Last Thanksgiving, Andy Petty of Gretna saw something he'll never forget. Nearly a year later he can remember it like it was yesterday.
It all started when Petty visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Adoration Chapel in Rivertown. Little did he know that someone was waiting for him there.
Petty, who belonged to the Worldwide Church of God, was only attending OLPH to be with his fiancée, Ina. When Ina said, "lets go to the chapel" he thought she meant wedding chapel.
"I had never been to an adoration chapel, never even heard of it," acknowledged Petty. He had seen the Eucharist before in the church when Father Miles was showing it around so he knew what it looked like. The 56-year-old said he was so unfamiliar with the host that he called it a cracker at the time.
Andy Petty, shown here with wife Ina
Petty never had a clue that his life was about to change as he entered the Adoration Chapel at Our Lady of Perpetual Help that fall day.
When he looked at the host, he was surprised by an image of a "bearded man" looking back at him, clear as day. Petty didn't realize he was having a vision, considered by the faithful to be a blessing. He thought the image was a projection and tried to see where it was coming from.
"I saw a bearded figure about from shoulders up right on the host, I was looking around to see where the projection was coming from." Petty searched the room and found nothing.
"My fiancée was praying at the time so I slid down the pew and got out of my mouth, ‘Do you see that figure?' She said, ‘see what?' I said, ‘It's right there don't you see it?'
Ina saw nothing.
Petty was dumbfounded, coming from a scientific/geological background, (he is employed by the U.S. Department of Interior as a petroleum geologist) he was not inclined to believe something that could not be proven. Spiritual visions definitely fell into this category.
Ina thought differently. "My wife (they were married in August) was all excited and began telling the whole family that I was seeing Jesus," he sighed.
Petty was cautious to jump on the bandwagon, "I still didn't know what had happened and called the image a bearded man -- not Jesus."
Besides, said Petty, his church taught that Jesus had short hair, not long hair and a beard. He had been a member of the Worldwide Church of God for 40 years and for 30 of those years they preached that the Pope and the Catholic Church were the antichrist.
Petty called his pastor and told him what had happened. "My pastor told me I had received a special gift and gave me his blessing if I wanted to become Catholic." That's exactly what Petty did.
Still not knowing exactly what to make of it, Petty saw the image again in the Church one day. "I finally realized that I had to talk to the priest and sign up for adoration duty," he said. He and Ina now live in Metairie and have been going every week since. "I've never missed a week except when I went on vacation."
Visitors have also seen Jesus in the Eucharist at the Adoration chapel in Ama.
One of them is Gail Decker of Luling, who has been a regular at the chapel since it first opened 17 years ago. She goes to the chapel every Monday for one hour. "One day it was a holiday and I had so much to do it was hard for me to go," says Decker. As she began praying, she says the Lamb of God appeared on the host.
"I think Jesus was rewarding me for coming," she says.
Anyone can come to the chapels to pray. Locally over 500 people from all walks of life have committed to praying at the chapels for one hour a week. Most of them have not seen the face of Jesus in the Eucharist like Decker and Petty, but what they have experienced in the chapel is a much greater gift.
Decker and most adorers will tell you that they keep coming back because they can feel a very real presence of Jesus in these chapels. His presence is felt by anyone who can make himself humble enough and small enough to recognize it. Once an adorer can get over himself enough to offer sincere praise and thanks to God, his soul becomes overwhelmed with peace and happiness. This is the heavenly experience that adorer's keep coming back for and what they mean when they say " Have a good hour."
Those interested in visiting a perpetual adoration chapel can go to St. Marks on River Road in Ama, the St. Charles Borremeo chapel behind the church in Destrehan or Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Short St. in Kenner (across from the Airport).