Special to The Michigan Catholic
Metro Detroit — An idea inspired by the traditional Catholic practice of Eucharistic adoration has grown into a series of parish events attracting as many as 500 lay faithful on Sunday evenings.
Awaken Ministry, co-founded by Maureen Dierkes, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Hills Parish, Rochester Hills, is drawing attendees of all ages from dozens of parishes in southeast Michigan.
“Our events are authentically Catholic,” Dierkes said. “Each gathering includes praise and worship, the preached Gospel and Eucharistic adoration. Our events are an extension of Christ in the Eucharist that we adore, worship, and receive in Mass — we live that out in our gatherings.”
The first Awaken Ministry event at St. Mary was in March, with monthly events now scheduled at other parishes into next year.
Each Awaken event includes a guest speaker, lively music, special lighting and a procession before adoration.
“We want to bring people to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Dierkes said. “We want them to know what that means, to re-establish reverence, and help people see the beauty in adoration.”
“This is a way of bringing Christ in the Eucharist to the faithful,” said Fr. Stephen Pullis, spiritual director and chaplain to Awaken Ministry and presider of Eucharistic adoration at Awaken events. “It is a powerful experience in Christ’s love.”
It took a few years of attending conferences and adoration gatherings at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, for Dierkes to discuss the idea of creating Awaken Ministry and bringing the concept to the Detroit archdiocese.
“In October last year, the Lord just put the idea in my heart to get this going, and the people came together in a grassroots ministry,” she said.
Awaken was co-founded by Dierkes’ husband, Bill, as well as Dr. Brad Merrelli and his wife, Mariann. About 15 Catholics from Macomb and Oakland counties are involved in the core Awaken Ministry team, with approximately 25 helping at the monthly events.
“People are attending because they want to be encouraged amid an increasingly confused culture,” said Dierkes. “They want to be lifted up in faith through authentic, dynamic Catholic preaching, beautiful praise, and music. I’m just thankful the Lord is working through us in this way.”
“These are very joyful and energetic gatherings,” said Fr. Stanley Ulman, pastor of St. Mary of the Hills and vicar of the Pontiac Area Vicariate. “Awaken has put together a devotion in message, music, decoration and atmosphere that’s attracting hundreds to Sunday evening events, when folks are usually pursuing other priorities. These events are Eucharist-based, which is the whole point, and what makes this a truly Catholic experience.
“It is very impressive to see the enthusiasm among attendees,” Fr. Ulman added. “There is a real feeling of peace and joy as people leave — you can see it in their faces. Many are clearly coming away with a more personal relationship with Jesus.”
Awaken events begin at 7 p.m. Sundays and finish by 8:30 p.m., with fellowship and refreshments after. The Awaken cofounders contributed seed money to get the ministry started, and free-will offerings at the events now have the nonprofit operating close to break-even.