Sixty Eucharistic preachers have been chosen to share their faith that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, and that He has the power to transform the world.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has formed a special team of priests to send out on a mission of vital importance to the Church and to the nation.
These 60 Eucharistic preachers will form the “front line” of the Church’s Eucharistic Revival, a three-year grassroots initiative aimed at increasing devotion and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
In November of 2021, following the publication of a Pew Research survey that found a decline in the number of Catholics who believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, the bishops voted to conduct a Eucharistic Revival.
Beginning on June 19, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, and culminating in the Eucharistic Congress in 2024, the effort aims to stoke the fires of faith in Catholics and attract others to the Church.
Facilitating a personal encounter with Jesus
Bishop Andrew Cozzens, head of the Committee for Evangelization and Catechesis, told Aleteia that the Eucharistic preachers will “serve as a sort of ‘front line’ for the Eucharistic Revival.”
Their mission, he said, is to share their love and belief in the Eucharist and its transformative powers.
“My hope is to see our Church and our Country healed, transformed and renewed through deep, personal encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist. From that personal encounter, I am confident Holy Spirit will inspire dynamic and creative works of charity that are a hallmark of a Eucharistic Life to reach out to those on the physical and existential margins for years to come,” he said.
Over the next three years, the group of diocesan and religious priests from all around the United States, will be sent out to preach about the Eucharist at various events, including gatherings for diocesan and parish leaders, special diocesan masses and Eucharistic holy hours, clergy convocations, diocesan Eucharistic congresses, and youth and young adult events.
Bishop Cozzens explained that the team of Eucharistic preachers will be complementing the revival efforts taking place in diocesan churches.
“We are sending them out to dioceses around the country to help enkindle the flame of Eucharistic faith and devotion in the United States through their preaching. This is not to say that every local Church doesn’t already have excellent preachers, but we see these Eucharistic Preachers as a resource for supporting and complementing local initiatives during the diocesan year of the Eucharistic Revival.”
After being nominated by their bishops, the priests went through a discernment process before committing to take part in the mission.
Eucharistic preachers start mission off with retreat
The group of priests then took part in a retreat on April 3-6, at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on the west side of Chicago.
Sr. Alicia Torres, a Franciscan of the Eucharist of Chicago, involved in the formation of the National Eucharistic Preachers initiative, said that the retreat was “truly Pentecostal.”
“The Real Presence of Jesus was experienced in a powerful way at Mass, where Christ’s sacrifice is daily renewed, and in the profound silence of Eucharistic Adoration,” noted Sr. Alicia. “The priests not only looked inward with Jesus, but also outward toward Jesus as they encountered Him in the Eucharist, and then in each other and in the poor, whom they took time to love and serve during the retreat.”
The retreat included talks by Cardinal Blase Cupich, a number of bishops, including Bishop Cozzens, Fr. Mike Schmitz of the Diocese of Duluth, and Dr. Tim O’Malley of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.
Bishop Cozzens explained that the retreat helped prepare the priests for their mission.
“What is essential for good preaching is one’s own relationship with Jesus. The retreat setting, where the priests could step away from their regular duties for a time of prayer, formation and fraternity was truly necessary. Many of the priests commented that it was in the moments at Mass or in Eucharistic Adoration that they experienced the deepest movements of grace and felt prepared by Christ Himself to serve as Eucharistic Preachers,” he said.
Fr. Roger Landry, a priest from the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, one of the Eucharistic Preachers present at the retreat, likened the experience to that of the apostles.
“Before the apostles were sent out, they first were with Jesus. Spiritual fruitfulness always begins with a life drenched in prayer,” he said. “It was a powerful experience to pray with my fellow Eucharistic Preachers before the Eucharistic Lord as he sought to strengthen us to lead others to join us reverently before him.”
Landry said that he was motivated to join the effort because of what he sees as a two-fold crisis in the Church.
“Surveys have shown that seven of ten Catholics in the US do not believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, but that the Eucharist is basically a symbol, and that three out of four Catholics do not come to Mass each Sunday. Those crises cannot be blamed on defective preaching alone, but a failure to preach effectively about the real Presence of Jesus and to motivate people out of love to prioritize coming to be with him and receive him at Mass are definitely part of the problem, he said.”
“There is a need for all those who preach and teach in the name of the Church at every level to try to help people know, believe and live by what the Church professes about the reality of Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist,” Landry added.