California Catholic Daily exclusive.

On March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Catholics filled San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Church as Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone consecrated the parish’s new adoration chapel.  The work on the St. Joseph’s Perpetual Adoration Chapel, a dream of Star’s pastor Fr. Joseph Illo since his appointment, began more than a year ago. Archbishop Cordileone described the chapel as an expression of the “great love” of the parishioners of Star of the Sea for the Church and a gift to the entire city of San Francisco.

A Eucharistic Procession began after the consecration. The Archbishop led more than 200 parishioners over six blocks of the city’s Richmond District behind four young men of the parish who were carrying a statue of St. Joseph. The rosary was prayed in English and Spanish. Attendees included members of the Knights of Columbus, the Missionaries of Charity, and many priests, sisters, deacons, and seminarians from around the Archdiocese.  

Parishioners returned to the Church for the Saturday Vigil Mass followed by a packed dinner in the auditorium. The long day came to a close as Fr. Illo led a core group of organizers into the new chapel for its very first holy hour.

CalCatholic spoke with Claire Herrick, who has served for the past nine months as Star’s Director of Evangelization and Catechesis.

How many parishioners helped with the Saturday’s events?

Probably about 50. It’s hard to say as everyone worked together ever just doing little things: setting up tables, cooking, Knights of Columbus, the choir, St. Joseph bearers, candle bearers. etc. 

What does Eucharistic Adoration mean for the parish?

Adoration is at the very heart of the parish. Our mission statement is ‘to evangelize God’s people beginning with the gift of the Holy Eucharist.’ Perpetual adoration will offer the opportunity for people to know God in a deeper, more personal way, as He makes himself vulnerable and available to everyone in adoration. The Eucharist is God Himself, the source grace… I would expect miracles if you are an adorer.

What’s your job like?

I never envisioned myself working directly for the Catholic Church. However, when Fr. Illo offered me this job, I thought, if there was ever a parish it would be this one. Star of the Sea is creating a Catholic Culture in San Francisco, something that is foreign to popular culture and especially this part of the country. What does it mean to be a part of a parish? Today most people jump from Church to Church to fit their convenience. That is not how you will build community. We are called to live committed lives of Faith, with the Church at the center guiding us. Unfortunately many churches have failed at this and people have lost trust. But here at Star of the Sea we are rebuilding that trust, we are investing all we have to feed people spiritually and showing what it looks like to live Catholicism everyday. Come commit to a holy hour, commit to Sunday BBQs, commit to learning about your faith through the various classes we offer and you will feast on the treasure of the Catholic Church. In reality, I don’t just work for Star of the Sea, the community is working for me, helping me to be a better Catholic. How awesome is that!? I feel very blessed.

Although the creation of the chapel was a dream of Fr. Illo’s, his words over the last few years indicate he sees Eucharistic Adoration not as an option but as a necessity. In his homily at one of the Sunday Masses on March 26, Illo shared his own experience, saying that every day for 30 years he has been doing a holy hour, and that he could not fulfill his vocation without it. He said that often he would go into holy hour a tired middle-aged man, a broken priest, and comes out rejuvenated, reenergized, and happy.  He noted that his sentiments echo the prayers at the foot of the altar:  “And I will go in unto the Altar of God: unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth.”

It is far more common today, unfortunately, to see Church buildings torn down, or “repurposed” rather than constructed. The creation, in the secular city of San Francisco, of a chapel for perpetual adoration has a revolutionary dimension. One of the procession attendees was Dolores Meehan, co-chair and co-founder of the Walk for Life West Coast. Meehan comes from a family that has been in the city for four generations, and she said “Fr. Illo is rebuilding the Church in San Francisco!”