The first thing is the quiet.
In the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kennewick, you can almost hear the candles flicker.
You can hear a pin drop.
It’s a place of stillness, of refuge.
A place to pray, to adore.
And for Carol LeCompte, 66, of Kennewick, it’s a second home.
She helped start and coordinates the perpetual adoration devotion and ministry at the church on South Garfield Street, near Lampson Stadium.
Through the program, which launched in 1997, about 200 volunteers take turns praying and worshiping God in the chapel around the clock.
Shifts are usually once a week for an hour, although LeCompte is there more often.
She frequently fills in for other volunteers in addition to taking her own scheduled turns.
I’m coming here in the quiet of the night, and I just — I love it. I can’t see ever giving it up.
For her, the practice is renewing, even though her shifts are often in the middle of the night.
“You cannot come into our Lord’s presence and not be changed,” she said. “He has a subtle, gentle effect upon the soul.”
At 2 a.m. on a recent morning, LeCompte sat quietly in a pew. Displayed on the altar, in a special container called a monstrance, was a piece of unleavened bread called the host. Catholics believe the bread becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ through consecration during Mass.
LeCompte was raised Catholic.
The Vancouver, Wash., native attended Catholic school through eighth grade.
Her higher education was steeped in Catholicism too. She attended St. Martin’s College near Olympia.
While there, she met future husband Ralph LeCompte. They’ve been married nearly 42 years, with six adult children.
For Carol LeCompte, faith isn’t merely part of her life. It’s the center of it.
At St. Joseph parish, she coordinates perpetual adoration and helps with a sacrament prep program.
She’s also become part of the secular arm of the Discalced Carmelites religious order, which is focused on prayer and prayerful life.
She loves God for so many reasons, she said.
Here’s just one: “It’s humbling to me, and awe-inspiring, that God — who created all of the universe — would not only humble himself to take on our humanity, but he didn’t want to leave us alone. He wanted to provide for us, so he continually makes himself available to us in the appearance of bread and wine,” she said. “He took on our humanity so that we can take on his divinity. To think about that...”
200 Number of volunteers who take turns praying, worshiping God in the Kennewick chapel around the clock
LeCompte has a soft, serene way about her.
Her voice is gentle and kind.
One of the many things she’s thankful for, she said, is that she hasn’t struggled personally with religious doubt.
“I did have a brother who was away from the faith (for a time). And I had a cousin,” she said.
But, “my earliest memories are of going to church and receiving the sacraments and praying. Just having that awareness of God,” she said. “I never wanted to go away.”
LeCompte likes the early morning hours at the chapel.
Her favorite is when it snows.
“I come out and the parking lot lights — it glitters like a Christmas card,” she said. “Just to come away and be with our Lord and love him, and knowing how he loves us back. I can never love him as much as he loves us. I’m coming here in the quiet of the night, and I just — I love it. I can’t see ever giving it up.”
As the clock hit 3 a.m. on the recent morning, LeCompte sat in a pew, near the altar.
She’d been at the chapel for two hours already, and planned to stay another hour still.
She prayed quietly, and a smile spread across her face.
A look of adoration, of love.
24 Hours series
Over the next several months, Tri-City Herald photographer Sarah Gordon and reporter Sara Schilling plan to document 24 hours in the Tri-City area, spending a different hour of the day with a different person.
They’ve sought diverse subjects — people from different backgrounds, with different jobs, different interests, different stories.
The men and women they’ve found reflect the Tri-City community. They are the community.
So, what will their hours tell us — about who they are, about who we are?
We hope you’ll follow along and find out.
The first six installments of the series — we’re calling it 24 Hours — will run in print and online this week, covering midnight through 5 a.m.
Watch for three more installments down the road.