Angelus — Founded on the pillars of faith, family and farming, the community of Angelus has stood proudly on the plains of Northwest Kansas since the mid-1880s. Since 1887, St. Paul Catholic Church has been the jewel at the center of the community. The current parishioners of St. Paul Church and many area residents with long-standing ties to the parish recently completed 100 hours of Eucharistic Adoration to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the building that now serves as the church proper.
While serving as the primary coordinator for the 100 Hours of Adoration event that took place May 14-18, Elsie Rietcheck, is quick to give credit where it is due. “This is not an idea I came up with,” Rietcheck said. “The parishioners at St. John Nepomucene in Beardsley did this at their church, so I spent time talking to Deb Pochop [parishioner of St. John Nepomucene] about that event during a Cursillo retreat. Then I talked to our Altar Society before approaching Father [Donald Pfannenstiel, pastor of St. Paul Church] about it. “I was nervous because it was such a big project,” she added. She needn’t have worried. Father Pfannenstiel was quick to put his stamp of approval on the venture. “How could I say no to that?” he said. “How could I turn down something that holy?”
With the pastor’s blessing, Rietcheck got to work, enlisting the help of her daughter, Amanda Ostmeyer to organize the plan. Within a couple of weeks, the groundwork was completed and Father Pfannenstiel presented pamphlets listing the available hours to the parishioners after Sunday Mass. Each of the 100 hours corresponded with a year in the building’s history, giving parishioners the opportunity to sign up for an hour/year that was meaningful to them, such as the year they got married or were baptized in the church. “There was a concern that this was going to take place right during planting season,” Rietcheck recalled. “But Father said the blessings we [the community] would receive from this would be worth the hours. “He asked people to take the pamphlet home, pray about it, and bring it back with the hour or hours they would be able to fill.”
Following the initial wave of sign-ups that saw parishioners of all ages volunteering to take an hour or two, Rietcheck said she spent a few hours on the phone contacting people who hadn’t responded, as well as people who had long-standing ties to the parish but who had moved to nearby communities over the years. “Honestly, I didn’t have to coerce anyone to sign up,” she said with a laugh. “And you know God’s hand was in this when I walked into Dollar General and ran into a man from the parish who was able to fill the last slot. This was definitely the work of the Holy Spirit!”
In all, the process took less than one month to bring the plan to fruition. The 100th anniversary celebration began with Mass at 7 p.m. on May 14, followed by the first of the 100 hours of Eucharistic Adoration at 8 p.m. The hundredth hour concluded at midnight on May 18.
The event proved meaningful for many of the parishioners and brought back fond memories for others. Elaine Moellering has been a parishioner at St. Paul for 50 years since marrying her husband, Johnnie, and said her Adoration hour reminded her of her time as a nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Hays. “There was a chapel at the hospital, and we [the nurses] would get up in the middle of the night to spend time in Adoration,” she recalled. She and her husband didn’t choose their late-night hour of adoration to correspond with any particular year of their time at the parish, but rather for convenience, “Because we’re usually up that late!”
Beatta Robben and her husband Charlie selected two consecutive Adoration hours, one corresponded to their 1965 wedding date. “It [the time in Adoration] was so quiet and personal,” Beatta said. “It was just such a neat experience.” Father Pfannenstiel believes the most important aspect of the 100 Hours of Adoration event is that it was parishioner-driven. “The whole idea came from the parish, not me,” he said. “That dynamic is most important as I don’t think it’s as spontaneous or grace-filled if it’s coming from me.” He hopes this unique way of celebrating such a milestone in the parish’s history is the start of something big. “Once Adoration is in your blood, it’s infectious,” he said. “I hope it spawns more interest.”
The parish has a dedicated prayer hour on the first Friday of each month to pray for vocations. Father Pfannenstiel said he hopes the experience in Angelus will prompt more people to take part in Adoration. “We have around 115 parishioners putting in these 100 hours, so we may have a sign-up for the summer for people to try [Adoration,]” he said. He noted that young people are eager to try Adoration and efforts are made from an early age, through St. Joseph Grade School in Oakley, to expose them to this opportunity. “We have Adoration on First Friday along with confessions at the elementary school,” he said. Additionally, “The Totus Tuus group has Adoration one night of their program in the summer.”
St. Paul Parish Secretary, Teresa Stephens noted that several of the parish’s young people signed up to participate in the 100 Hours event, either together or with their families. “The teenagers out here are pretty involved with the parish,” she said. Regardless of the age of the participants, Stephens said that an increase in vocations is one of the intentions many people had during their hours of Adoration. She said the church’s First Friday prayer hour for vocations started 20 years ago, but for many parishioners, tying that intention into the 100 Hours celebration was of utmost importance. “People think this is more important than any other celebration we could have, especially for vocations,” she said. “Adoration is key to vocations, so pushing that is awesome!”
Father Pfannenstiel agreed and points out, “We have three functioning priests from St. Paul Parish: Father John Lager is a Capuchin priest in Denver and works closely with FOCUS [Fellowship of Catholic University Students], Father Brian Lager is the pastor at [Sacred Heart Catholic Church] Plainville, and Father Tony Stephens is a priest with the Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky.”
With Catholic parishes facing ever-increasing external competition for the time and energy of their parishioners — things like sports, travel and other forms of entertainment — Father Pfannenstiel recognizes that the world has changed, but he remains optimistic about the impact Adoration is having on the Church overall. “Adoration is helping people come back to the Eucharist,” he said. “Faith is flourishing because of it. “We may be fly-over country here,” he added, “but we have faith.”