The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock
Deacon Marcelino Vazquez holds up the monstrance during eucharistic adoration in February at St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville. Adoration is one of the ways many parishes have grown closer during the parish revival year. Beth McClinton.

Parishes are deepening faith, bonds during revival year

Churches across state implement community spiritual events; strengthen faith, bonds

Published: February 15, 2024      
Courtesy Taffy Council
Catholics pray in the perpetual eucharistic adoration chapel at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton Feb. 7. Making time for prayer every day is one of the ways to create a more prayerful life this Lent.

As the sun rose June 11, 2023, Catholics had the opportunity to celebrate not one, but two special occasions. Sharing the same day as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi was the inauguration of the Parish Revival Year.

The Parish Revival year is the second year of a three-year initiative by U.S. bishops designed to inspire, educate and unite Catholics in Jesus and the Eucharist. This three-year revival, known as the National Eucharistic Revival, started June 11, 2022. 

While many Catholics wait until Lent to focus on their relationship with Christ, parishes all across Arkansas have been hard at work to strengthen their parish’s community while deepening their understanding of Jesus and the Eucharist.


Raising awareness

For many parishes, the first step was raising awareness and educating parishioners about the importance of the Parish Revival Year and the Eucharistic Revival as a whole.

Christy Trantina, director of adult faith formation at St. Joseph Church in Conway, said she used multiple outlets for spreading the word.

“Our first goal was simply education and awareness of the Revival effort,” Trantina said. “In December, we began sharing information with our community through bulletins, social media and in-person. I presented to our adult weekly groups and school faculty to tell them about the three-year plan, the Congress, the pilgrimages and processions and to share parish activities offered in 2024.”

Elizabeth Ganey, marketing and events coordinator for St. Stephen Church in Bentonville, like Trantina, wanted parishioners to know the importance of the celebration before diving in.

“We kicked things off in June of 2023 with a Corpus Christi Festival and procession and also had the traveling display of Eucharistic Miracles here for a month,” Ganey said.  

In addition to a speaker series throughout the year on various parts of the Eucharist, St. Stephen Church has held retreats and reconciliation.

“In the fall of 2023 we also had a full-day Eucharistic Revival Retreat and have had several ‘Revival Nights’ which are evenings of holy hours and reconciliation,” Ganey said. “Our next Revival Night will be April 10.”

“For the Year of Eucharistic Revival, our planning committee worked through the Leader’s Playbook provided on the Revival website,” Trantina said. “We wanted to offer activities for our parish without trying to do too much. Our current weekly communications contain the Eucharistic Revival logo along with inspirational videos, graphics and resources to keep the Eucharist in the front of our minds. 

“Our pastors are referencing Eucharist Revival in their homilies. We have invited our parishioners to share testimony of what the Eucharist means to them, or any special Eucharistic experiences; these will be recorded in writing or on video and shared with our community.”

Taffy Council, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton, who has helped spearhead the parish revival year at her parish, said the resources provided for the National Eucharistic Revival are incredibly helpful. 

“It’s absolutely amazing. They have homilies (on the resource website) so your liturgical planning commissions can move forward, as well as the small group study and other suggestions,” Council said. “The wealth of resources is just amazing.”

Scripture studies

Several parishes are also having in depth talks and speaker series related to the Eucharist and the Bible. St. Joseph Church in Tontitown experienced a three-night talk series, led by Father John Marconi, on the Passover, the Last Supper and the Mass Feb. 7-9. 

Other parishes are also diving deep into Scripture while building their community bonds.

Peggy Siefert, a young catechist and Scripture study leader, said parishioners at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Bella Vista are engaged in Scripture studies and talks to grow in their faith.

“We have been focusing on the Eucharistic Revival in our parish by offering Scripture studies during the last two years on the Mass and the Eucharist through Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Scripture Studies,” Siefert said. “We have also offered several adult education presentations on the Eucharist.”

