WASHINGTON (CNS) — Belief in the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist is waning among professed Catholics, and the U.S. bishops are trying to do something about it.
According to a 2019 Pew Research Center study, roughly two-thirds of U.S. Catholics do not believe that the bread and wine at Mass become Christ’s body and blood during the consecration — a core dogma of the Catholic faith and the “source and summit” of the church’s life, according to the catechism.
In response, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is initiating a three-year grassroots revival of devotion and faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, culminating in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States since 1975. The congress will take place in Indianapolis in 2024.
On Sunday, June 19, the feast of Corpus Christi, the National Eucharistic Revival will be launched, with eucharistic processions taking place in archdioceses and dioceses around the country. Following these eucharistic processions, U.S. dioceses will focus on how to help Catholics reflect more deeply on the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church.
In the Diocese of Green Bay, Bishop David Ricken will lead the local Eucharistic procession from St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, 140 S. Monroe Ave., to St. Mary of the Angels Church at 650 S. Irwin Ave. The procession of 1.2 miles will travel down Doty Street to Irwin Avenue to St. Mary of the Angels Church, and begins after the 9 a.m. Mass at the cathedral.
The procession will conclude with benediction and reposition. A bus will be available to bring people back to the cathedral starting at 11 a.m. All are welcome to join for the Mass and/or to walk the Eucharistic procession. Fr. Brian Belongia, rector of the cathedral, will join Bishop Ricken in the procession.
In the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., Jenny Haug, assistant director of catechesis for the office of faith formation, talked about how their grassroots revival of devotion and faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist will begin the day following their Eucharistic procession.The office, which is leading the revival initiative for the diocese, will be collaborating with parishes and the priests in the diocese to find a point person in each parish, she told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.
“It is going to be three years diving deeper into the meaning of the Eucharist through catechesis, liturgical celebrations and prayer,” Haug explained.
“The Eucharist is at the very heart of our faith,” Archbishop Shelton Fabre of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., told The Record, the archdiocesan newspaper. “It is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, how the Lord strengthens us to do everything he has entrusted us to do.”
The U.S. bishops approved plans for the revival and the congress last November during their fall general assembly in Baltimore. Both are being spearheaded by the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, chaired by Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minn.
“We are really aware in these times that we live that the church needs to become more missionary. The culture itself doesn’t support what we do anymore as Catholics,” Bishop Cozzens said in a statement. “All Catholics are invited into a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, especially those Catholics who don’t fully understand the power of the Eucharist.”
As people are seeking deeper connection, more than ever before, “this is a time not to be ashamed of the Gospel, but to proclaim it from the rooftops,” he said.
Among other components of the National Eucharistic Revival is the selection of 58 priests as National Eucharistic Preachers. They will soon be fanning out to dioceses across the country.
Representing individual dioceses and religious orders, their ’hope is to inspire people to become better aware of the Eucharist in daily life, said Fr. Jorge Torres, a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., who is serving as a specialist for the revival at the bishops’ conference.
The preachers will begin to respond to invitations from dioceses to speak at clergy convocations, gatherings of diocesan and Catholic school leaders, diocesan holy hours, and youth and young adult events to help build stronger connections with the Eucharist and build interest in the congress.