How can Catholics' experience of the Eucharist deepen their friendship with Jesus Christ and then inspire them to share that friendship with others? That question lies at the heart of the National Eucharistic Revival's upcoming Year of Parish Revival, said Tim Glemkowski, executive director of the National Eucharistic Congress.
"We're trying to be part of missionary conversion of every parish, every school, every university, every apostolate, every religious order in the United States," he told OSV News.
The three-year Eucharistic Revival is currently in its first year, the Year of Diocesan Revival. The second year, the Year of Parish Revival, begins June 11. While diocesan year efforts have focused on forming priests, diocesan staff and other church leaders, efforts in the parish year will turn to Catholics in the pew, Glemkowski said.
"The full process of evangelization is about a … personal encounter that changes our life -- the invitation to a depth of discipleship," he said. "What we're inviting parishes to do is to follow a similar trajectory."
The revival opened June 19, 2022, on the solemnity of Corpus Christi, a feast that celebrates Jesus' real presence in the Eucharist. Many dioceses marked the day last year with Eucharistic processions. Speaking to the media in November about the revival, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minn., said the beauty and diversity expressed in those processions "capture what is at the heart of this movement, which is a movement that we seek to invite people to a transformative encounter with Christ in the Eucharist that they might be healed, unified and sent on mission."
The diocesan year has included the launch of Heart of the Revival weekly e-newsletter (available in English and Spanish), expanded content on the National Eucharistic Revival's website (eucharisticrevival.org) and the training of more than 50 priests from around the U.S. to be Eucharistic preachers. Those priests have been primarily preaching at events for priests and diocesan leaders, Bishop Cozzens told OSV News Dec. 30.
Following the parish year, the Eucharistic Revival's third and final year, 2024-2025, is the Year of the National Eucharistic Congress and Missionary Sending. A National Eucharistic Congress is expected to draw more than 80,000 people to Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024. Organizers have compared the event to World Youth Day, with prayer and liturgies, catechesis for individuals and families, and a festival-like atmosphere. Registration is expected to open in February and fill quickly, Glemkowski said.
The National Eucharistic Congress nonprofit, for which Glemkowski is executive director, formed in 2022 to plan the national event. Bishop Cozzens serves as chairman of its board of directors.
The idea for a Eucharistic revival was conceived while Bishop Robert E. Barron -- then an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and now head of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota -- was chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, and after a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that only 31 percent of Catholics understood Catholic teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ.
When Bishop Cozzens became the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis' chairman in 2020, he continued to move ahead with plans for the revival, and in 2021 the U.S. Catholic bishops voted to approve the initiative. In November 2022, the bishops elected Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis, in whose archdiocese the National Eucharistic Congress will take place, to succeed Bishop Cozzens as chairman of the evangelization and catechesis committee in November 2023.
An unpublished study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., recently found that 40 percent of Catholics said they believe the Church's teaching on the real presence, Bishop Cozzens told OSV News. While that's a higher percentage than the 2019 Pew study found, only 15 percent of Catholics CARA surveyed said they go to Mass every Sunday, Bishop Cozzens said.
That 25 percent discrepancy shows there are Catholics who, despite their catechesis, "haven't encountered Jesus as a real, living person in the Eucharist," he said. "And that encounter is what changes everything."
Bishop Cozzens hopes the Year of Parish Revival starting in June particularly reaches those Catholics. "Maybe their kids go to a Catholic school or they bring their kids to religious ed. Maybe they come to Mass once a month. They think there's something here for them, but they haven't been fully brought in," he said.
That's one reason the parish year will emphasize small groups "where they can begin to make friends, and they can share faith," the bishop said.
"Faith grows through witnesses, and so when they see their friend or someone they know in their small group talking about their faith, their encounter (with Jesus), that can open them up to the encounter," he continued.
In November, Bishop Cozzens described the revival's goal as creating "a missionary conversion in the United States."
"What that means is that the average person in the pew sees that their job is not just to come to Mass and live their faith well," he told OSV News in December, "but their job is to look around at who's not coming to Mass and begin to ask, 'How can I help and begin to invite people into the Church?'"
"It's the cultural shift that the church has to make from maintenance to mission," he continued. "We've been in maintenance mode for 500 years, and the culture walked away from us, and we're still in maintenance mode. … So, the Eucharistic Revival isn't just about inviting people to renew their own relationship with the Eucharist. It's always renewal for mission. It's encounter leading to mission."
Glemkowski said one of the challenges Eucharistic Revival organizers face is planning logistics while not limiting the work of the Holy Spirit.
"If God is inviting this church -- and I really believe he is -- for three years to just reflect on and reencounter Jesus in the Eucharist -- if he's leading us there, then he'll see it through," Glemkowski said. "The fruit of the Eucharistic Revival is about God showing up in the way that he wants to show up."
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