Every hour of every day for the past 50 years, someone has prayed in Cathedral of the Risen Christ Catholic Church.

That's more than 430,000 consecutive hours of prayerful Eucharistic Adoration dating back to Oct. 1, 1959.

To celebrate this milestone, a first in the Lincoln Diocese, 40 hours of devotion and Mass will begin after Sunday's 6 p.m. Mass and continue through Tuesday evening. It will conclude with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz.

During that 40-hour period, the Eucharist, the blessed sacrament, will be exposed and placed on the altar. Traditionally the Eucharist is only exposed during Mass.

The celebration is open to anyone, and all parishioners have been invited to come in and pray, said Monsignor Robert Tucker, parish priest at Cathedral.

The 50 years of devotion has been accomplished through scheduling, dedication and answers to prayers, Tucker said. People agree to one hour of prayer a week at a designated time.

The idea started in the fall of 1959 when a priest traveled from parish to parish about the idea of perpetual adoration: someone in prayer or prayerful contemplation at the church every hour of every day. A church register documents the name of each person who has prayed during each of the hours.

Fifty years ago, the church was known as Holy Family Church. Because the church was small, schedulers relied on non-Catholic spouses and priests from other churches to help keep the prayer going.

In 1965, Holy Family was replaced by Cathedral of the Risen Christ, built on the same grounds. In 1967, lay members of the parish took on the role of scheduling adoration hours.

Tucker recalls the story of the late Katherine Easley, who was one of the first to welcome new priests to the parish with the question: "Which hour in the middle of the night are you going to take?"

Because the priests live near the church, it was thought to be easiest for them to take the late-night hours, Tucker said. However, not every one praying in the wee hours was a priest or a parishioner with night-time work hours, Tucker said.

"Monsignor (James) Dawson tells the story about Gov. (Robert) Crosby before he became a Catholic. He had an hour of adoration every week, and he credited that time in prayer to his becoming a Catholic," Tucker said.

Keeping the tradition going has had its difficulties. People get sick, move away, have a family emergency or take a vacation. But all take their hour of obligation very seriously, Tucker said.

The church has a list of substitutes who can be called in. And people who know they will miss often trade with someone else on the schedule, the monsignor said.

He recalled how Barb Miller (now deceased) always got concerned about finding people to take those overnight hours and would pray to the Virgin Mary.

"Whenever one would open up, she would always sit down and pray: 'Mary, you don't want your son to be alone tonight. Help me find somebody.'

"Then she (Miller) would call and someone would say yes. She never worried about finding people, she always prayed about it," Tucker said.

Cathedral of the Risen Christ has no intention of allowing this tradition of perpetual adoration to come to an end.

"Too many blessing have come to the church and the people to stop it now," Tucker said.

Reach Erin Andersen at 473-7217 or eandersen@journalstar.com.

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