‘Encounter Jesus’: US Bishops’ Eucharistic Revival Builds Momentum
The bishops’ spring meeting highlighted their ongoing three-year Eucharistic Revival, which received the blessing and praise of Pope Francis.
WASHINGTON — As the U.S. bishops’ Eucharistic Revival initiative enters its second year, building to a national Eucharistic Congress in 2024, it is picking up steam with the recent blessing of Pope Francis, who marked the upcoming congress as a “significant moment” in the life of the U.S. Church.
In a June 19 meeting with the team working on the bishops’ three-year Revival initiative, Pope Francis emphasized the need for the faithful to experience the Eucharist, which is “God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart, the hunger for authentic life.” He also lamented that “there are those among the Catholic faithful who believe that the Eucharist is more a symbol than the reality of the Lord’s presence and love.”
The Eucharistic Revival came about precisely as the bishops’ response to that problem following the release of a 2019 Pew Research study that found that just 31% of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That study served as the impetus for the bishops’ green-lighting of the Eucharistic Revival in 2021. Backed by the majority of U.S. bishops and having 81% of dioceses designate a point person for the Revival, the effort has yielded promising results and continues to build momentum.
The first year, which got underway in June 2022, was focused on renewal at the diocesan level, aimed at strengthening diocesan staff, bishops and priests and equipping them to evangelize. That year resulted in more than 100 events in dioceses across the country with Eucharistic preachers.
The initiative is now focused on the parish level; and in the summer of 2024, the Eucharistic Revival’s missionary-focused year will get underway, with nationwide pilgrimages to the country’s first Eucharistic Congress in 83 years, to be held July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis.
A Significant, Generational Moment
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is heading up the Revival, gave the bishops an update on the initiative at their recent spring assembly on June 15 in Orlando, Florida.
“We’re starting to see the fire of revival burn as diocese and evangelistic apostolates and lay leaders and clergy work together across the country,” Bishop Cozzens said. He called the upcoming Eucharistic Congress a “generational moment” where “we can call the Church from all corners of the United States together to be set on fire for mission.”
In meeting with Bishop Cozzens and the Revival team just days later, Pope Francis said that the planned Eucharistic Congress “marks a significant moment in the life of the Church in the United States” and is “an occasion for the faithful to commit themselves with ever greater zeal to being missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus in the world.”
Timothy Glemkowski, the executive director of the National Eucharistic Congress, was among those meeting with the Holy Father and told the Register that it was “deeply meaningful” to have the Pope bless the Revival and talk about “an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and teaching people to have that encounter and then mission,” which are “themes that have been close to our heart from the beginning.”
Pope Francis “seemed aware of and concretely connected to the problems that we’re attempting to address and some of the solutions we’re attempting to employ,” he said.
“He talks about the crisis of so many feeling like the Eucharist is just a symbol and not that awareness of the Real Presence,” he said, adding that hearing “these things that have been part of our mission for years now really coming from the mouth of the Holy Father was incredible.”
“Pope Francis said yesterday this was an incredibly significant moment in the life of the Church in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s how we’ve been feeling. The reason we’ve all joined up on this mission is we think this is big for the people who come and for the Church as a whole, a moment of real renewal.”
Glemkowski told the Register he is looking forward to the parish year of the initiative, saying that, “for a lot of places, it almost felt like this was really the launch of the Revival locally,” since the diocesan year “was all about leader engagement.”
“This is really picking up momentum,” he said. “We’ve already begun working with literally thousands of parishes, pastors who have assigned point persons and teams.” He emphasized that the Revival is “so much bigger than just a program or an initiative,” but is “about an invitation from God to his Church to say, ‘Come back to my heart and be healed and formed and converted and unified through that encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist’ so that we can be sent on mission for the life of the world.”
Fostering Vocations and Charity
Pope Francis emphasized in his meeting with the Revival team “the need for fostering vocations to the priesthood,” quoting the words of Pope St. John Paul II that “there can be no Eucharist without the priesthood.”
