In April of 2016 construction is scheduled to begin on what will be the third Perpetual Adoration chapel in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The new chapel will be at Star of the Sea Church. Although there are two other Perpetual Adoration chapels in the archdiocese, this will be the first Perpetual Adoration chapel in an actual parish within the city of San Francisco. Of the other two, one is at the Church of the Nativity in the town of Menlo Park, and the other is at San Francisco’s Monastery of Perpetual Adoration.
Star of the Sea’s website statement about the chapel is to the point: “We’ve undertaken a very daring task of developing San Francisco’s first parish based perpetual adoration chapel. In short, we’re building a chapel that will have the Blessed Sacrament exposed 24/7 under the constant vigilance of prayerful parishioners. This will require much commitment of time and sacrifice. But we’re confident that prayer will reap upon our parish great rewards.”
According to the website, the Chapel will re-purpose the Church’s existing St. Joseph’s Chapel. The re-purposing is a parable in itself: one can easily picture the guardian and foster father of Our Lord faithfully guarding and serving in the Chapel for decades until the time when it is to be taken over by his Son.
The chapel is the latest initiative by Star of the Sea’s pastor Father Joseph Illo. In his short tenure since being appointed by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Father Illo has seemed tireless in seeking new ways to build community of the people of God, and to spread the Good News to those outside the faith. The parish has hosted numerous well-known speakers and retreats and has seen the revivifying of parish groups. Earlier this year Father Illo led a ten-day pilgrimage for parishioners to the Holy Land. Other initiatives such as monthly parish barbecues and a re-instituted St. Patrick’s Day dinner may seem simple and unexciting—until they are gone. Then one realizes that such homey events rebuild community.
But of all his initiatives, as Fr. Illo has told parishioners, nothing approaches the importance of Perpetual Adoration. “We hope that Star of the Sea can be a beacon of hope to all who are seeking God in our city. We thank all who have committed to prayer, service, and financial support to help us fulfill our parish mission statement: ‘to evangelize God’s people beginning with the gift of the Holy Eucharist’…The privilege of continuous Adoration will be a treasury of spiritual strength and blessings for ourselves, our parish, and our Archdiocese, whose support for this vision has been indispensable.”
Fr. Illo’s proactive and dynamic personality, and his energetic fidelity to the faith, has apparently rubbed some people the wrong way. On March 26, 2015, the National Catholic Reporter published the leaked minutes of the February 12, 2015 San Francisco Council of Priests meeting. CalCatholic carried the story. A number of the priests present, as well as San Francisco’s then auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy, objected to Father Illo’s approach—focusing on his decision that only boys be allowed to serve at Mass in his parish—a decision that was allowed by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Such opposition to proactive priests is not exactly unheard of in the history of the Church. The objections against Father Illo echo those made against another priest by his fellow clergy. The Penguin Book of Saints writes “some of his fellow clergy misjudged him: he was, they said, over-zealous. Ignorant, a charlatan, even mentally deranged. Their bishop, Mgr. Devie, answered them ‘I wish, gentlemen, that all my clergy had a touch of the same madness.’” The priest in question was St. John Vianney.
To help defray the costs of Star of the Sea’s Perpetual Adoration Chapel, click here.