The Catholic Church in the United States is observing the inaugural year of the National Eucharistic Revival, taking place thru July 2024. This multi-year effort is a response to some sobering statistics that shed light on the current state of affairs in the Church: only 31 percent of people who self-identify as Catholic profess belief in the Eucharist as the true Body and Blood of Christ, and less than 40 percent indicate they attend Mass weekly. While there can be debate around the content and results of this poll, one only needs to look around many of our churches to see the reality we are facing: empty pews, financial pressures, aging congregations and fewer volunteers and ministers (let alone ordained ministers). Beyond the situation in the Church, we look upon a hurting world in need of healing. The Church stands as a beacon in this hurting world, but given our own internal situation, is the Church’s light shining as it should.

The revival’s goal is to renew our hope in the midst of these challenges by bringing us back to the source and summit of our faith – Jesus Christ in the Eucharist – so that our light can shine once again brightly for this hurting world. “The Eucharist Revival is a call back to the heart of the faith so that we can be vessels of Christ in our families, communities, and parishes” reads the Leader’s Playbook published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which provides guidance to diocesan and parish leaders on best practices to implement the revival locally. “Scandal, division, disease and doubt. The Church has withstood each of these throughout our very human history. But today we confront all of them, all at once. Our response in this moment is pivotal.”

Each Diocese implements the revival in a beautifully unique way. What will it look like in the Diocese of Burlington? Bishop Christopher Coyne would like us to focus on the Eucharistic celebration — the Mass. To that end, here’s a highlight of what the Diocese will be promoting in 2023:

–        The promulgation and implementation of updated sacramental and liturgical guidelines for the Diocese, specifically around the celebration of the Mass, bringing communion to the sick and guidelines and best practices for Eucharistic Adoration. As part of this effort, parishes will be encouraged to intentionally think about how they engage different aspects of the ars celebrandi – the art of celebrating – the Mass. This will undoubtedly look different at each parish as each might opt to look at a different aspect of the Mass. What is done well already? Where might we adjust the way we celebrate to better express what we believe takes place in the Mass?

–        Catechetical efforts spread throughout the year: social media, website, bulletin snippets, videos, podcasts, magazine articles. January through March will focus on Preparing to Celebrate Mass and the Gathering Rites; April through June will focus on the Liturgy of the Word; July through September will focus on catechesis around the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Communion Rite; and October through December will focus on the Concluding Rites and linking liturgy to life.

–        Restarting diocesan lector and extraordinary minister of holy communion training, which took a hiatus due to Covid-19.

–        Collection and publication of “Eucharistic Testimonies” from parishioners throughout the Diocese – people witnessing their faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist and how the Eucharist is transformative in their lives. Joined to these testimonies will be writings from the saints regarding the Eucharist.

Excitement is building in this planning phase for our diocesan Eucharistic Revival. As word begins to spread in our parishes and parishes engage in the revival in one way or another, we hope that excitement spreads. As the Leadership Booklet observes, “The Holy Spirit invites our Church into an era of healing and renewal.”

How will you answer that invitation? How will you invite others?

— Josh Perry is director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.