‘The Mystery of the Eucharist’ Alive and Well on the Campus of Texas A&M
‘The procession was a sign to the world that Christ is reclaiming Texas A&M, and now our students must also be individual monstrances, in a sense, carrying Christ to their classmates during school each day.’
As the U.S. bishops’ conference convenes soon to discuss Christ's Real Presence, a Eucharistic procession captured on film at a secular university in College Station, Texas, offers unique insight into the faith of Catholic students fresh back from lockdown and anxious to grow in their faith.
Hundreds of students come out to adore Our Lord on the campus of Texas A&M — the campus’ first Eucharistic procession — on Oct. 7.
College chaplain Father Chris Smith witnessed something profound:
“This Eucharistic procession is a sign of hope for our Church and the world, but we must do more. This is one small step in helping our students to be mission-oriented in order to help as many souls at Texas A&M know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.”
Serving at the university’s St. Mary’s Catholic Center, Father Smith said not only did 700 students participate, but the center had a group specifically walking to help answer questions of those coming out to see the crowds.
“We had evangelization teams before and behind the procession of our students and staff who would pray with students we encountered on the path or answer questions for them. We even gave out flyers with our Mass times and some more Q&As. Our evangelization team encountered about 500 students on the 2-mile route,” Father Smith explained in an email interview. The steady stream of adorers caught the eye of many students watching from their rooms.
“Students ran out of the dorms in curiosity and looked down from their classrooms high above,” Father Smith said, adding, “I believe the spiritual impact that this procession had is greater than I can imagine. Jesus Christ passed through a public university where our students live, work, study and socialize. ... It was powerful!”
Father Smith hopes the visible witness of the Eucharistic procession will fuel more faith-filled moments on campus. Speaking to the Register via email, he added, “The procession was a sign to the world that Christ is reclaiming Texas A&M, and now our students must also be individual monstrances, in a sense, carrying Christ to their classmates during school each day.
“The Holy Spirit is stirring in Aggieland and in the young generations of the Church across the world. We are hopeful and we are excited for what God has done and will continue to do at St. Mary’s Catholic Center in Aggieland."
With a mission “to form apostles for the Church and the world,” the St. Mary's Catholic Center seems to be doing just that.
The Eucharistic procession is just one of several events offered. Students back on campus after a very lonely lockdown wrought on by the COVID pandemic are bolstered by all the activity, and there is interest in Catholicism among students and a hunger for real camaraderie.
“Our students were thirsting for community and a normalcy of life. The campus overall, including our Catholic Student Center, has been thriving this year,” Father Smith said. “There is lots of life and a desire to just be with people.”
As recent statistics have shown a gradual drop in the belief of the Real Presence, Father Smith has been encouraged and edified by the reverence students show in approaching the Eucharist.
“The students desire to know Christ more deeply and have an authentic relationship with him. They come to him in their brokenness with great faith and great love.”
St. Mary’s parish on the campus offers two Masses daily, and a total of 300 students typically come. Adoration is also available daily, and Father Smith said there are typically five to 10 students present every Holy hour. “We also offer confessions Monday to Saturday, and usually there is a line of at least 30 to 40 students each day.”
With a student body of 72,000, Father Smith said about a quarter of students are Catholic. More than 5,000 students are actively engaged with the St. Mary’s on campus, including attending Mass and other campus events. “We have a new church being built that will be ready in early 2023,” Father Smith said. “It will hold 1,400 people, be beautiful, and we will fill it!”
As we share in this sign of hope from the current college generation of Catholics thriving on a secular campus, may we all desire the same fervor for our faith. In a message to young people, St. John Paul II reminded the faithful to embrace the Eucharist every day:
“Prayer, intimate dialogue with the One who is calling you to be His disciples, must come first. Be generous in your active life, young people, and be deeply immersed in the contemplation of God’s mystery. Make the Eucharist the heart of your day.”
May God bless Father Smith and his fellow chaplains who are working diligently to help form Catholics yearning to embrace this truth!
“We hope that, during their four years at A&M and at St. Mary’s, our students become well-formed apostles so that they can be sent into the world ready to set it ablaze with the fire of God’s love.”
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