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Wisconsin order of nuns have been praying nonstop since 1878


LA CROSSE, Wis. — Flooding, snowstorms, a flu outbreak, even a fire — any of those might have slowed a group of Wisconsin nuns who say none of it has kept their order from praying nonstop for hundreds of thousands of people over the past 137 years.

The La Crosse-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adorationclaim to have been praying night and day for the ill and the suffering longer than anyone in the United States — since 11 a.m. on Aug. 1, 1878.

“When I walk into the chapel, I can feel this tangible presence kind of hit (me),” said Sister Sarah Hennessey, who helps coordinate the prayers.

The tradition of perpetual Eucharistic adoration — uninterrupted praying before what is believed to be the body of Christ — dates to 1226 in France, according to Sister Marlene Weisenbeck. Catholic orders around the world have done it since then. It grew in popularity in 19th century and again under Pope John Paul II, said the Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University.

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