By Tony DeGol
For Catholics, the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. In that spirit, Bishops of the United States have entered into a multi-year journey known as a Eucharistic Revival – a grassroots movement inviting the faithful to reconnect to Jesus’ True Presence in the Eucharist and to respond to that gift in their own way, ultimately renewing the Church.
The Eucharistic Revival began last year on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown joined in the launch with a moving and beautiful outdoor Mass at the Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine in Loretto, followed by an awesome Eucharistic procession around the grounds.
This first year of the Eucharistic Revival is dedicated to diocesan revival. An evangelization team led by Diocesan Coordinator of Evangelization Sister Linda LaMagna, CCW, is hosting a series called “Beginning Again” in which priests have shared their own personal reflections about the power of the Eucharist.
Another in the series is coming up on May 20 from 9:00-11:30 a.m. at the Bertschi Center on the campus of Mount Aloysius College in Cresson.
“The vision for the day is to invite people to begin again, reflecting on different aspects of the Eucharist this time,” explained Sister Linda. “This time we have four people presenting – three of our priests and a lay person.”
The priest presenters for the gathering include Father Clem Gardner, a senior priest of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Father Brian Norris, Parochial Vicar at Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Altoona, and Father Jude Brady, OSB, Director of Pastoral Formation at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe and former Pastor of Saint Benedict Parish in Carrolltown.
“Father Gardner said that the homily is something that has nourished his priesthood throughout his priestly life,” noted Sister Linda. “He is hoping to show folks how it can anchor them in their Christian faith and in their appreciation of what the Eucharist should and can be for their lives in the Church.”
Father Brady plans to focus on the transforming power of the Eucharist.
“He wants to highlight what the Eucharist can actually do to change our hearts and have that spirit of ‘beginning again,’” Sister said. “If we embrace the Eucharist, it can transform us to become whole Christians again.”
Father Norris, meanwhile, brings a unique perspective as a young priest, ordained less than a year.
“I was very impressed with the zeal and enthusiasm of this newly-ordained priest,” Sister Linda admitted. “He wants to share with us the dismissal rite – the going forth, the Mass is ended, and how that calls us into mission.”
Indeed, our good priests are the natural choices to help re-ignite the power of the Eucharist in Catholic life.
“We have competent priests here, we have experienced priests, we have priests with such zeal for the Eucharist,” Sister emphasized. “Especially after the hardships the Church encountered over the last five or six years, they have risen again, and I feel they are the best people to share with us what the Eucharist could be for our life again – to revive it.”
Also presenting on May 20 will be Robert Long, a veteran liturgical musician with roots in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
“He will explain how music brings out the Eucharist and can really enhance it and help us engage in the kind of worship that we want to engage in after we receive,” Sister Linda stated. “He is a deeply spiritual person, and he brings his whole body into the music and his heart. We’re hoping he can share with us how being attentive to the lyrics of songs can help us to worship better.”
The cost of the “Beginning Again” presentation on May 20 is just $10 per person. Register online at dioceseaj.org.
Sister Linda extends a warm invitation to Catholics throughout the diocese to join the gathering and continue their journey toward a deeper connection with Christ through the Eucharist.
“I feel this is something people should not miss,” she insisted. “It’s an opportunity for them to hear priests in their diocese and to allow the transformation that is needed. The messages that they share are going to open our eyes again. It feels like it’s the Emmaus story again – Jesus walking alongside of us, but maybe He needs to open our eyes and our hearts again in the breaking of the bread.”