Bringing students’ focus back to Jesus with the Eucharistic Revival

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University of Mary Procession for Palm Sunday Mass on Camapus' Sageway Path
University of Mary Procession for Palm Sunday Mass on Campus' Sageway Path. Photo Courtesy of the University of Mary

As the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress approaches, Catholic colleges and universities are expanding their involvement in the National Eucharistic Revival — a movement to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.

“From the beginning, Catholic universities have been among the shining lights in the Eucharistic Revival,” Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, told our Sunday Visitor before listing some of their biggest sponsors as Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“The Catholic students on these and other campuses are not just the Church of the future; they are the Church of the present,” Glemkowski added. “They are hungry and hopeful for a Church that is vital and on mission — all flowing from a profound connection to the source of our life, Jesus in the Eucharist.”

Glemkowski made his comments as Catholic colleges and universities nationwide take part in the National Eucharistic Revival, an ongoing three-year initiative launched by the U.S. Catholic bishops. These higher-education institutions are participating by doing everything from providing perpetual adoration and performing Eucharistic music to hosting the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and attending the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

Every school that spoke with Our Sunday Visitor — Benedictine College, Franciscan University, University of Mary, and University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana — is sending students to the congress taking place in Indianapolis on July 17-21. The multi-day event, the first national Eucharistic congress in 83 years, marks the culmination of the revival and is expected to draw 80,000 attendees.

“The Eucharist is the reason for our life. How can we sufficiently describe how important God himself is, made present to us in our daily lives on the pilgrimage of life, under the humble disguise of bread and wine?”

— Father Dominic Bouck

Leading up to the congress, Benedictine College, Franciscan and Notre Dame will also serve as stops in a cross-country National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

These schools are official sponsors: Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life serves as a revival sponsor while the congress lists Benedictine College, Franciscan and University of University of Mary as mission partners. This comes after the team named OSV as one of its first mission partners last year.

“The Eucharist is the reason for our life,” Father Dominic Bouck, chaplain and director of university ministry at Mary, said. “How can we sufficiently describe how important God himself is, made present to us in our daily lives on the pilgrimage of life, under the humble disguise of bread and wine?”

Embracing the revival

For the revival, colleges and universities said that they are highlighting or expanding on the many Eucharistic opportunities they already provide.

“We’re kind of digging into what we already do, the Eucharistic life of our campus,” Father Jonathan St. Andre, TOR, vice president for Franciscan life at Franciscan, said.

Benedictine College
Benedictine College Chaplain Fr. Ryan Richardson with a monstrance during an adoration hour. Courtesy of Benedictine College

His university, along with Benedictine College and University of Mary, offer perpetual adoration and multiple daily Masses where students can directly encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

At Notre Dame, Father Brian Ching, CSC, of campus ministry, rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, said that students also have ample opportunity for adoration, in addition to nearly 150 Masses a week and 40 Masses a weekend between the Basilica, residence halls and other buildings on campus.

At the same time, the university named two new special projects focused on the Eucharist.

Michael Baxter, a visiting professor with the McGrath Institute, shared that he is offering a course this term on the Eucharist and the poor that consists of a lecture series and conversations among 50 undergraduates.

At the same time, Carolyn Pirtle, program director of the Center for Liturgy, spent more than two years writing a modern-day Corpus Christi mystery play cycle — a musical rooted in Scripture — that will be performed twice at the congress, on July 18 and 19.

Notre Dame
The opening Mass in 2022 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

At Franciscan, Father St. Andre highlighted a February retreat for students, faculty and staff called “Behold.”

“With this idea of beholding Christ, coming to know the Lord, Our Eucharistic Lord, as the Lord of our life,” he described. “We’re trying to bring our whole campus together, one body in Christ.”

Eucharistic adoration and devotions

At Benedictine College, Paul Burghart, chief of staff and director of extension programs, named several opportunities to participate in the revival, beginning with a weekly holy hour for administrators and students to unite in prayer for increased devotion to the Eucharist.

