May 20, 2022

Evangelization Supplement

Local leaders speak of their hopes for National Eucharistic Revival

Deacon Oliver Jackson, left, and Archbishop Charles C. Thompson elevate the Eucharist during an Aug. 3, 2019, Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. Rita Parish, a faith community founded to serve Black Catholics. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Deacon Oliver Jackson, left, and Archbishop Charles C. Thompson elevate the Eucharist during an Aug. 3, 2019, Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. Rita Parish, a faith community founded to serve Black Catholics. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

The three-year National Eucharistic Revival that will start in less than a month in the archdiocese and in dioceses across the country isn’t happening simply to help Catholics grow in their relationship to Christ in the Eucharist.

It is hoped by the U.S. bishops who called for the revival that the deepening of this relationship will lead Catholic faithful in the U.S. to more effectively proclaim the Gospel in their daily lives. (Related: Eucharistic Revival to begin in the archdiocese on June 19)

Two archdiocesan leaders and a professor at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad reflected on this connection recently in interviews with The Criterion.

Sam Rasp, archdiocesan coordinator of evangelization and discipleship, said he hopes the revival “will help revive our hearts to be in union with the Eucharist so more people will desire to be on mission for Christ.”

He noted that a love for the Eucharist is closely tied to a love of God more generally in the faithful.

“If you truly love God, then you’re not going to just hold that in yourself,” Rasp said.

Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis, said that while evangelization can happen in many ways, it’s ultimately “about helping people to have an encounter with Jesus.”

“The most intimate encounter we can have with Jesus is in the holy Eucharist,” Ogorek said. “So, there’s a natural connection between evangelization and a focus on the Eucharist.”

Benedictine Sister Jeana Visel, director of graduate theology programs at Saint Meinrad, emphasized the connection between encountering Christ in the Eucharist and then making efforts to bring others to him.

“Once we have had our own deep encounter with Jesus, we are invited to go preach the Good News everywhere,” she said. “We aren’t simply called to deepen our own relationship with God, as important as that is. We are called to share the gift we have received with others.”

While this can be challenging for some Catholics, Sister Jeana said, it is a mission that is integral to all vocations.

“This push toward evangelization may be a new experience, or a new way of looking at our faith,” she said. “Evangelizing is itself a strengthening force for faith. The Church exists to evangelize, and to gather all people into the body of Christ.

“Individually we each have to find our own way to fulfill that calling, whether it’s teaching our children about Jesus, serving the homeless in the name of Christ or telling our co-workers about what God has done in our lives.”

In launching the revival at this time, the U.S. bishops are responding to particular challenges in the Church and the broader society.

“We have seen through research that there are many people in the Church … that don’t know or understand the teaching on the Eucharist, that Jesus is truly present in it, body and soul,” Rasp said. “It’s important for us to help them see the truth and to have an encounter with the Eucharist.”

Ogorek noted the timeliness of the Church’s focus on the Eucharist at a time when divisions and individualism are on the increase in society.

“The Eucharist is the ultimate unifying encounter with Jesus,” he said. “In some ways, the Eucharist can be a remedy for some of the polarization we see in some realms of life.

“For a lot of people, politics has almost become their religion. So, focusing on the Eucharist at this time in our country’s history will hopefully draw people’s attention back to our loving Creator.”

Sister Jeana noted the importance of the revival happening at this time in light of the challenges faced by society recently in the coronavirus pandemic and various social tensions.

“Christ wants to unite us, and we need it for our personal and social and spiritual health,” she said. “He wants to feed us and give us what we so deeply need.

“We’ve endured some really stressful times in recent years, and we need to be nourished by the One who can heal our deepest places. I think these are issues that go beyond our own regional area, but we have to respond to the invitation of Jesus where we are, which is here, now.”

In speaking about her hopes for the revival, Sister Jeana noted her desire for Catholics to spend more time in prayer before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

“Sometimes just encountering Jesus in the silence of eucharistic adoration can be a pivotal moment for those who might not otherwise feel spiritually connected,” she said. “ … I think it would be a great thing if more of our parishes could have regular holy hours or perpetual adoration chapels, so as to provide more opportunities to encounter the peace of Christ in silence.

“We have to be grounded spiritually if we are to share the Good News with any authenticity and depth.”

Ogorek agreed.

“God connects dots in ways that we don’t always realize or appreciate,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s the fervent prayer of one person before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that provides the grace for someone else’s conversion.

“It’s not all about cause and effect or tactics as we see it. We need to be prudent in our evangelization efforts. But God doesn’t always operate in the way we operate.

“If the revival causes more people to spend more time in intense prayer to Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist and people ask him to bless all of our evangelization efforts with abundant grace, then it’s going to bear fruit in ways that might not always be obvious.” †
 

(Learn more about the local implementation of the Eucharistic revival at: eucharisticrevivalindy.org)

 

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