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St. Agnes' Perpetual Adoration Chapel Is One of Four in Diocese

ARLINGTON - Tucked into a corner of the St. Agnes parish center, just adjacent to the Arlington church, Jesus sits waiting, 24/7.
Described by adorer and St. Agnes parishioner Jim Capretta as "an unknown gem," the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Agnes is one of only four locations in the Arlington Diocese where the faithful can be in the exposed presence of the Lord anytime of the day or night. The Arlington community is trying to change the chapel's identity from "unknown" to "well-known."
The St. Agnes chapel "is one of the best kept secrets in town and really should be better known," said Father Kevin Fimian, parochial vicar at the parish. "People are searching for that 'personal relationship' with Jesus, but have never been able to find the place or time."
Father Fimian, Capretta and others believe that St. Agnes is the place, and the time is perpetual.
"This is the only place in Arlington where we have this, and we need more, not less," said Twila Gavin, parishioner from St. Charles Church in Arlington and a regularly scheduled adorer at the chapel. "I literally know that it's Jesus Christ alive."
St. Michael Church in Annandale, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester and Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge are the other homes of continuous eucharistic adoration in the diocese.
The chapel at St. Agnes is nothing extraordinary: no ornate stained-glass windows spread colored light onto a stone floor, and no mosaics hang carefully pieced together on the walls. Rather, the room is a simple rectangle, surrounded by white walls and filled with 30 seats and a row of kneelers. But the peace that radiates through the room has nothing to do with aesthetics; instead it has everything to do with the uninterrupted presence of Jesus.
Eight adorers are present on a weekday morning - some kneel, some sit in chairs; one man silently reads the Bible, another laces his fingers through a rosary. The door opens and a woman shuffles into the room on her knees and bows down before the monstrance. Another woman walks in, kneels, then bows her head to the floor.
Capretta attributes the presence of these adorers to their need and desire to stay grounded amid the chaos of everyday life.
"I think a lot of people really love the chapel and the adoration because it's a place where they can kind of almost come closer to reality instead of the superficiality of our lives," he said. "Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the ultimate reality."
Capretta was involved with adoration at St. Agnes before it became perpetual. "It started slowly," he said, "from one afternoon to one day to two days to three days," until it became everyday, turning perpetual in May 1999 under the guidance of Father James R. Gould, former pastor.
As the times for adoration expanded, so did the location, with it beginning in a small room in the back of the church, then relocating to a "make-shift chapel" on the first floor of the parish center, and finally moving to its current location on the main floor of the center in July 2000.
"There's just something special about it," Capretta said. "It's a nice place of refuge from all the hectic-ness of our life, our modern life and city life here in the Washington, D.C., area."
Outside the chapel, Nancy Roche, a parishioner from Holy Trinity Parish in Gainesville, said she has been coming to adoration at St. Agnes for an hour a week since it turned perpetual.
"I can't put it into words," she said. "At the beginning it was very difficult. I thought 'What am I going to do with the hour?'" But now, Roche said, she enjoys her time in the presence of God. "I can't say I look forward to the Thursdays, but I would never miss it. It gets easier all the time."
Sister Anthonia Asayoma, a Franciscan sister from Nigeria, said that only a five-minute walk separates her residence from the chapel in the Cherrydale neighborhood. On days when she is not working her 12-hour nursing shift at the Virginia Hospital Center, she makes the short walk to the chapel for her "time to be with God.
"If you are able to make that time in your day, you find changes in your life," she said.
At least one person must be present with the exposed Christ at all times, so a certain amount of coordinating schedules is required, and that organization falls to Capretta and John Hurley, president of the parish adoration society.
Nearly perpetual himself, Hurley is present at adoration every day, and a slip of paper hangs over a phone outside the chapel door encouraging people to call him should they need "relief" from their one-hour shift.
Hurley said adorers come to be in the presence of Christ during all circumstances, whether favorable or not-so-favorable. Most of the time, he said, adorers leave the chapel "feeling enhanced." Sometimes, however, something upsetting has happened that makes it difficult for the adorer to focus on the Lord during his or her hour. Not to worry, he said. This is the time when Jesus registers the adorer's presence and thoughts most.
Capretta said they are always trying to sign up more people as scheduled adorers.
"The idea is never to leave the Blessed Sacrament alone in the chapel, of course, and so we strive to achieve that by making sure we have a scheduled adorer … for every hour of every day," he said.
Of course not all prayer has to be scheduled.
"There's plenty of room for everybody," Capretta said.
And Jesus isn't going anywhere.
"He is waiting there for everyone," Father Fimian said. "Everyone."
For information or to sign up for adoration call Jim Capretta at 703/522-7947. Gretchen R. Crowe can be reached at gcrowe@catholicherald.com.

Copyright ?2007 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2007