’t see it visibly, but when we give ourselves to the Eucharist, whether in devotion at Mass or during an adoration hour, these are silent but powerful ways that the Lord works in communities to strengthen us. We can’t define how God works behind the scenes to heal wounds and bring peace, reconciliation and redemption. We all have challenges, but there’s a healthy vibrancy of sacramental life in parishes with perpetual adoration.”

For those who may be new to the idea of making a holy hour, Troy gives a great starting point for meditation: “For me, adoration is getting lost in the amazement that God would lower Himself to join His substance to the gift of bread and wine. He is God, and He can do anything, but He’s made Himself accessible to us.” 

The opportunity to participate in adoration at St. John the Baptist Church will begin at 6:30 p.m. and continue throughout the night. Between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., there will be a focus on intentions for miracle healings and the canonization of Servant of God Father Joseph Walijewski.

Seeking Healing Intercession

Father Joseph Walijewski, another hero of our diocese, was originally from Grand Rapids, Mich. Growing up in the 1930s, going to the cinema was a rarity. But on one occasion, Joseph Walijewski watched Spencer Tracy portray Father Edward Flanagan in Boys Town. This story of a priest creating a place where young boys could be educated sparked an interest that would only intensify throughout his life.

He eventually discerned a vocation to the priesthood, and academic obstacles led to his providential relocation to the Diocese of La Crosse. Amid these struggles, Father Walijewski promised God that if he became a priest, he would serve five years as a foreign missionary. The Lord gave Father Joe over 30 years in South America, where his childhood dream came to fruition. In 1986, he established the orphanage Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II. As we celebrate Father Joe’s centennial birthday this year, the impact of his legacy continues to be felt by the 64 children who call Casa Hogar home today. In the presence of our eucharistic Lord, people will have the opportunity to pray for this Servant of God’s miraculous intercession. Those who cannot make the early morning holy hour can submit their prayer intentions for miraculous healings here.

Story by Alexis Wislinsky
Published in the May/June 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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