Ahead of the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress, Catholic colleges and universities are embracing the National Eucharistic Revival — a movement to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with Christ in the holy Eucharist.
“Our hope is for college students to be empowered to become Eucharistic missionaries — individuals who bring their friends and family to the table to encounter Jesus Christ and who go out to those on the margins and periphery to share the love of Jesus,” Joel Stepanek, chief mission officer for the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., told Our Sunday Visitor.
“We believe that college students have a key role to play in Eucharistic revival,” he said, adding, “their gifts, talents and passion are vital to what the Lord wishes to do in the Church in the United States.”
Stepanek’s comments come as Catholic colleges and universities nationwide participate in the National Eucharistic Revival, an ongoing three-year initiative launched by the U.S. Catholic bishops. These educational institutions are committing to the revival by doing everything from organizing Eucharistic processions and adoration to preparing for the upcoming National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.
Some universities, such as the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, plan to send busloads of students to the congress scheduled for July 17-21, 2024. The multi-day event taking place in Indianapolis marks the culmination of the revival. Organizers anticipate that more than 80,000 Catholics will attend the first national Eucharistic congress held in 83 years.
Stepanek listed Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., as colleges and universities particularly active with the revival.
“Renewal in the Church always involves young people,” Stepanek said. “Young people possess a zeal for the Faith that challenges all of us and a voice that brings insight into new modes of evangelization.”
On its website, the National Eucharistic Congress announces the involvement of several Catholic colleges and universities.
The organization lists Benedictine College, Franciscan University and the University of Mary as “mission partners” that made financial commitments and pledged resources for the congress. The team named some of its first mission partners, including OSV, in April.
The group also lists Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana, as a sponsor for the congress.
For the revival, sponsors sharing their expertise and resources include the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, while collaborators working to spread faith and devotion to the Eucharist include Franciscan University and the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas.
Various schools also promise to open their campuses for the cross-country National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage beginning next year will accompany Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on four different routes — from the north, south, east and west — while heading toward one destination: the Eucharistic congress in Indianapolis.
While traveling from the north, pilgrims will process with the Blessed Sacrament through the University of Notre Dame. On the route from the east, pilgrims will join thousands of students for Mass at Franciscan University. Pilgrims coming from the west will celebrate Mass at Benedictine College.
Ahead of the Eucharistic congress, colleges and universities are organizing events focused on the Eucharist.
“We are providing resources to our students to deepen their knowledge of the Eucharist,” Paul Burghart, director of Extension Services at Benedictine College, said, “making our high school youth programming Eucharistic themed, and hosting various events including Eucharistic processions and adoration to encourage Eucharistic devotion amongst our students.”
At the University of Dallas, students attended a Eucharistic procession last year in one of the first revival events in Texas. The university also shared plans for the upcoming school year: Matthew Walz, associate professor of philosophy, is organizing a lecture series centered around the Eucharist.
The Adoro Te lecture series at the university and in the Diocese of Dallas will feature a variety of speakers in an effort to “seed” the revival. Walz will deliver one of the several lectures, called “The Fulfillment of All Eating.”
“My lecture considers the Eucharist through a philosophical lens by pondering the nature and meaning of eating and pondering the Eucharist in light of this basic vital activity — one that is not only a human activity, but an activity in which every physically living being participates,” Walz described. “The Eucharist is the Food of foods, as it were, and I hope my lecture provides some grounds for seeing that more clearly and believing in it more firmly.”
He shared what excites him about the series, including contributing a needed intellectual dimension to the revival.
“The Eucharist offers so much for us to contemplate, and the Eucharist also reveals the deepest secrets about our merciful Father’s love for us manifested through his Son — the love that was at the heart of both creation and the Incarnation,” he said.
Anticipating the revival
Other higher-education institutions shared how they, with what they already do, anticipated the Eucharistic revival.
As chaplain at the University of Mary, Father Dominic Bouck called devotion to the Blessed Sacrament “one of our constant priorities.”
Father Bouck, who also serves as director of University Ministry and assistant professor of Catholic Studies, revealed that he began a 40 Hours Devotion a couple of years ago. Today, the university offers the devotion — where the Eucharist is exposed for 40 consecutive hours — twice a year in addition to daily adoration.
At Holy Cross College, Andrew Ouellette, the director of Foundation and Church Relations, also stressed that his college has “always fostered a great love for Our Lord in the Eucharist.”
The college offers weekly evening adoration with the hopes of, one day, offering perpetual adoration. Ouellette also said that the college community recently established First Friday devotions, which include hours of Eucharistic adoration and Mass.
Leaders at colleges and universities who spoke with Our Sunday Visitor expressed hope that students will come away with a deepening devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Christ’s presence — body, blood, soul and divinity — in the Eucharist.
Father Bouck expressed excitement that his university will partner with the local Diocese of Bismarck to bus around 300 people to the National Eucharistic Congress. Holy Cross College and Benedictine College also hope for their students to participate.
“It is vital for Benedictine students to participate in the Eucharistic Revival because they are and will be the primary Eucharistic missionaries to their peers, a demographic which desperately needs to encounter Christ in the Eucharist,” Burghart emphasized. “If they can deepen devotion to the Blessed Sacrament here during this revival, they will take that love out into the world and share it with all they encounter.”