January 18, 2023

How will you know your parish’s Eucharistic Revival is successful?

The old and the new: Resources for Advent and Christmas

As you likely know, Corpus Christi 2023 marks the official kick-off of the parish phase of the Eucharistic Revival – our multi-year mission to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” Some parishes have their commemoration planned out in great detail; many of us have a sense of what we might do. No matter where you are on the preparation continuum, the reality is that by the National Eucharistic Congress in July of 2024, every community in the United States will put notable, if not significant, energy and resources into our local observance.

Therefore, to help focus your efforts, I encourage you to ask yourself: how will you know if it worked? How will you know that your parish’s efforts did, in fact, help enkindle a relationship with the Eucharist? Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t encourage these questions out of defiance or disillusion. I applaud the efforts of the Eucharistic Revival and both work toward and pray for its success. Rather, I encourage these questions because we need our efforts to work. We need a revival; we need a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Frankly, I’m afraid that a year from now we’ll be tired and disappointed. So, what can we do to ensure our efforts bear fruit?

Let’s start with metrics. What are your targets for successful revival liturgies and programs? So you’ll have additional opportunities for Adoration; how many people will participate? Wonderful that you will have that series of weekly speakers who will break open the parts of the Mass; how many people are you hoping will attend? Even more important than the numbers, who will participate? Who will attend? None of us would be happy if the only people who spent time in Adoration are the same people who do so currently. I imagine most of us are hoping that people who don’t currently participate in Adoration will take time for a Holy Hour. Having clear goals will help suggest the outreach and invitations necessary to meet them.

Next, invest lots of planning energy into perspective taking. If one of your metric targets is “young adults,” get into the headspace of a young adult (or, better yet, talk to a few). What do young adults know about the Eucharist? How are they participating in the liturgical and devotional life of your community now? What barriers might be preventing their participation (i.e., scheduling, communication, invitation, cost, etc.)? Most importantly, what assumptions are we making about their prior experience? Do they know what Adoration is, what it’s like, or why the Church spends time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament? This practice works for other groups, too: parents of children in the parish school, inactive parishioners, parishioners from various language or culture groups, teenagers and so forth. In much the same way that metric goals help suggest what outreach is needed, perspective taking can help refine those outreach activities. For instance, back to the young adult example, if you realize that a communication barrier exists because of the ways the group does (or does not) consume parish messages, you better not simply rely on the bulletin to get people to attend. If the typical time of your Adoration is at a time when the group cannot attend – say, during the school day – then you’ll want to schedule time when they are available.

Finally, after all this, check the connection between what you are offering and the needs of your community. So you want to reach parents of young children? We know that millennials are, in general, under catechized. Eucharistic processions and additional opportunities for Adoration are beautiful and fitting practices. But, if you are targeting these parents, is that the only thing they need? Maybe your sacramental preparation programs could include a special focus on the eucharistic acclamations – what they are, what they mean, how to sing them, etc. Maybe a few of the parents who are actively involved in your parish could hold a gathering in their home and intentionally invite other couples where the pastor, deacon or lay minister can meet them and build relationships. From there, they can be invited into parent groups or faith formation programs, and eventually scaffold more fully into the life of the parish.

Ultimately, don’t lose sight of what the vision for the Revival is: “A movement of Catholics across the United States, healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist – and sent out in mission ‘for the life of the world.’” Notice the critical components: a movement, leading us as we are into an encounter that will transform us so, when we are sent, we will transform the world. We want our efforts to make a difference; we need them to make a difference. We should aim to cultivate approaches that bear fruit not just today or for the next year, but for generations to come.

To summarize, ask “how will we know this is successful?” Then, as you identify your goals and targets, take their perspective. Using this reflection, develop your outreach and invitation, and ensure your offerings are meeting people where their needs are.

If you’re completely stuck or don’t know what to do, don’t worry. We are being called to respond to a great challenge, and it’s no surprise that it’ll take some patience and – most importantly – persistence. There are hundreds of resources and guides available for download from various dioceses and organizations in the United States. Also, there are more than 16,000 parishes in the United States, all of whom are trying to figure this out. Reach out to neighbors and colleagues.

I want to let you know that we are here to help, too. The Center for Learning exists to support and accompany pastoral ministers. Developing a wholistic strategy for your parish’s Eucharistic Revival is a perfect topic to discuss with a ministry coach. You can schedule a conversation today to see how we can help.