FORT SMITH — The perpetual adoration chapel at St. Boniface Church has been a source of spiritual sustenance for five parishes in the River Valley.
Parishioners of Immaculate Conception, St. Boniface and Christ the King in Fort Smith, Sacred Heart of Mary in Barling and St. Michael in Van Buren have visited the chapel on the west side of the rectory since 1999.
In the past three years, however, the chapel has been closed for almost 22 months, first because of the COVID pandemic and later because of frozen pipes.
“The rectory was built in the 1960s and at that time plumbing was installed above the ceiling,” Deacon Brad Brown said. “The pipes first burst in February 2021, and we decided to renovate the chapel, putting in new flooring and taking out a wall to expand its size. Bishop (Anthony B.) Taylor consecrated our new chapel that June, but a Siberian cold front caused the pipes to burst again last Christmas Eve.”
Local contractor Kenny Kaelin made the repairs, adding extra insulation to protect the pipes against future freezing. The chapel reopened on Easter morning, April 9 and on Tuesday, April 25, Father Mario Jacobo, St. Boniface pastor, resumed celebrating daily Mass for more than 20 worshippers.
“It is so good to be together again here,” he said. “We pray in community, but in big churches we are far from one another … So many of you have been coming here for years. Like Martha and Mary, you have chosen the better part, where Jesus is waiting for us, teaching us to love as he loves.”
After Communion, Father Jacobo blessed the chapel with holy water. English Masses will be held in the chapel on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 a.m.
“When we have daily Masses in the big church only about four people come,” Brown said, “but in the chapel we usually have twenty, and 26-30 people on Fridays.”
“There’s something special about going to Mass in the adoration chapel,” parishioner Joyce Jones said. “I really missed my time praying before the Eucharist when the chapel was closed, but I set aside my usual weekly adoration time at home to light a candle and pray.”
Father Jacobo said equipping the adoration chapel for Mass is a relatively new idea.
“I believe Our Lady of Good Counsel in Little Rock uses their chapel for Masses,” he said. “When we were able to increase our chapel space in 2021, I thought that celebrating Mass in the chapel would bring our community closer.”
He believes eucharistic adoration is the source of many vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
“I was called to be a priest while I was in adoration in Calhoun, Ga.,” Father Jacobo said, “and I believe that many other priests will say the same.”
The adoration chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Catholics can sign up to cover a particular day and time to spend time with the Blessed Sacrament. To schedule a weekly hour of Eucharistic prayer or to be on the substitute list, call Bernice Wallace at (479) 806-6053. Unscheduled visitors can pray anytime, but a door code is required after dark to protect adorers overnight.
“We have several men who cover the pre-dawn early morning hours,” Brown said.
Debbie Bentley visits the chapel regularly for Mass and to spend quiet time with Jesus.
“The intimacy of the adoration chapel helps us to stay closer in our beautiful struggles of daily life,” she said. “God cultivates our hearts, and we need self-reflection to see what is buried in the soil of our hearts.”
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