November 26, 2021

Bishops choose archdiocese to host national eucharistic congress in 2024

Janine Schorsch (Submitted photo)

Indy’s 284-foot tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument serves as the cultural heart of Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of Visit Indy)

By Sean Gallagher

The U.S. bishops have selected the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to host the first national eucharistic congress in 48 years.

It will take place on July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis and is expected to draw at least 80,000 from across the country.

The bishops voted on the proposal on Nov. 17 in Baltimore during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, speaking before the bishops in Baltimore, told them in reference to the Indianapolis 500, “If you give us the green flag to this project, we’ll be ready with the checkered flag.”

The 2024 eucharistic congress will be the culminating event of a three-year eucharistic revival planned by the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis and which is scheduled to begin on June 16, 2022, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known as the feast of Corpus Christi.

The revival will begin at the local and diocesan levels with such initiatives as eucharistic adoration and processions, the development of parish teams of revival leaders and conferences on the Eucharist.

Local, diocesan and regional revival events will then lead to the eucharistic congress in Indianapolis in 2024, the first to be held since one took place in 1976 in Philadelphia.

In an interview with The Criterion after the bishops selected the archdiocese as the host for the congress, Archbishop Thompson said the event in Indianapolis could be a pivotal moment for the Church in the U.S.—if it enters fully into the eucharistic revival.

“Much will depend upon how well we prepare and pilgrimage to that moment and are prayerfully attentive to how the Holy Spirit will lead us beyond that moment,” Archbishop Thompson said. “The revival and the congress could have a profound effect on the renewal and enrichment of our eucharistic identity, witness and mission as Church, stewards and disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, the committee chairman who was also recently named by Pope Francis as the new shepherd of the Crookston, Minn., Diocese, spoke about the revival in an interview published in The Criterion in September.

He noted that the eucharistic revival was developed in response to recent trends in the Church and the broader society. Polling data in recent years suggest that a majority of Catholics in the United States no longer believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Mass attendance has also declined among Catholics in the U.S., a trend affected by the suspension of the public celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. When churches began to reopen, many dioceses made efforts to invite Catholics to return to the Mass.

Bishop Cozzens hopes the eucharistic revival can build on these efforts and inspire a wider eucharistic movement.

“Now we are ready and eager to engage the people who come to Mass daily, weekly or perhaps who still participate virtually to come to a deeper awareness of what the Church teaches about Communion,” said Bishop Cozzens in his initial Criterion interview. “It is not an ‘it’ in holy Communion. It is a real person: Jesus Christ.”

He also spoke of the goal of commissioning thousands of “eucharistic missionaries” at the congress in Indianapolis.

“These men and women will be sent forth to continue the movement in parishes, the Church and society at large,” he said. “They will help those who are currently attending Mass frequently to deepen their faith, as well as reach those on the margins who are far from Christ. We also want to hold a special place for the family in all of this.”

At the Baltimore meeting, Bishop Cozzens explained that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was selected among two other archdioceses—Atlanta and Denver—that sought to host the congress because of its experience in hosting large events like the National Catholic Youth Conference. Indianapolis, he also noted, has the venues, hotel space and scheduling availability for such a large event. It is also within a day’s drive of approximately 50% of the U.S. population.

Archbishop Thompson agreed.

“Our people are well equipped to pull this off, and to do so with incredible class and Hoosier hospitality,” he said. “This is an opportunity to really draw from the rich fabric of our Catholic parishes, schools, health care, outreach and associations. We are blessed with wonderful Catholic individuals and families.”

At the meeting in Baltimore, Bishop Cozzens said the eucharistic congress will be structured in a way similar to World Youth Day, where multiple events will take place over a series of days in multiple venues.

He reflected on the impact of such events in an interview with The Criterion after the Nov. 15-18 USCCB meeting.

“These large Catholic events are unique moments to experience the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit, as we gather to share the incredible gift of our faith,” Bishop Cozzens said. “They allow us to experience a small taste of the universality of our Church.

“Worshipping with Catholics from all over the country and from many different cultures throughout the United States shows us the true depth of the love of Christ which unites us. We are all different, but all one in our need for Christ’s transforming love in the Eucharist.”

In that same interview, Bishop Cozzens said that he hoped the eucharistic congress “will set a fire that I hope will burn in our country for many years.”

“As Pope Francis has said, now is the time for every Catholic to understand that they are called to be missionaries of the love of Jesus,” Bishop Cozzens continued. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of that mission. Come to Indianapolis in 2024 to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist and to have your faith set on fire.”

Archbishop Thompson shared this hope, foreseeing how the eucharistic congress can deepen the faith of Catholics in central and southern Indiana.

“The eucharistic celebration is the source and summit of all that we are about as Catholics—our identity, mission, ministries and services,” he said. “A personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ is essential to that identity and mission as individuals and communities of believers.

“While there are many ways to experience this personal encounter with Jesus Christ, there is none more profound than in the real presence of him in the Eucharist. The eucharistic revival and congress—rooted in word, sacrament and service—provide an occasion of grace to deepen our appreciation of the precious gift of Jesus Christ for our salvation.” †

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