WOODSIDE — Each day, Sara Martinez visits a place that is so special to her, she cries when she talks about it.
“I love my Lord and I love it here,” she said, sitting in the adoration chapel at Corpus Christi Church in Woodside and wiping tears from her eyes. “I come here every day. The Lord has been good to me. I must be good to the Lord.”
Martinez, a native of Colombia, was a regular visitor to the parish’s adoration chapel for many years and believed in God’s power so much that she took the extraordinary step of signing up as a volunteer to serve shifts watching over the sacred space.
Because adoration chapels contain monstrances with the Holy Eucharist, at least one person must be present at all times.
As she goes about her day, Martinez tells everyone she encounters about the chapel and the power of prayer.
“I’ve seen two big, big miracles in my life because of this place,” she said.
A few years ago, her 22-year-old daughter developed a serious infection after a medical procedure and was told by doctors that there was nothing they could do. As her daughter grew weaker and weaker, Martinez went to the chapel every day to pray. One day, she had an epiphany that her daughter would recover. Later that day, as she was feeding her pork soup, her daughter stunned her by telling her she felt better. And she has been fine every day since.
Martinez, who preferred not to give her daughter’s name to protect her privacy, said she is certain her child’s life was spared because of her prayers in the adoration chapel.
“It changed my life. It made me become closer to my Lord,” she explained. “It made me become a hopeful person.”
The chapel, located in the parish center at Corpus Christi, down the block from the church, features a large portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe that was donated by a parishioner. The centerpiece of the chapel: a monstrance containing the holy Eucharist.
“The idea here is that there’s the connection between the body of our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy Eucharist and the one which is in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” said the pastor, Msgr. Jonas Achacoso.
The adoration chapel also serves to give parishioners a deeper understanding of one of the basic principles of the Catholic faith — that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist.
That’s also the main point of the Eucharistic Revival, the effort led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that began on the Feast of Corpus Christi in June and is meant to foster an understanding among the faithful that the Eucharist isn’t a symbol, that it is truly the body of Christ.
Martinez, who works as a nanny, wasn’t even a regular churchgoer when she first heard about the adoration chapel at Corpus Christi. A woman approached her outside a Woodside supermarket out of the blue several years ago and told her about the chapel.
“I wanted to see it, so I went,” she recalled. “It’s funny. I never saw that woman again. She was a stranger to me.”
Martinez’s second big life-changing event took place when she was at her lowest point. She was out of a job, was being evicted from her apartment and prayed in the chapel for Jesus Christ to find her a new home. In her prayers, she listed all of the features of her perfect apartment, including the amount of rent she was willing to pay.
After she left the chapel that day, she came across a flier posted on a building wall advertising an apartment for rent. It listed all of the amenities she had prayed for. She knew at that moment that she had found her new home.
The chapel at Corpus Christi originally opened in 2008 and operated 24-7, but the church had to close it in 2020 due to COVID. Even after the pandemic eased and the chapel reopened, the church had difficulty attracting enough volunteers — called adorers — to stand watch over it 24-7.
As a result, the chapel now opens from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and is open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday.
“And so that way, we’re able to fill up the slots for every hour that there should be an adorer in the adoration chapel accompanying our Lord,” Msgr. Achacoso explained.
Msgr. Achacoso has seen many other examples of how the chapel has changed lives and brought people back to the church. He shared the story of a cab driver, an immigrant from Ecuador, who was hailed by a woman on Roosevelt Avenue at 11 p.m. one night. The cabbie was reluctant to take the fare because he was at the end of a long work day and was eager to get home.
But he let the woman into his cab. She requested to be taken to Corpus Christi Church and told him all about the adoration chapel and how she loved praying there. “He was so interested in what she was saying, he decided to come and pray at the chapel. He has been coming ever since,” Msgr. Achacoso said.
And like Martinez’s good samaritan, the cabbie’s passenger was a stranger who changed his life for the better and then disappeared. “He never saw her again,” the pastor said.
The chapel also means a lot for the clergy, Msgr. Achacoso said. “Seeing people kneel down, pray or spend some hours of silence with our Lord is a big help for me because it gives me the opportunity to see that the faith of these people is so impressive,” he added.