Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
September 8, 2023 // Diocese

Parish Revival Leaders Learn about Their Mission

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

With less than a year until the National Eucharistic Congress takes place July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis, the U.S. bishops have made it a priority for parishes across the country to facilitate ways in which Catholics can foster a deeper devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. To do this effectively, they have instituted the Year of Parish Revival, which began nationwide on June 11, the solemnity of Corpus Christi.

Throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, each parish has identified a point person to assist priests and administrators with fostering community outreach and serve as the parish’s primary contact with the diocese for the National Eucharistic Revival. On Thursday, August 31, leaders from various parishes on the north side of the diocese gathered at St. Therese, Little Flower Church in South Bend to begin their journey.

Photos by Lisa Kochanowski
Jason Shanks, President of the OSV Institute, gives a talk on the National Eucharistic Revival Team’s Parish Playbook during a training session with Revival parish leaders on Thursday, August 31, at St. Therese, Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend. Each parish in the diocese has chosen a point person to help implement ways to draw local Catholics deeper into the National Eucharistic Revival.

A Unique Opportunity

The designated parish leaders had the opportunity to gather information on the National Revival Team’s Parish Playbook and how to implement it locally. They also listened to speaker Jason Shanks, President of the OSV Institute and a member of the National Eucharistic Revival team, share insight into making this moment more impactful for members of the congregation.

Jason Kulick from St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in South Bend, an apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), said he was excited to be able to collaborate at the diocesan level. He was interested in learning what other groups are doing and exploring ways to work together between the parishes. “It’s always an honor to be asked to help,” Kulick said.

Abby Kyle, from St. Therese, Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend, said she is looking forward to learning more about outreach efforts by other parishes.

“I think this is a profound movement for the Church in America,” Kyle said. “I’m honored to be part of it to the extent that the Holy Spirit is asking me to be part of it.”

Oscar Nunez of St. Adalbert Parish in South Bend believes being a Revival point person is a good opportunity for him personally and for his parish community. He found the August 31 session to be a terrific way to collaborate with other parish leaders about program ideas and ways to rally parishioners to get involved. His team is in the early planning stages, and he said logistics is one area that will need extra discussion and consideration.

“It’s a very big responsibility,” Nunez said of being asked to be a leader. “I’m very honored.”

At the meeting on Thursday, August 31, at St. Therese, Little Flower in South Bend, parish leaders for the National Eucharistic Revival discuss the event’s four pillars that have been developed to make the parish year successful: personal encounters, reinvigorating devotion, deepening formation, and missionary sending.

Addressing the Loss of Belief

OSV’s Shanks, the event speaker and leader for the evening, led sessions that were followed by small-group discussions. During these conversations, the parish leaders shared their personal experiences on each topic and discussed ways they can address those areas at their parishes.

The evening began with some background information about the National Eucharistic Revival and the three-year period of discernment, encounter, and grassroots response at the diocesan, parish, and individual levels that the Revival’s national team hopes will create a movement across the country.

“We like to say within that movement, it was even a moment,” Shanks said. “So, during the parish year, there’s a moment of gathering on a national level in the Church in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress.” The goal is to fill Lucas Oil Stadium with 65,000 faithful enjoying five days of programming, adoration, and Masses with people from all over the country.

The evening was comprised of four short talks that focused on the four pillars associated with the Revival’s parish year: personal encounters, reinvigorating devotion, deepening formation, and missionary sending.

“One of the very first pillars of this year is robust formation
(or deepening formation), the importance of us telling, teaching, and helping people grasp and understand the Real Presence of Jesus Christ,” Shanks said. “Forty percent of the people not only don’t believe in the Real Presence but believe the Church doesn’t believe in the Real Presence. These are people going to church, going to Mass every Sunday with the knowledge that they do not believe that that’s really Jesus, truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity, right? That is Jesus Christ, God, man, right there on the altar, right? They not only do not believe that, but they also think the Church doesn’t believe that, either.”

Bringing Catholics Back

Shanks believes part of this year should be talking about renewal and going back to the basics of our Catholic faith. He feels this is a perfect time to teach foundational, core beliefs of the Church.

“We’ve got to get back a little bit to be able to catechize and evangelize, but do it where the people are at – do it where they’re at and what’s going to meet their questions and their needs,” Shanks said.

It was recommended that the parish leaders read the document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, which was led by Bishop Rhoades at the time the document was written. Shanks suggested the leaders familiarize themselves with it and consider using it in their planning sessions.

“The next thing we have to think about is: How do we really enhance and reinvigorate our worship (or reinvigorating devotion),” Shanks said during the second session. “It’s reverberating our worship experience, and you might think about that during this parish year, and how we can do that and contribute?”

Statistics show that COVID-19 reduced the number people attending Mass on a regular basis, and many individuals and families haven’t returned throughout the past three years. Shanks said leaders need to think about ways during this time to reengage Catholics and get them back to Sunday Mass. He believes it’s important to bring back the reverence and beauty of the Mass, noting Mass is not meant to be entertainment but a time of reflection and prayer.

The Need for Connection

Personal encounter is another key pillar in the year of parish outreach.

“I’ve come to realize that I can have all the intellectual knowledge in the world, but if I don’t hear the Lord in the very recess of my heart, I might not yet have had that encounter,” Shanks said. “That’s where this personal encounter is critical as we move people beyond just the believing in the Real Presence to really and truly find Jesus in the Eucharist.”

Shanks said the internet has made us more disconnected, and more people feel isolated and alone, but never tell anyone.

“We think this is the most connected generation ever, and I’ve come to realize all the likes and follows and stuff that we do on all the social media platforms is probably a cry for help, because it’s them wanting to not be alone, wanting to belong, wanting to connect,” Shanks said. “We’re dealing with a lot of people who are wanting to find problems for loneliness and isolation.”

He encouraged the crowd to broaden their ideas and think about what a parish can do to foster a greater encounter in prayer life and interior life.

Missionary Sending

All of those pillars will lead to the final pillar: missionary sending.

“For me, as I think about the missionary year, I don’t think what we’re talking about is a new program for evangelization,” Shanks said. The final step in the journey, he noted, is taking everything that is learned, encountered, and absorbed from the other pillars and committing to a future faith journey.

After the National Eucharistic Congress happens, a year of going out on mission will begin on July 21, 2024, and run through Pentecost of 2025. The faithful, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, will go out on a mission to share the Good News of our Eucharistic Lord as we enter the universal Church’s jubilee year in 2025.

“I think that this diocese has the pace for what the National Eucharistic Revival looks like,” Shanks said. “And I can tell you, without a doubt, when I go across the country, people are talking about Fort Wayne-South Bend. They’re talking about the procession, about the programs, about our website. You guys should be very proud of the work that’s happening here.”

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