Siefert, like Ganey, said that St. Bernard of Clairvaux is also taking advantage of retreat opportunities.

“We are having a one-day retreat in our parish Feb. 12, where Father Mike Sinkler will be presenting on 'what is really happening' during the Mass,” Siefert said. “We have also been praying aloud the special Eucharistic Revival prayer for parishes that was provided by the National Eucharistic Revival group after Communion at all of our weekend Masses.”


Beth McClinton, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville who has helped organize parish revival events, said monthly communal adoration, as well as praise and worship music, have created a unique opportunity in her community. 

“During (adoration), we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament with praise and worship music as a community. Participants can sing along or just sit quietly,” McClinton said. “Sometimes, we offer a brief directive on what we are praying about or contemplating. Sometimes we offer a short questionnaire with questions that lead us to our Lord or maybe even repentance. We often have confession available as well as a prayer team available to pray with anyone who needs prayer.

Our deacon faithfully comes at the end of our time and leads us with the procession of our Lord to return him to our chapel.”

McClinton said the event has been enjoyed by Anglo and Hispanic parishioners, bringing the community even further together.

“We have both English group and Spanish group doing similar holy hours at different times in the month. It has been such a beautiful time with our Lord as a community,” McClinton said. “Many have shared that they have experienced a deeper and more personal experience with the Blessed Sacrament.” 

Council has also planned several adorations called “Encounter Nights.”

“It’s an opportunity for the entire parish to come together to experience, in a very personal way, an encounter with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament,” Council said. “It’s framed within the context of Benediction, so you begin with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In our parish, one of the goals is to allow people to have the sacrament of reconciliation during these Encounter Nights.” 

With each month, the number of attendees has grown. Council said these opportunities are provided in English and Spanish. 

Getting the youth involved

Adults aren’t the only ones getting a chance to grow in their faith. Kaitlyn Hartman, youth faith formation director at St. Joseph Church in Conway, said her parish is hosting a children’s Eucharistic Revival in March.

“Our hope is that our youngest parishioners walk away from Christ Alive Night with a deeper connection with Jesus,” Hartman said. 

Christ Alive Night is a children’s eucharistic revival for students in kindergarten to third grade. 

“Most of the students in attendance at this event have never received the Eucharist before, but that does not mean that the Eucharist cannot play an important role in the lives of young children,” Hartman said. “The Eucharist is for everyone. We hope that students walk away knowing that the Eucharist is truly Jesus, so they can experience Jesus’ love in a more tangible way during Mass. Students will participate in lots of crafts, games and activities and a few silly skits. We will end the night with praise and worship as well as a trip to our Eucharist adoration chapel, where the students will get to visit Jesus.”

Council has created a children’s adoration event with some of the resources provided by the National Eucharistic Revival office.

“It’s a little spark that has caught fire, and it’s absolutely beautiful,” Council said. 

Making a pilgrimage

Siefert said parishioners at St. Bernard Church are preparing to attend the National Eucharistic Congress.

“The most exciting event for a group of our parishioners is that we are planning a trip to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July 2024,” Siefert said. “It is my understanding that we are currently the only parish in the Diocese of Little Rock who are organizing a trip to the Congress. We have been contacted by several pilgrims from parishes in northeast Arkansas, asking if they could join us. We would welcome any Arkansas Catholics who would be willing and able to travel to Bella Vista by Tuesday morning, July 16 to contact our parish and inquire about joining our trip. We have seats left on our bus, and hotel rooms are still available.”

Deb Troxel, the parish point person for Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hot Springs Village, has helped organize several events at her parish for the revival year. 

“In May our Ladies of the Sacred Heart are sponsoring a mission with Father John Marconi as the presenter,” Troxel said. “His presentation will focus on different aspects of the Eucharist. He has done this presentation at several other parishes. The core team will be promoting the National Pilgrimage and National Eucharist Congress more over the next several months.”


