CHARLESTON — Perpetual adoration is Eucharistic adoration available 24/7. It is so difficult to maintain that only a handful of parishes in the entire state of South Carolina offer it.
Blessed Sacrament Church began it all nineteen years ago, on the Feast of Corpus Christi 1984.
Buddy Sirisky was a charter member of the group that began perpetual adoration and directs the operation.
And a time-consuming operation it is.
“We now have 287 active adorers, but not a day goes by when someone doesn’t call with a problem,” Sirisky said. “When you go Perpetual, you’d better load your guns up.”
Blessed Sacrament has coordinators and team captains to spread the obligation around, but it is a huge one for any parish.
Perpetual adoration requires a separate chapel or worship space, since exposition and adoration cannot occur in the same place or time as Mass.
It also requires someone to be in the presence of the sacrament whenever it is exposed.
For safety reasons and to ensure coverage, coordinators schedule two people for every one of the 168 hours in each week of the year – including Christmas Eve, the first day of school, your wedding anniversary and during flu season.
Besides the phenomenal scheduling difficulties, there are security concerns.
“The Eucharistic chapel is the only sanctuary in the area that you can get into 24 hours every day,” Sirisky said.
“But in all our years, we’ve had only three or four isolated incidents, and those involved a homeless person coming in to hang out sometimes.” he said. “Even so, except for nurses on shift work, we try to discourage ladies from signing up for night hours.”
The parish has many hours with set schedules, such as the 1 to 2 a.m. on Saturday that the Knights of Columbus fill every week, and names four separate sections of time: the midnight to 6 a.m. adorers are called The Gethsemane Group; 6 a.m. to noon are the Marian Hours; noon to 6 p.m., Angelus; and 6 p. m. to midnight, Vespers.
Hundreds of people drop in to pray in the presence of the exposed sacrament at any hour without being on the schedule, but the long-time adorers are the foundation of the schedule that allows for perpetual adoration.
Sirisky said that about 40 percent of the charter adorers are still coming every week at their scheduled time.
“You’ve got to expect some attrition,” he said. “We’re picking up some younger people now.”
Scheduled adorers do not have to be Catholic, he said, but they must be people of faith.
Besides Blessed Sacrament, St. Peter in Beaufort, St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken offer perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.