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Saturday, August 18, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Adoration, dedication around the clock

Seattle Times staff reporter

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Three hundred thirty-six, the Rev. Sean Fox told his parishioners.

Two people an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week equals 336. That's how many people Fox wanted commitment from before he would allow perpetual adoration at St. Pius X Catholic Church.

Although St. Pius had 1,100 families in its parish, Fox didn't think it would work. He was so skeptical that he didn't bother asking his archbishop for permission for the perpetual adoration.

But then the numbers came back.

Three hundred thirty-six.

"You can call it coincidental," the white-haired priest said in a lilting Irish brogue. "... But when it was precisely 336 — it wasn't 335, it wasn't 337 ...

"It was what I had asked for. Without that, we weren't going to have it.

"Would you say it was miraculous?"

That was six years ago. Perpetual adoration began at St. Pius on Sept. 8, 1995. And it has continued without pause ever since.

Churches began the practice in the early 1980s after Pope John Paul II called upon Catholics to pray in the presence of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, 24 hours a day. It was begun in the Vatican on Dec. 2, 1981.

Other churches have had adoration even longer. At St. Monica Catholic Church on Mercer Island, people have prayed 24 hours a day for 15 years, the same as St. Mark Catholic Church in Shoreline.

St. Pius parishioners have since caught the flame of devotion, and with a phalanx of coordinators have had someone praying in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel behind the altar day and night.

Adoration requires commitment. With section leaders and hour captains, who might be called at any hour to find a substitute, and with a white wipe board neatly lined with colorful labels noting times, names and phone numbers, coordinators have their hands full.

Wally Elwell, one of the coordinators, has more than once pulled himself out of bed in the middle of the night to ensure there was a person praying. Once, for a few weeks, he took one-hour shifts at 11 p.m. Saturdays, slept in his truck, then rose for 2 a.m. shifts.

His daughter told him he needed sleep whenever he took night shifts. Elwell said he adjusted.

"I don't have to do it all the time," he said. "It helps other people to step forward."

It sounds crazy to get up in the middle of the night to pray, said Rob MacIntosh, another coordinator. A friend once asked why he had to make a special trip when God was everywhere.

"It's a commitment," MacIntosh said. "You physically have to get yourself up to pray. The benefits they receive far outweigh losing a bit of shut-eye."

And filling the night-hour shifts is actually easier than the early morning, when people are getting ready for work, he said.

Mary Ortiz-Abraham prefers nighttime for praying and has gone as long as 10 hours a day in the dimly lighted chapel, where the only noise is whirring fans cooling the stuffy air.

"I would like to be here 24 hours a day," she said. "I could stay here awake all night and do my work during the day. It is the power of God and the love of God."

For others, it gives structure to their prayer time.

Joe DiGiovanni, a team leader, couldn't always find a consistent time to pray because he was surrounded by the demands of his family, including three young sons. But now, he always attends his weekly 5 a.m. session.

"Being able to take that hour, having it scheduled, is nice. I look at it as a time to really recharge for the week," he said.

His 9-year-old son, Joey, soon was begging to join him. Although it's sometimes hard to get out of bed that early, Joey likes to go.

"I thought of it as a good time to express my feelings to God, a good time to get my prayers and petitions off my chest," Joey said.

It also has helped foster a sense of community both within the church and within the larger Snohomish and North Seattle region, MacIntosh said.

The practice of perpetual adoration also has been an avenue to get to know other parishioners. But now, MacIntosh said he sees a large number from other parishes, including the Peace of Christ Seattle Korean Catholic Church.

Many people find a sense of calm in the church as they pray in the quiet room. And it has helped affirm faith.

"I've become a strong Catholic," said Veejay Niles, who attends adoration once a week. "Before, I didn't know what adoration means."

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2793, or ntsong@seattletimes.com.

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