Eucharistic Revival and Missionary Discipleship

In my past few articles, I’ve shared the various liturgies, programs, and activities that Holy Cross Parish in South Bend has sponsored thus far in celebration of the National Eucharistic Revival. We might be tempted to see the National Eucharistic Congress, taking place this July in Indianapolis, as the culmination of the Revival. I think of the Congress more as the summit of the Revival from which we then move forward, just as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” The Congress is not the end of our Eucharistic Revival. From this summit of the Congress, we are called to go out as missionary disciples to invite others to experience Jesus present in the Eucharist, his grace shared with us through the Eucharist as well as through his body, the Church.

In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Kevin Rhoades has mandated that all parishes follow up this year of Eucharistic Revival with some form of missionary discipleship. He shows great wisdom and foresight in ensuring that our Eucharistic revival, as individuals and as parishes, motivates us to engage in the missionary discipleship of which Pope Francis has often spoken. Francis explains the need for the Church to not be self-referential but outward-focused in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), and has spoken of this vision of Church on many occasions.

Last spring, eight of our parishioners attended a workshop offered by the diocese through the Saint Paul Evangelization Institute. (I’m pleased to mention that, while not a large parish, we had the largest delegation of any parish at this workshop held on the South Bend side of the diocese!) We then decided to adopt their program of discipleship groups and public evangelizing for our parish’s implementation of the missionary discipleship mandated by Bishop Rhoades.

In a recent brainstorming meeting of this Missionary Discipleship Team, we developed an initial schema for our parish’s missionary discipleship. The first phase, to take place in the fall, will focus on strengthening our understanding and culture of missionary discipleship within the parish. Our outreach will be to inactive parishioners and family members, as well as to newer members of the parish. An initial idea is to offer a gathering of parishioners in the school gym for faith sharing and community building, to be followed up by small discipleship groups to meet in the fall. The second phase, to take place in the spring, will entail the missionary discipleship “sending” into our neighborhood and local community: the evangelization to which this year’s Eucharistic Revival is meant to lead us.  

Our parish school has continued to offer our students opportunities to experience the Eucharistic Revival, as well. The principal has been implementing aspects of the Christocentric School, sending pieces of the program to the appropriate teachers and grade levels. Our art teacher had his students from 4th through 8th grade create Eucharistic-oriented drawings that are displayed throughout the school, with a representation displayed in the back of our church. Our music teacher and the parish director of music ministry have increased the repertoire of Eucharistic hymns sung by our school choir at our Friday school Masses, and we have continued monthly Adoration for our students.

My hope and prayer is that this year of Eucharistic Revival will lead our parish to a genuine desire to grow as a community of missionary disciples, eager to evangelize family and neighbors through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Pope Francis explains in Evangelii Gaudium:

In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization… The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. He then draws the defining conclusion: Missionary Discipleship… Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.” 

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