Glemkowski said that with any large moment in the Church like the planned Eucharistic Congress, there can come the fruitfulness of vocations. “Bishop Kevin Rhoades, on our board of directors, bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, really received his vocation at the 1976 International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia,” he said. “I know countless priests, and I know Bishop Cozzens himself was dramatically, impacted by World Youth Day in 1993,” so “God has chosen to work in moments like this.”
During the bishops’ spring meeting, Bishop Cozzens told the Register that there could be a long-lasting impact from the Eucharistic Revival on vocations. “If you look at the studies of the men who enter seminaries and women who enter religious life,” he said, “the young men and women who do that, 80% of them will say, ‘It was during adoration that I experienced the call.’”
Bishop Cozzens told EWTN that it was a “great gift” to be with Pope Francis in their recent meeting, and “you could just sense his emotion and his passion” for the Revival in his words. He also highlighted the connection the Pope made between the Eucharist and reaching out to the poor, the elderly, and those suffering from illness.
At the bishops’ spring meeting, he said that along the Revival’s pilgrimage routes, “not only will we stop at shrines and dozens of cathedrals and hundreds of parishes, we’ll also visit prisons and nursing homes and pregnancy-support centers and places that provide meals for the homeless. Every Saturday on this pilgrimage we will pause and do a Eucharistic service project, emphasizing the Eucharist as the sacrament of charity.” The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, is one of the stops on one of the pilgrimage routes.
Entering Into Silence
Bishop Cozzens also noted the Pope’s “beautiful insight” about “spending time in adoration in silence with the Lord in the Eucharist,” which is “something we really try to do” in the Revival.
“I believe that we have lost the sense of adoration in our day,” Pope Francis said. “We must rediscover the sense of adoration in silence. It is a form of prayer that we have lost. Too few people know what it is. It is up to the bishops to catechize the faithful about praying through adoration. The Eucharist requires it of us.”
Bishop Cozzens also spoke with the Register in Orlando about encouraging young people to participate in adoration. At the youth camps in his diocese, he said, “by the end of camp, almost every kid’s there for the morning adoration time” because “once they encounter Jesus here, they want to be with him. But you have to form them and teach them, and you have to get them away from their devices and into the silence, but when they do that, something does really happen.”
At the Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury Alabama, the cloistered Dominican nuns, who are part of the Revival with “a hidden ministry of intercessory prayer,” know about entering into silence with the Lord. Sister Mary, one of the seven nuns in the community whose lives are centered on adoration and the Rosary, spoke with the Register about the Pope’s recent words and the community’s part in the Eucharistic Revival.
The nuns have each adopted in prayer a priest who is preaching for the Revival, as they were asked by the U.S. bishops to offer this kind of support. Sister Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, commended the bishops for taking the issue of lack of belief in the Real Presence seriously and recognizing the need to do something about it on a national scale.
Sister Mary said she has observed the effect that the experience of silent adoration can have on those unaccustomed to it, citing an annual vocations retreat for young women interested in the order that includes a required day of silence.
She said when they ask the young women about their favorite or most impactful part of the weekend, “always one of the things they mention right at the top is having that time of silence with Our Lord. It’s usually a very new experience for them to have the distance from social media, from constant input, from listening to music, from talking to their friends, to just have that time of interior space then to spend with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Sister Mary said that, for her own vocation, experiencing Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and having the time of Eucharistic adoration in high school and college, initially as part of the Youth 2000 retreat, was “really important.”
Quoting the Pope’s call to the Revival team to become “credible witnesses to the joy and transforming beauty of the Gospel,” she said “the first step in being transformed or being a credible witness is that encounter with Jesus and having a living faith so that we are transformed and have that joy.”
Among the nuns’ own families there are members who have fallen away from the faith, and through that they see “a microcosm of that need in the wider Church, especially in our country, where there are so many people who may have been baptized as Catholics, they may have had this Catholic connection historically, but they’re not living in the faith.”
“My hope for the Eucharistic Revival,” she said, “is that people’s hearts will be set on fire with love for God and that people will be brought back to the faith by that witness of lives transformed by the power of Jesus present.”