Scott Warden
July 10, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Rhoades: Excited for the Congress, but Work Remains

Scott Warden

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

In November of 2021, during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fall Assembly, two seeds were planted that are continuing to produce much fruit for the U.S. Church.

First, the bishops approved “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” – a 35-page document that explored the importance of Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. “The Mystery of the Eucharist” was developed by the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, chaired at the time by Bishop Rhoades. The document blossomed out of discussions centered around a 2019 Pew Research survey that showed just 1 in 3 self-proclaimed Catholics believed that the Eucharist truly is the body and blood of Christ, and not just a symbol.

Also in the fall of 2021, still based on the need to foster deeper devotion to Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament, the U.S. bishops approved the three-year plan for the National Eucharistic Revival, which included hosting a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July of 2024.

Since its inception, Bishop Rhoades has been directly involved in the planning of the National Eucharist Revival and the congress, which will be held July 17-21 in Indianapolis. Today’s Catholic spoke with Bishop Rhoades about the congress and about carrying forward the momentum and the work of the revival after the congress ends.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Today’s Catholic: In 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” which you had great input on. How did your work on the document influence your perception of a need for a National Eucharistic Revival?

Bishop Rhoades: Yes, that was a document prepared by the Committee on Doctrine, and I was the chair of the committee at the time. Part of what we were looking at was the results of that Pew poll about the significant number of Catholics who did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist – although future polls have kind of shown better results, because some of the results were driven by the wording of the questions. But still, there was a need for greater knowledge of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, but not only knowledge but also faith that Christ is truly present and the sacrifice of Christ becomes present on the altar.

So that did stir up the bishops, I would say, and I think one of the fruits was the National Eucharistic Revival. And I’ve been on both the Bishop’s Advisory Committee for the revival and also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Eucharistic Congress, so I’ve been happy to be involved in both of those initiatives, and I’m very excited about the upcoming congress.

Today’s Catholic: With the congress now days away, what most excites you about these five days in Indianapolis? What are you most looking forward to?

Bishop Rhoades: I think just gathering so many thousands of people together to give praise and worship to Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. I think such a public manifestation of faith will be very uplifting. I would also say that the itinerary for the Congress is excellent – many good speakers, many opportunities for the faithful who attend to take part in various workshops as well as the general sessions.

And the highlight of it all, of course, will be our prayer together, our celebration of beautiful liturgies each day of the congress, as well as the procession through the streets of Indianapolis on Saturday. I think it will be extremely uplifting, and people who are not able to participate in person can also follow it and join spiritually with it. And this congress is not the end, because the Eucharistic Revival will continue – and needs to continue – after the congress.

Today’s Catholic: At the end of the congress, the faithful will be commissioned to go out during the third year of the revival – the Year of Mission. The bishops are also promoting the Walk with One initiative, where every Catholic is being encouraged to accompany one person to attend Mass with them. What can the faithful of the diocese do to support those two initiatives.

Bishop Rhoades: Really authentic Eucharistic faith means that our worship and the grace we receive in the Eucharist must be lived out. That is necessary. Mission is very much a part of that. Christ sends us on mission. We receive Him, His body and blood, and that equips us with His grace to live our faith, to spread the faith, especially to spread His love, because this is the sacrament of His love. That is our mission as disciples, and to be missionary disciples as Pope Francis calls us to be.

I think the follow-up Year of Mission will be very important, as will be this idea of Walking with One, which is a really beautiful idea that we’re all called to be evangelizers. We’re co-responsible in the Church for evangelization – every baptized person, not just our priests and bishops and deacons, not just the ordained, but all the lay faithful are called to evangelize, especially by their witness, but also by their words, and actually called to invite people to come to Mass and to learn about the Catholic faith.

So, I think that idea of just reaching out and inviting one person is a great idea, because sometimes it can seem overwhelming, but when we accompany someone, there’s so many people who are longing for truth and meaning in their lives, and we have an opportunity. Imagine if every Catholic in our diocese brought one other person into the faith, into the Church. It would be amazing. I’d like to see more of that. But it’s important how we go about this invitation. We don’t do it in a way that’s judgmental or condemning, but we’re to do it in a way that’s loving and inviting.

Today’s Catholic: Recent polls, as you mentioned, show that the belief in the Real Presence is on the rise, and the Church has tremendous momentum that has been built up by the revival, congress, and the pilgrimage. How do we keep this momentum going in order to bring more people back to the Church and to the truth that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist?

Bishop Rhoades: I think it means strong catechesis for sure. And also, besides the strong catechesis – on every level: children, youth, and adults, adult faith formation, RCIA – the manner in which the sacred liturgy is celebrated is so important, because it’s also a question of reverence that we show in celebration of Mass. I think we have a lot of work to do to improve some of that in our liturgies.

The Eucharist is the center of our life; it’s the source and summit of the life of the Church, and therefore it should be given the due attention that it deserves. So, I would highlight those two things: ongoing, strong catechesis, and continual attention to the beauty of the liturgy.

Today’s Catholic: Numbers ahead of the congress show that the faithful of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have bought more passes to the congress than any other diocese in the country. What does that say about the willingness of those in the diocese to embrace this call to Eucharistic revival?

Bishop Rhoades: I think it shows the vitality of the faith in our diocese. And, certainly, I give thanks to our Secretary for Communications [Nicole Hahn] for the wonderful promotion of the Eucharistic Revival. I think that helped to increase the number of participants at the congress. But truly, right now, we only know the ones who have signed up for the congress through our diocesan website, but there’s also many who perhaps signed up directly with the congress. So, we’re going to have a lot of people there, and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of our own faithful during the week in Indianapolis.

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