The college also commits to Eucharistic education: It has distributed more than 2,500 books on the Eucharist to the community while offering events focused on the Eucharist, from Theology on Tap talks to a symposium last year with the theme “Proclaiming the Real Presence: The Body of Christ in a Secular World.”

The college ministry program also trains students to be missionaries of the Eucharist not only while traveling on mission trips but also in their daily lives.

At University of Mary, Father Bouck said that, in addition to starting perpetual adoration, which involves 350 students taking a weekly hour, they organize regular Eucharistic processions. They also hold a bi-annual 40 Hours devotion — where the Eucharist is exposed for 40 consecutive hours.

This semester, he said, they are welcoming Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Tanner Kalina, a Eucharistic missionary with the revival, to speak on the Eucharist.

University of Mary
Courtesy of the University of Mary

Rebecca Raber, assistant professor of music and director of Cappella, the university chapel choir, shared that Cappella has engaged in a two-year project “to honor and draw focus to the Real Presence in the Eucharist.”

Last year and this year, she said, Cappella and University of Mary commissioned two composers — Michael John Trotta and Philip Stopford — to write settings for Eucharistic motets. Last spring, she added, they sang Eucharistic texts at sites of Eucharistic miracles in Spain as well as at St. Thomas Aquinas’ tomb in Toulouse, France.

“We are compiling recordings of our Eucharistic music into an album,” she added.

Hosting the pilgrimage

Several schools are preparing to open their campuses to the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage, which begins May 17-May 19, will accompany Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on four different routes — from the north, south, east and west — and unite in Indianapolis for the congress.

While traveling from the north, pilgrims will process with the Blessed Sacrament through Notre Dame. On the route from the east, the precious host will stop at Franciscan. Pilgrims coming from the west will celebrate Mass and join in Eucharistic processions at Benedictine College.

Burghart described Benedictine College’s participation on Tuesday, June 25, and Wednesday, June 26.

“On Tuesday, we will have a procession up to campus, evening prayer with the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey, an evening celebration, and all-night adoration,” he said. “On Wednesday morning we will have a Mass followed by a procession around campus.”

At Franciscan, Father St. Andre revealed that around 1,500 youth conference participants will pray before the same host and monstrance in the pilgrimage on June 22.

Father Ching shared that the pilgrimage would travel through Notre Dame’s campus July 6-7. The university will hold Mass, a Eucharistic procession, and special programming.

Attending the congress

Burghart said a delegation from Benedictine College will attend the National Eucharistic Congress that will include President Stephen D. Minnis and other administrators, as well as students and alumni. The college will also host a sponsored session at the congress in addition to a gathering for alumni and friends.

At University of Mary, Father Bouck said they are planning to bus about 100 students, along with around 200 people from their diocese, to the congress.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Mary

Notre Dame is sponsoring a trip for around 20 undergraduate students to attend, while Father St. Andre at Franciscan shared that he is currently helping plan a student pilgrimage retreat to the congress.

“Being involved in the pilgrimage, being involved in sending students to the Eucharistic Congress, reminds our students that they’re a part of the wider Church and what’s going on in the wider Church.”

— Father Jonathan St. Andre

Several Catholic universities and colleges addressed the importance of participating in the revival and called the Eucharist central to their identity.

“To believe in the Eucharist is to be Catholic,” Ed Konieczka, assistant director of university ministry at University of Mary, said. “There is no greater gift that we can pass along to our students than a deep understanding of the Eucharist and its centrality to our Faith.”

For his part, Father St. Andre shared how he hopes the movement impacts students.

“I think if we were just to do things on campus, we wouldn’t be connected to the wider Church,” he said. “Being involved in the pilgrimage, being involved in sending students to the Eucharistic Congress, reminds our students that they’re a part of the wider Church and what’s going on in the wider Church.”

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.