Adoration apostolate marks 50 years of all-night vigils

STONEHAM -- Since 1972, Barbara Keville has promoted all-night vigils of eucharistic adoration in parishes throughout the archdiocese. Now, after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, her apostolate is preparing to mark its 50th anniversary.

What makes this apostolate unique, Keville said, is that they have a program with more than just adoration. Each vigil begins and ends with the celebration of Mass, and includes other prayers and devotions, such as recitations of the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy chaplet, and consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They also have a break for food and fellowship, and share resources such as books, films, or other catechetical materials.

"We didn't only want to have a eucharistic vigil for adoration, but to educate the people why we're there," Keville said in a May 11 interview.

This drive may have stemmed from her own work as an educator: she was a director of religious education and a teacher for immigrants at Lowell High School before her retirement.

"The more I educate the people, the more I educate myself," Keville said.

The apostolate grew out of her work for the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, now called the World Apostolate of Our Lady of Fatima. In 1972, the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary coincided for the first time on the Church calendar, taking place on June 9 and 10 respectively. The organization asked Keville if she would hold an all-night vigil as part of their national plan. It was not something she had done before, but she prayed about it, went on a silent retreat, and decided she would try.

The first all-night eucharistic vigil was held June 9-10, 1972, at St. Agnes Church in Arlington. Jesuits from Boston College helped Keville organize and promote the event, and then-newly ordained Bishop Lawrence J. Riley celebrated the opening Mass.

After the success of that first vigil, Keville brought similar events to different parishes each month, helping communities to set up their own adoration programs. The vigils drew between 30 and 40 regular attendees, who in turn would bring even more participants.

"I've been blessed so much to have this apostolate," Keville said.

Alice Matchem, a resident of Middleboro who formerly worked for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, was present at the very first vigil and attended them faithfully for years.

She said that the more she went, "the more I realized I was in the true presence of Jesus, and that gave me a lot of strength."

"It seemed like the longer you spent time with Jesus in the tabernacle, you get more energized. It's just a wonderful experience," Matchem said, speaking to The Pilot on May 13.

Different vigils have been dedicated to themes and causes, such as the message of Fatima, pro-life causes, vocations, St. Padre Pio, Venerable Patrick Peyton, Mother Teresa, and Pope St. John Paul II.

The vigils continued until the coronavirus pandemic caused the closure of churches in 2020. Even after churches began to open their doors and hold events again, health problems prevented Keville from restarting the regular monthly vigils.

The June 3-4 vigil will mark 50 years since the beginning of the apostolate. It will be held at St. Patrick Parish in Stoneham, where Keville's son, Father Joseph Keville, serves as parochial vicar. The vigil will begin at 9 p.m. on June 3 and conclude at 5 a.m. on June 4.

Taking place just weeks before the Jesus Is Here Eucharistic Congress, the anniversary vigil will be dedicated to the clergy and focus on Eucharistic catechesis. Keville is trying to arrange for various devotions to be included in the programming, such as an Our Lady of Fatima statue, a Cloak of St. Joseph statue, and the exhibit exploring Blessed Carlo Acutis' eucharistic miracles.

Keville expressed deep gratitude to the bishops and priests who have been involved in the vigils, as well as to The Pilot for helping to promote them.

"No words could express how grateful we are to everyone who took part in this effort," Keville said.

Those interested in learning how to hold an all-night vigil can contact Barbara Keville at 978-453-7446 or