Ten priests of diocese among those leading ‘Virtual 40 Hours’ on Facebook

Ten priests of the Diocese of Peoria are among 40 priests and bishops as well as laypeople from several states taking part in a “Virtual 40 Hours” devotion being live streamed on Facebook to unite Catholics in prayer as the coronavirus pandemic spreads and Holy Week approaches.

“In the middle of this pandemic, I think the most important thing we can do as priests is bring people together and give them hope,” said Father Thomas Szydlik, parochial vicar of parishes in Nauvoo, Dallas City, Carthage, Warsaw, and Hamilton.

“There’s no better way to do that than to bring them to Jesus,” he added.

It was Father Szydlik, along with seminary classmate Father Jonathan Meyer — a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis — who came up with the idea and began inviting other priests and bishops to take an hour. Each will live stream a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in their respective churches, during which they can preach, pray the rosary, or offer other prayers.

The live streams all will appear on the Virtual 40 Hours Facebook page so adorers do not have to skip from site to site. As the devotion was set to open Friday evening, the Facebook page had more than 2,500 followers.

DEPENDENT ON GOD, ONE ANOTHER 

The Virtual 40 Hours opens at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 3, with a Mass celebrated by Father Meyer in Indiana. At 7 p.m., the live stream will shift to Monmouth in the Diocese of Peoria, where Father Daniel McShane will lead the recitation of the rosary in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament at Immaculate Conception Church.

“I’m really excited for this,” said Father McShane in a video inviting participation in the Virtual 40 Hours posted on its Facebook site.

“We are more dependent on one another than perhaps we imagined before this virus,” continued Father McShane. “I think the Lord is inviting us to gather together as his body, dependent on one another in our prayers and ultimately dependent on Him . . . to beg Him for his assistance and the graces we need to get through this pandemic and become the saints He has called us to be.”

An hour-by-hour schedule is posted on the Facebook site, which explains the traditional devotion as follows:

“40 Hours is a Catholic exercise of devotion in which continuous prayer is made for 40 hours before the Blessed Sacrament in solemn exposition. It often occurs in a succession of churches, with one finishing prayers at the same time as the next takes it up. In this case, we are praying together virtually with 40 bishops and priests in the United States and around the world right here from Friday night (April 34/3) to Sunday afternoon (April 5), in front of the Blessed Sacrament, which is Jesus, truly present in the form of bread.”

The devotion closes with Benediction at noon on Sunday, April 5.

Other priests from the Diocese of Peoria taking part either by leading a holy hour or assisting with organizing the virtual experience are Father Lee Brokaw, Father Glenn Harris, Father Michael Pica, Father Peter Zorjan, Father Timothy Hepner, Father Tony Trosley, Father Geoff Horton, and Father Anthony Co.

“The Lord wants your heart,” said Father Co, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Urbana, in his promotional video. “We invite all those who have a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament to join us at this time.”

Kate Johnson, the sister of Father Szydlik, is among those moderating the Facebook page to make sure the Blessed Sacrament is being respected by moderating the comments section. She will also oversee that the live streams are running smoothly.

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