Songwriter and singer Aly Aleigha brings the 177 Project to St. Charles Borromoeo Parish in Orlando the second week of Advent. The project is an effort to bring praise, worship and Eucharistic Adoration to all of the 177 Latin Rite dioceses in the U.S. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

177 Project visits St. Charles Parish

ORLANDO  |  Kevin Pastore heard of the 177 Project a year ago — a vision to bring praise, worship and Eucharistic Adoration to every one of the 177 Latin rite dioceses in the United States who are part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

At that time, Pastore was living in South Carolina, and was unaware that by the following year he would be further south. The move did not deter him. Knowing the impact Eucharistic Adoration had on him, he did not want to pass up the chance to offer this to the youth and young adults of St. Charles Parish.

“For me, Adoration has been one of, if not my most powerful experience of encounter. Like any testimony or witness, you want to share whatever that is — to be awed in the presence and share that with young people,” said Pastore, who is faith formation director at the Orlando parish. “It’s been amazing to watch the transformative power of Eucharistic Adoration. It breaks down walls, it allows permission for vulnerability. To say maybe I’m broken, and maybe I’m a little bit messed up, and maybe I have stuff going on, but when I’m there, I felt the warmth, the love and the light of Christ.” 

This is the testimony of many of the young people with whom he has worked. “They know in that moment they had an experience of love and what’s better than that?”

Aly Aleigha, a Catholic singer and songwriter, testified to Christ’s presence in her life through song before a small group at St. Charles, Dec. 8, as part of the 177 Project. 

“In my whole story, it’s really evident that God is the one who brought me to this place, in music, and in my life in general,” she said. “The Eucharist has always been a central part of that and my love for the Lord has grown throughout the years.” 

Aleigha said God led her to realize Eucharist Adoration was a logical incorporation into her spiritual growth and Catholic call to evangelization. This is her second year participating. She and 19 other Catholic artists were initially invited to join the 177 Project by Jason and Rachel Wall of Adoration Artists. Although there are still 30 more dioceses to visit, Jason said, “We’ve seen more than 30,000 people enter Adoration in one of our evenings so far and the stories that we’ve heard have blown us away. We’re so humbled that God would use average people like us in a way that helps bring people into relationship with Jesus.” 

Father Ralph DuWell, pastor of St. Charles, said praise and worship accompanied by Eucharistic Adoration “offers a different perspective of how to worship God and prepare for Advent. Everybody prays and prepares differently and we wanted to give people opportunities to come and celebrate Advent, the Annunciation, John the Baptist, and the coming of the Lord.” Father DuWell, who is also chaplain to the Bishop Moore Catholic School football team, noted the team gathers for 15 minutes of Adoration every Friday prior to a game. 

“I have 50 guys kneeling, quiet before the Blessed Sacrament and nobody is forced to do it. They want it,” he said. “They feel that the 15 minutes of quiet gives them a connection, not only with each other, but a connection with the Lord. Sometimes we lose that or we miss it.”

Among those in the pews were Erica and her 11-year-old son, Rhys. They arrived at 5 o’clock Mass unaware of the opportunity for Adoration. When they heard Aleigha singing, they decided to stay. Erica had never been to Adoration. “We enjoyed it so much,” she said. “It was so great because it gave a fresh start again (to Advent) which can sometimes get lost in the busyness. And having my son here with me and have him experience that was really special.” Rhys is a St. Charles student who participated in Eucharistic Adoration before with his classmates. He said he likes it “because I get to say things I can’t say to other people.”

The evening allowed time for reflection and the sacrament of penance. “They are seeing more and more that Adoration is a way of praying … and experiencing grace and gift,” Father DuWell said. “It’s not just the gift of Dec. 25 with the baby in the manger. It’s the gift of the light above the manger that led the wise men and leads us every day. And if someone can come and sit in Adoration and feel that light, God bless them. That is the gift of Christmas, Easter and every day at Mass.”