November 25, 2022

Archbishop elected chairman of Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson raises a chalice on April 12 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass. The bishops of the U.S. recently elected Archbishop Thompson chairman-elect of their Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, which oversees the National Eucharistic Revival and the National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis in July 2024. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson raises a chalice on April 12 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass. The bishops of the U.S. recently elected Archbishop Thompson chairman-elect of their Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, which oversees the National Eucharistic Revival and the National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis in July 2024. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When the U.S. bishops met in Baltimore in the fall of 2021, they selected Indianapolis as the host of the National Eucharistic Congress, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of Catholics from across the country to the city in July 2024.

At this year’s fall meeting that took place last week, the bishops in a 149-90 vote on Nov. 16 elected Archbishop Charles C. Thompson the chairman-elect of the committee which is overseeing the planning of the congress and three-year National Eucharistic Revival of which it is a part.

He will serve a three-year term as chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) beginning in November 2023.

Archbishop Thompson spoke with The Criterion about the election, his responsibilities as the committee chairman and the eucharistic revival and congress.

The following interview has been edited for length.
 

Q. What was it like for you when you saw that your brother bishops had selected you to lead the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, knowing the responsibilities and the opportunities that that entails?

A. “The election is about serving the Church, serving the conference, but more importantly, serving the people of God.

“It’s a responsibility. I’ve had a responsibility placed on me. It’s always a little overwhelming. But it’s heartening to know that your brother bishops trust you and have confidence in you to carry this out.”
 

Q. How would you explain how evangelization and catechesis are to be a part of the life of faith of all members of the Church?

A. “Every baptized person is called to holiness and mission. We can’t cultivate holiness and mission as baptized persons without the role of evangelization and catechesis.

“To evangelize is to bring people to know and encounter Jesus Christ through his passion, death and resurrection, to come to know God in and through Jesus Christ, to have a personal relationship with him.

“Once evangelization has enabled us to encounter Christ, then catechesis is the means by which we learn how to know and carry out that mission, how to live the Gospel.

“It’s linked to all of us through baptism.”
 

Q. Knowing that national and diocesan offices exist largely to support ministry in parishes, what advice do you have for pastors who want to enhance evangelization and catechesis in their communities?

A. “I don’t ask pastors to do anything more than I do. We’re supposed to be preaching Jesus Christ, not ourselves. That’s the first thing that I’d say to pastors about evangelization. Remember who the focus is on. We must decrease. He must increase. We preach Christ. We don’t preach ourselves. We don’t preach our egos. We don’t preach our agendas.

“We have to be focused on Christ, and it has to be about leading others to encounter him through our witness in both word and deed. Everything needs to be centered around that. We keep Christ at the center. Remember, we’re leading others to him.

“Evangelization is about relationships. If we’re going to invite people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we have to meet people and respect their dignity for who they are and where they’re at and dialogue with them—this whole notion of synodality. We need to listen and heal wounds.

“Once we’ve developed those relationships, then the catechesis really begins. That’s when we really call people to embrace and know what the Church teaches and why, so that we can develop even deeper that personal relationship with Christ in holiness and mission.”
 

Q. The USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis is helping to lead the current National Eucharistic Revival, and is helping to plan and organize the National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis in July 2024. How do you see the Eucharist linked to evangelization and catechesis?

A. “The whole focus here is on Christ. How do we help people to first believe in God, the Father, Son and Spirit, and to understand who God is, not what the world may interpret God to be? We know God most fully and intimately through Jesus Christ.

“And among the many ways that God is present to us in the world, the Eucharist is that divine way in which the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ is made present to us. The Mass is the source and summit of our identity, our mission as Catholics. So, everything we say and do, everything that we’re about is focused in the Eucharist, especially to and from the Mass.

“It’s the core of everything we do. The Eucharist is what sustains us and nourishes us to carry out that mission.”
 

Q. A presentation was given at the bishops’ meeting by Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minn., on how the revival has gone thus far and the planning that’s going forth for the congress. What’s it like for you to hear about what’s happening here in the archdiocese and what’s going on elsewhere?

A. “I’m on the bishops’ advisory committee for the eucharistic revival and also on its board. So, I have monthly meetings for each one of those that we’ve been doing for several months. I get a lot of those reports along the way. You get to hear about all the things that dioceses are doing. It’s inspiring to know that so many dioceses are embracing it.

“I think we’ve done a great job [in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis]. What we did on Corpus Christi Sunday [was great], even though I was sick at the time. I think we had one of the most comprehensive ways of kicking off the diocesan portion [of the revival] as any place in the country.

“We had two Masses—one in English and one in Spanish—a eucharistic procession and eucharistic adoration, and a service project involved in all of that. I think our people should be very much applauded for what they’ve done.

“Father Pat [Beidelman], [Chancellor] Chris Walsh and our own eucharistic revival planning team are doing some great things and are thinking about some great plans. They’re also developing helpful resources for the revival for pastors and parishes. They’re watching around the country what others are doing so we can learn from them to enhance our own participation. We learn and draw from each other.”
 

Q. In an interview with Our Sunday Visitor at the end of the fall assembly, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services, the new USCCB president, noted that the National Eucharistic Revival and the National Eucharistic Congress can be important ways to build up unity in the Church in the U.S. Working closely with both initiatives already and foreseeing working with them more in your new leadership position, how do you see the revival and congress as hopefully contributing to this building up of the communion of the Church?

A. “At Mass, we celebrate communion. The Eucharist is the source of unity. Our celebration of the Mass is the source and summit of our identity and mission. We have to be united. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have diversity in unity. We have different opinions and ideas and the creativity that comes from that tension.

“Tension can be a good thing—creative tension. It’s the tension that leads to polarization that leads to demonization and the dehumanization of others that’s so prominent in our world and, in some ways, has entered into our Church that is a concern.

“The Eucharist is the source of our unity. We have communion with God and with one another, all made possible through Jesus Christ. He is the tie that binds us. And the Mass is the primary way that we celebrate who and what we are about.

“I read a book Bishop [Robert E.] Barron wrote. At one point, he said that second only to the words of consecration, the most profound words of the Mass, are the sending forth to mission. We have to do that united as one body of Christ in the one mission of Christ.

“The Eucharist is what draws us out of our ego, out of our agendas, out of our ideologies. If we’re faithful to the Eucharist and we really enter into the Mass and embrace all that it holds for us, it helps us put Christ at the center.”
 

(For more information on the National Eucharistic Revival, visit eucharisticrevivalindy.org or www.eucharisticrevival.org.)

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