XLT provides Catholic adorers of all ages an opportunity to spend quality time in front of the Blessed Sacrament
BY TERRY DICKSON
GULFPORT – Every Tuesday at 7pm, a small but devoted group of Catholics gathers at St. John the Evangelist Church to spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, an experience that is enhanced by songs of praise and worship.
XLT it is a program that has been taking place in the Diocese of Biloxi for nearly two decades.
“It wasn’t actually called XLT then. It was just Praise and Worship,” said Darlene Previto, who has been involved from the very beginning.
“It actually started in this parish so we kind of feel that we’ve come full circle.”
XLT stands for “Exalt.”
“And that’s basically what we do,” said Previto, who sings at the weekly gathering. “We do praise and worship. It’s a very intimate time with the Lord because it’s adoration and nothing’s required of you. People just come and sit and pray however they are most comfortable praying.”
Before coming back to its original home at St. John the Evangelist, XLT was also held at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Ocean Springs, St. James Parish in Gulfport and Nativity BVM Cathedral in Biloxi.
St. John pastor Father Ryan McCoy hears confessions before, during and after adoration, while Deacon Rick Conason gives the Benediction.
Father Ryan’s been great about being here every week for confession but, if he’s not available, then we just let the people know,” said Previto.
“He has had to stay overtime. One night, he heard two solid hours of confessions. It’s really one of the fruits of XLT.”
XLT is also held at the annual diocesan youth celebration.
“On Saturday night, we do have an hour of adoration and praise and worship with confessions going at the same time,” said Previto.
“The priests who have shared with me during that time have said that the confessions are very fruitful. They are very in-depth. They really feel that it’s being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that kind of opens you up and allows you to come and get in touch with yourself and what needs to be addressed in your life.”
Originally geared toward the younger crowd, XLT is now open to people of all ages.
Previto said some parents have started coming to XLT with their teenagers.
“People of all ages are enjoying it and are finding it fruitful,” she said. “It’s open to anybody. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do anything. You can come for five minutes or stay for the whole hour. We have some young people that will come, stay long enough to go to confession and leave.”
However, it seems to especially attract teens.
“Music is a second language to young people,” said Previto, who teaches Religion at St. Patrick Catholic High School.
“It’s not all about the music. It’s about the Blessed Sacrament. However, from what they tell me, the music enhances their worship. It kind of puts into words things that they are feeling in their hearts. It helps them put into words the things they want to pray, so they actually pray the music.”
Previto said she’s very meticulous about selecting the music.
“I make sure, when I pick out stuff, that it’s faithful to the teachings of the Church,” she said. “It’s nothing wacky or out there.”
Previto said she enjoys being a part of XLT because “it enhances my own faith life and my ability to minister.”
“Somebody use to call us ‘worship leaders,’ but I read an article that said we’re not ‘worship leaders,’ we’re lead worshipers,’” she said.
“I like that much better. I might be up there leading the music, but I’m worshipping as much as they are.”
On a rainy April night, about 40 people gathered at St. John for XLT, including a group of high schoolers, who took up a couple of pews in the front of the church.
St. Patrick senior Shelby Martin, 18, has been attending XLT for four years.
“XLT has changed me. It’s led me to encounter Christ in so many ways,” she said. He’s poured out his mercy on me in the confessional and he pours his grace upon me through the Eucharist. You can feel the love in the presence of the Eucharist here and through the worship band. He’s present everywhere you turn, especially through each other and the fellowship we share afterwards. It’s changed who I am. It’s led me to see God’s call for my life – where to go to College and what to major in. It’s led me to so many different decisions and helped me discern different choices I’ve had to make in my life. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without Tuesday nights and XLT.”
Darren Frey, 18, is a senior at Ocean Springs High School said XLT keeps him spiritually grounded.
“We live in this time where there are so many noises around you everywhere,” he said.
“For me, Tuesday night is just a time where I can have my own inner peace in the presence of Jesus and surrounded by my friends. This past senior year has been kind of a hectic year for me, so I’ve been kind of looking forward to Tuesday every week. I know that I can be in his presence and I can go to confession where I can encounter his mercy. It’s those moments that have helped lead me to where I am today. It’s helped me to witness to other people and brought me the friendship of all my friends that I have now. Without XLT, I don’t think I would be who I am today at all or even being close to being on SEARCH team and Spirit Movers.”
Roger Parker is far removed from his senior year of high school but, during a recent confession, his confessor urged him to pray to the Holy Spirit for a pure heart.
“I thought, what better place can I go to pray for that than XLT,” said Parker.
So, Parker knelt before the monstrance and prayed for a pure heart.
“It was as though, instantly, he heard my prayer and he answered it immediately,” Parker said.
“I also relied on the help of St. Joseph and, believe it or not, they’re answering my prayers.”
During Lent, an average of 60 people attended XLT. Attendance has since waned.
“We still get 20 or 30 each week,” said Previto.
However, Previto is reminded of a saying that often comes to mind.
“The Lord said feed my sheep, not count them. So, if there’s one person here. We’re going to do it for that one person,” she said.