VOL 124 NO. 27
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Parishioners are rewarded for their dedication to adoration
CANASTOTA — The parish of St. Agatha in Canastota recently received a very special gift in the form of a monstrance blessed by Pope John Paul II.
The gift was a reward for the parish’s vigilance in revering the Eucharist.
“I think they gave it to us and I’m very happy with it because Pope John Paul II blessed it,” said parishioner Nina Massarotti.
Since 8 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2001, the parishioners at St. Agatha’s have engaged in Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist, a measure that the late pope instructed each parish to do. Along with St. Agatha’s, St. Joseph’s in nearby Oneida established the practice of Perpetual Adoration.
Since that date, the Eucharist has never been alone in the chapel save on Good Fridays.
After years of devotion to the practice, parishioner Michael Seagriff, who coordinates St. Agatha’s Perpetual Adoration program, received the monstrance from his friend Samuel Lanzafame who had a connection in Ron Stott of the Legionnaires of Christ.
Stott collected six monstrances from Rome in an effort to promote adoration. In keeping with the emphasis placed on it by Pope John Paul II, Stott believes that the Eucharist is at the center of Catholic faith.
Several other monstrances are in storage, while one other has spent time at St. Daniel’s in Syracuse where Perpetual Adoration is also practiced.
“I’m the custodian of monstrances to make sure they get used,” Stott said.
A friend of Stott, Lanzafame requested the monstrance on behalf of St. Agatha’s.
“A friend of mine [Lanzafame] told me one morning, ‘Mike I have a gift for you.’ And he presented us with this monstrance with the explanation that it was given to us because we had shown a commitment to the perpetual adoration,” Seagriff said. Seagriff added that while the monstrance has a permanent home at St. Agatha’s, it will be available to other parishes for use over a limited period of time.
According to Seagriff and Massarotti, no emergency has been so great as to warrant leaving the monstrance alone. Massarotti can recall only one that even threatened it. A parishioner was in the midst of adoration when her husband collapsed on the golf course.
In the early 1990s, St. Agatha’s offered limited adoration.
“Originally we started having adoration on the first Friday,” Massorrati said. “They did that for 10 years and they had a lot of difficulty just coming here for 24 hours and when we began exploring it 24 hours a day, every day, people thought we were crazy.”
Seagriff is among those that venerate the Eucharist in the wee hours between midnight and daybreak. Each Friday night, he dutifully sets his alarm and then arrives at the parish’s former “cry room,” now a decorated chapel, to pray before the blessed monstrance.
“You would think in the middle of the night that would be difficult — and it is difficult — but the people there are all faithful,” Seagriff said. “The people that go there from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m….are amazingly faithful.”
Seagriff is the coordinator for the Adoration and each hour has a captain. Each captain is then responsible for making sure someone is with the monstrance during that designated hour.
Approximately 225 persons are involved in Perpetual Adoration regularly and 500 have been involved at one time or another.
In the event that someone is late, the parishioner already in the chapel most often remains with the monstrance until a replacement does arrive, sometimes even in the nether hours of the very early morning.
The blessing from the pope bestowed on the monstrance was intended to promote religious vocations. The significance of it was all the more poignant once parishioners at St. Agatha’s learned that Pope John Paul II had executed the blessing the Sunday before his death.
Seagriff suggested that the monstrance offers a special expression of the late pope among the parishioners of St. Agatha’s.
“His whole pontificate was based on the Eucharist and the Year of the Eucharist and an urgent plea for his people, particularly his priests, to make the Eucharist the center of their life,” Seagriff said. “This is a tremendous blessing to all the people for the last four years who have faithfully followed the Holy Father’s recommendation and feel blessed to be here.”
Massarotti has always considered herself a fervent worshipper, but Adoration, she said, has brought her into greater communion with the Lord.
“I’ve always been close to the Lord, but since I’ve done adoration here, it’s brought me even closer to the Lord,” she said.
She believes that the presence of the monstrance has instilled a sense of pride in the parish.
“I think the people are very happy with it and they feel it’s special and that we’re kind of special that they chose to put the monstrance here at St. Agatha’s,” she said.