Jesus and the Eucharist

Many parishes are taking advantage of the online “Jesus and the Eucharist” video series, such as St. Michael Church in Van Buren, St. Joseph Church in Conway and St. Paul the Apostle Church in Pocahontas.

“We are currently offering the seven-week course Jesus and the Eucharist. We have about 100 participants, and those affected by the winter months are encouraged to watch the series on their own at home if needed,” Trantina said. “We are providing course links and resources in hopes of reaching as many people as possible.”

Parishes are scheduling the culmination of their events to fall just before Easter.

“Our series will end just before Easter … we have scheduled a Day of Recollection (mini-retreat) with Tom Elliott in April,” Trantina said. “We have also scheduled an Encounter Night Holy Hour, an evening of adoration and worship to facilitate an encounter with Jesus. Outside of these offerings we are providing prayer cards, books, study materials and resources all geared toward encountering the love of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

“We have about 80 folks signed up and expect more to come that have not formally signed up. I am really excited to see the movement of the Holy Spirit among all those involved,” Troxel said. 


Desire to lead others

Parishioners who are spearheading efforts in their parish said organizing these events mattered to them for several reasons. 

“Since retiring, I have had the blessing of having the opportunity to return to my grade-school-days experience of attending daily Mass several times a week,” Siefert said. “I have also had more time to attend Scripture study and to participate in groups following Father Mike Schmitz and his Bible in a Year and Catechism in a Year podcasts.”

McClinton said opportunities like the ones provided by her parish can spark personal change.

“I believe it is important that the parish provide practical ways to experience the Holy Eucharist either for the first time or for the first time in a manner that leads them to a personal response to our Lord in the Sacrament,” McClinton said. “In these types of activities it becomes more than object the reality of Christ himself is made known. I think based on the growth in numbers each month in attendance and personal testimony that those who come are appreciative.” 

Troxel said it’s important for parishes to participate in the revival because some people are less connected now than they once were. 

“Coming together to share this time in prayer, sharing and socializing hopefully will form a closer parish ‘family.’ It gives us a chance to get to know each other on different level than just greeting each other at Mass,” Troxel said. “Those that are new to the parish will get to meet others and feel more welcome and connected. When Jesus chose his disciples, they formed a small community which grew as they gathered and shared with each other-their lives changed and their faith in Jesus grew. When one feels connected to others in Spirit, the love of Christ can more readily flow into action.”

“I think I am really like most Catholics, in that the more I have learned about Jesus in the Eucharist, the more I want to learn,” Siefert said. “The more we learn about Jesus in the Eucharist, the more we live the Eucharist. The more we live the Eucharist, the more we love the Eucharist. And when we love Jesus in the Eucharist, we will never leave him.”

Hartman said, “The Eucharist gives us life as Catholics. There are so many people within the Catholic Church, both young and old, who struggle to believe that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Jesus, because it is a mystery. When parishes provide opportunities for parishioners to encounter Christ in the Eucharist, be that through frequent opportunities for eucharistic adoration, more Mass opportunities, educational opportunities or events centered around the Eucharist, revival can and will happen within parishes. Our Church is alive because we have the opportunity to be fed by the ultimate source of life — Jesus.”

“We already have a very active parish at Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Spirit moving others to care for their brothers and sisters of humanity,” Troxel said. “The hope is that more Catholics will come to a deeper appreciation and love in and for the Eucharist and what a most precious gift that God has given us. Jesus's passion and death on the cross was a great sacrifice — a sacrifice of Love given at the Last Supper. What a great love story.


CORRECTION: The original version of this story referred to Deb Troxel as Deborah Vogel. Additionally, she was listed as a parishioner instead of the parish point person for Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hot Springs Village.

Bishop Taylor wants you to know more about your faith & the Church: Sign up for Arkansas Catholic's free digital edition.

Please read our Comments Policy before posting.

Article comments powered by Disqus