Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Adoration Helps Teens Build Relationship With Jesus

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published February 19, 2004

Every Monday at 5 p.m., 17-year-old Sara Stecki spends an hour with her best friend.

She tells him about her week, about her worries and fears, about her joys and triumphs. And, she said, he restores and a sense of peace to her sometimes chaotic life.

As a guardian in the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Brigid Church in Alpharetta, Sara commits to spending an hour each week in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Every Monday from 5-6 p.m., Sara sits quietly in the chapel.

It’s an hour she cherishes.

“It’s one of the only times of the week that I can be by myself and think and pray without any interruptions,” she said.

Why has adoration become such an essential element in the prayer lives of archdiocesan teenagers?

The answer is simple, said Barb Garvin, archdiocesan director of youth ministry. Teens are hungry for Jesus.

“Here, in Atlanta, we have teens that thrive on a personal relationship with Jesus. They want the depth of being in his presence,” she said. “As they become more and more educated about the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they are opening themselves more and more and allowing adoration to fill them up.”

Youth events that focus on the Blessed Sacrament, such as XLT, an evening of praise and worship, draw teens in droves each week. Sonfest, a beach retreat held each summer, draws over 500 teens. The highlight is adoration on the beach with teens, their toes and knees dug into the warm, grainy sand and their arms raised, giving praise to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

“I am constantly told stories about how eucharistic adoration at Sonfest changes someone’s life,” Garvin said. “We have young people who want to be told the truth. They want the depth of what the church teaches. And they want that richness of adoration.”

In 1998, then a seminarian, Father Joseph Shaute attended his first Sonfest retreat. Adoration on the beach, he said, was an “incredibly profound experience.” Now a parochial vicar at Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City, Father Shaute leads Southside XLT twice each month.

At Sonfest 1998, he said, retreatants spent over an hour in adoration, and then had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Just to see the teens opening their hearts and allowing the Lord to really speak to them in their hearts was deeply moving,” he said. “There was only one priest for confession and confessions went on from 9 p.m. until about

2:30 or 3 in the morning. You were able to really see the profound movement of the Spirit and great blessings from the sacrament.”

Father Shaute’s roots in youth ministry go back many years to the Church of St. Ann in Marietta, where he served as a Life Teen core member.

“I have had the privilege of being involved with teens from my youth ministry days with Life Teen and now as a priest and have really just seen a growing hunger for adoration among teens,” he said.

Sonfest was the “first time I encountered the impact of adoration on teens, and just really the last five to six years I have continued to see that,” he said. “And now with XLT Southside I continue to see the fruits of that as well as on parish retreats and things like that.”

During the last weekend of January, nearly 200 teens gathered at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, for the 2004 Eucharistic Retreat. They listened to speakers and spent time in fellowship with each other. The center of the retreat, though, was Jesus in the Eucharist. Atop a large wooden structure weighed down with large candles, “the burning bush,” stood the golden monstrance. Throughout the weekend, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, and teens served as guardians for all-night adoration.

Though youth groups were required to serve as guardians for one hour, Thomas Westbrook, a sophomore from St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville, chose to spend the entire evening, from midnight until 8 a.m. in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

“I have seen people have these huge crying sessions during past adoration experiences, but I had never had that. I didn’t know why I was in adoration all night,” he said. “But then I remembered in the Bible where it talks about Jesus in the garden. He asked his disciples to pray with him for one hour, and they couldn’t. They fell asleep. I realized that I was there to fulfill the role that the disciples could not.”

Thomas said he spends time in prayer every day, but praying during adoration is special.

“A lot of people use their time during adoration to talk to God,” he said. “I talk to God every day when I pray. I personally think my time during adoration is my time to listen to God, to hear what he has to tell me.”

Anna Perry, a sophomore from St. Joseph’s Church in Athens, said adoration is always a moving experience for her.

“Everything is quiet except for the music, all the things that distract you are taken away,” she said. “You can just spill your heart to him and really connect with him.”

And when praying in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it’s easier to remember that he is listening. Anna said she felt a strong connection to Christ during adoration at the Eucharistic Retreat.

“In adoration last night, I just thought it was so awesome to be a teen, sitting and worshiping God,” she said. “I just felt like he was really listening, that it was actually important to him that you’re there.”

For Sara Stecki, who often attends XLT, it’s a different experience praying with hundreds of fellow teens at youth events and praying by herself in the St. Brigid adoration chapel during her weekly guardian hour.

“I think sometimes it’s easier to stay focused during something that big,” she said. “I love seeing all the people praying and singing and I love the music. But it’s good for me (to pray during my hour) because in some ways it’s a personal thing, and I don’t have to worry about what anyone else is thinking. If for some reason I can’t make my hour, I really miss it. I look forward to it all week.”

Garvin said that adoration is popular with Atlanta teens because “relationship is key,” but that teens need to remember that they have an opportunity to deepen that relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist every Sunday.

“They need to know that same presence of Jesus is offered at Mass, but that it’s truly the fuller form because they are receiving him,” she said. “And they have that opportunity every Sunday, every day if they want it.”