The perpetual adoration chapel at St. John the Baptist Church in El Cerrito will be under new management as of Dec. 1.
Rev. Thuong Hoai Nguyen, St. John pastor, announced that the parish would be taking charge of the chapel in a letter sent to Thelma Orias, president of the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society, the group that has managed the chapel since its opening in 1998. In his letter Father Nguyen wrote that the decision to take responsibility for the Eucharistic adoration in the chapel came after "a careful and prayerful consideration of the circumstances" and would be for "the best interest of everyone."
In his letter Father Nguyen praised Orias for her "wonderful work" in developing the devotion at the parish. "Her organization has rented and managed the adoration and other spiritual activities at the chapel for several years," he said.
"We will strive to continue and enlarge this devotion," wrote Father Nguyen, who was on vacation and not available. Several attempts to contact Orias by telephone were unsuccessful.
Tom Kennedy, a parish staff member and editor of the parish bulletin, echoed the pastor's announcement by saying that the parish is "assuming management of the chapel for pastoral reasons."
Those pastoral reasons do not include closing the chapel, Kennedy said, in an attempt to address speculation in the community.
The chapel doesn't need rescuing, said Kennedy in response to rumors that the chapel is hard up for cash. "We are not shutting it down, people can still adore there."
The chapel's future will be up for discussion at a parish town hall meeting scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5. The chapel could become a kind of "regional chapter" for those devoted to the Eucharistic adoration in West Contra Costa County, Kennedy said.
In response to other concerns by devotees, a FAQ page was included in the Nov. 11 bulletin — which can be found on the parish's website at www.sjtbc.us — to help clear the air. Titled "Questions and Answers on Divine Mercy Chapel," this page answers 15 questions that have come from the community. For example, question 5 asks whether the chapel will be available for perpetual adoration.
That answer is unknown at this time. Explaining that perpetual adoration means that there "is always a person committed to the Lord" at the chapel "for 24 hours/ 7 days a week," the hours of adoration at the chapel will "greatly depend on the commitment of the adorers."
"It is a very sensitive issue," said Mary Asuncion, the parish's business manager. Other staff members who did not want to be identified said there had been complaints from concerned parishioners and regular attendees of the devotion who reportedly found the "perpetual adoration" chapel either closed or unattended.
According to the FAQ page, persons who are interested in making that commitment can call the parish office at 510-232-5659.
The parish advises those wanting to continue to fund the chapel via electronic funds transfer (automatic payment from a bank account) or via PayPal though the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society's website will discontinue those arrangements and make their donations for the chapel's benefit directly to the parish instead.
The adoration chapel at St. John Parish in El Cerrito was the first to be established in the Oakland diocese, said Debbie Leoncio, a board member of the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society. Perpetual adoration chapels can be found at St. Agnes Parish in Concord and Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont; both are operated by those parishes.
The Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society in the Oakland diocese can be traced back to 1986 when Thelma Orias reportedly was cured of an undisclosed illness and experienced the presence of God's mercy, according to the DMES website at www.divinemercywestcoast.org. After prayer and meditation Orias is said to have received "the Divine Mercy message" and was moved to share this message with everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The devotion of Jesus as the Divine Mercy began in Poland in the 1930s when a nun named Maria Faustina Kowalska, better known as St. Faustina (1905-1938), began writing down visions and conversations that she had with Jesus in her diary. Those writings became the basis of the Divine Mercy message in which Jesus expresses his love and mercy to the world and calls on people to spread that mercy to others.
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