Praying alone in his rectory before the Most Blessed Sacrament, Father Joseph Calis, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, realized that while he was able to pray before Jesus, his parishioners could not because of the Archdiocese of Washington's temporary ban on public Masses in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“As I was praying, I looked at Jesus and said, 'I have you here, I have you with me in my rectory',” Father Calis said. “I thought how can I bring Jesus to my parishioners - those who are struggling, those who are hurting, those who so desperately want Jesus in their hearts?”

The priest said that it was at that moment, “I knew they (his parishioners) have Jesus in their hearts, but I also knew that I had to have Adoration (of the Most Blessed Sacrament) in the parking lot.”

And so, that is what he did. On Sunday, March 22, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., Father Calis erected a makeshift altar and offered Adoration, along with piped-in Lenten-appropriate music.

“I sent an e-mail to every parishioner I had contacts with, it took me three and a half hours to do it,” he said. “The message was simple – come and adore Jesus” along with the date and time and a few ground rules.

“I told them for safety and security reasons to please remain in their cars, park at least one car length apart, if the lot is overcrowded, then please just stay a few minutes and then exit, and there would be no restrooms because there was no entry to the building,” Father Calis said he told his parishioners in the e-mail.

He said “it started slowly at first, but by 2 p.m., the parking lot was more than half full.”

The priest added that “it brought tears to my eyes to see that during Benediction, people got out of their cars to kneel by their car doors. People stayed in their cars except for those two minutes. It choked me up.”

Father Calis said that outdoor Sunday Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament could become a regular activity at the parish “as it is permitted by the guidance of the governor.”

Father Calis said that people interested in more information should visit the St. John the Evangelist Parish website at http://www.sjeparish.org/: