What to expect at the National Eucharistic Congress in July

(OSV News) — “I think my heart is going to explode,” said Montse Alvarado, describing the way she expects to feel when she gathers with with tens of thousands of Catholics to adore the Eucharist at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium in July. “It feels like so much beauty at a moment when our country and our world is in the midst of war and so much pain, just to see this be our church’s response — wow, what a witness.”

The United States’ first event of its kind in more than half a century, the National Eucharistic Congress is expected to draw more than 40,000 Catholics July 17-21 for five days of prayer, speakers, liturgies and worship, all entered on Jesus in the Eucharist.

Speakers showcase a “who’s who” in Catholic evangelization, including Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, and founder of Word on Fire; Father Mike Schmitz of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, and host of “The Bible in a Year” podcast; Sister Josephine Garrett, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and host of the “Hope Stories” podcast; and Jonathan Roumie, who portrays Jesus in “The Chosen.”

The pinnacle of the National Eucharistic Revival

The event is the pinnacle of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative the U.S. bishops launched on Corpus Christi Sunday in June 2022 to renew Catholics’ love for and understanding of Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist.

Montse Alvarado (OSV News photo/courtesy EWTN Global Catholic Network)

Alvarado, EWTN News president and COO and one of three emcees for the congress’s daily “revival sessions,” told OSV News June 21 she expects the congress to be a source of American Catholics’ spiritual unity, strengthened identity and renewed vigor through the Holy Spirit.

“I’m excited for people to connect with the church,” she said, and “for the church to encounter itself.”

The congress begins Wednesday night in Lucas Oil Stadium with the first of the four evening revival sessions, with Eucharistic adoration, speakers and worship music. The event opens with a major procession with the 30 young adult “perpetual pilgrims” from all four routes of the eight-week National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. The pilgrims set out with the Eucharist on Pentecost weekend from points in California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas to meet in Indianapolis for the congress, covering a combined 6,500 miles — many of them on foot — as they encountered Catholics at parishes and other sacred and secular sites for Mass and other worship experiences, Eucharistic processions and fellowship.

Days of prayer, formation and celebration

The congress’s opening procession will culminate in Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, entering the stadium with the Eucharist in a “massive” monstrance designed for the congress, leading to a time of silent adoration. Then participants will hear from Bishop Cozzens and the evening’s other keynote speakers, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio to the United States; and Sister Bethany Madonna, a Sister of Life in Phoenix.

As with each congress evening’s revival session, Alvarado will be emceeing along with Sister Miriam James Heidland, a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and co-host of the “Abiding Together” podcast; and Father Josh Johnson, a priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and host of the “Ask Father Josh” podcast. Worship will be led by Dallas’ Dave and Lauren Moore, the founders of Catholic Music Initiative.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday have similar schedules. The days begin with Relevant Radio’s Family Rosary Across America with Father Rocky Hoffman, followed by Mass, with English, Spanish and youth options, celebrated by key American prelates such as Cardinal Timothy M Dolan of New York, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington.

A woman holding a rosary prays during Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco May 19. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

Following Mass, attendees are encouraged to remain in the stadium or head to the adjacent Indiana Convention Center for one of seven “impact session” tracks being held in both locations. With names like Encounter, Renewal and Empower, each track is tailored for particular audiences — including ministry leaders, families, youth and priests — and feature well-known Catholic leaders, experts and speakers.

Following lunch, afternoon breakout sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday dive into a range of topics, from apologetics to social action, with more than 40 speakers over three days.

Liturgy, art and exhibitions

Varied styles of liturgies will be offered Thursday and Friday afternoons, with options including Masses in English and Vietnamese (Friday only), as well as Byzantine Divine Liturgy and Mass according to the 1962 Missal (widely known as the “traditional Latin Mass”) offered at nearby parishes.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons also include a range of additional exhibits and experiences: the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit, which features a replica of the famous burial shroud believed to have covered Jesus in the tomb; the Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit, originally created by soon-to-be St. Carlo Acutis (one of the Eucharistic revival’s patrons); a chapel with relics from Blessed Carlo and other saints associated with the revival; Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atriums, which offer Montessori-style faith formation for children up to age 12; and the CatholicHOM Immersive Family Experience, which will include an interactive puppet show.

On Thursday, “Bernadette de Lourdes, the Musical” — a theatrical performance about the Marian visionary of Lourdes, France — will be staged at Lucas Oil Stadium at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday and Friday will also include an opportunity to pack meals for the hungry with Indianapolis-based Million Meal Movement. The Denver-based Christ in the City will also train small groups of people to encounter chronically homeless men and women in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, an expansive expo hall in the convention center will be open each day from noon to 6:30 p.m. with booths and displays featuring apostolates, ministries, religious orders, publishers and “makers of all types,” according to organizers. The convention center will also host three stages with rotating music acts and live podcast shows.

A procession through Indianapolis

A key congress highlight is Saturday’s 3-5 p.m. Eucharistic procession through downtown Indianapolis, which is expected to make a visual and spiritual impact on the city.

On Wednesday to Saturday, revival sessions begin in Lucas Oil Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday’s keynote speakers are Father Schmitz and Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, founder and servant mother of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in the Archdiocese of Boston. Friday’s speakers are Sister Josephine and Father Boniface Hicks, a Benedictine monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and the event includes prayer for healing and reparation and a Eucharistic procession.

NEC MUSICIAN MATT MAHER
Catholic musician Matt Maher performs April 6, 2024, in concert during the “Live and in the Room Tour” at the International Community Church in Frederick, Md. (OSV News photo/Christopher Gunty, Catholic Review)

Saturday’s revival speakers are Bishop Barron; Roumie; Catholic media personality Gloria Purvis, and Tim Glemkowski, current CEO of National Eucharistic Congress Inc., the nonprofit organizing revival events, especially the congress and pilgrimage. Catholic musician Matt Maher will lead worship during Eucharistic adoration.

On Sunday, the congress’s final day, the revival session is in the morning, with speakers Mother Adela Galindo of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who founded a bilingual “religious family” of religious sisters and brothers, priests and laypeople; and Chris Stefanick, founder of Real Life Catholic.

Sending forth on mission

The congress ends with a “great commissioning,” which organizers have compared to “a new Pentecost,” where attendees “will be sent out to joyfully proclaim the Gospel in every corner of our nation.” The congress will close with a 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by special papal envoy Cardinal Luis Tagle, pro-prefect of the Section for the First Evangelization and New Particular Churches of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Evangelization.

As the event draws near, Glemkowski said he is excited to watch it unfold.

“There’s movement and energy and it’s focused on Jesus, and we’re asking for the Holy Spirit to fall on the church in a new way,” he told OSV News June 26. “The communion of the church is going to be so powerful and prominent.”

Speaking to fellow bishops June 14 at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Spring Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, Bishop Cozzens, board chairman of National Eucharistic Congress Inc., pointed to the encouragement Pope Francis gave congress organizers when they met with him June 19, 2023.

“I’m reminded and encouraged often by the words of our Holy Father to us,” Bishop Cozzens told the bishops. “‘The National Eucharistic Congress,’ he (Pope Francis) said, ‘marks a significant moment in the life of the church in the United States. May all that you’re doing be an occasion of grace for each of you, and may it bear fruit in guiding men and women, throughout your nation, to the Lord who, by his presence among us, rekindles hope and renews life.’”

The congress kicks off the National Eucharistic Revival’s third year, the Year of Mission, which encourages Catholics to intentionally accompany someone on his or her faith journey back to the Catholic faith through its “Walk with One” initiative.

The year also invites Catholics to become Eucharistic missionaries, which would take them, Bishop Cozzens said, “deep into the mystery of the Eucharist” and how that affects their life. Bishop Cozzens’ book on the topic, written with Glemkowski and titled “For the Life of the World: Invited to Eucharistic Mission,” was published June 24 by Our Sunday Visitor.

The impact of a national gathering

The July congress is the 10th National Eucharistic Congress, occurring 83 years after the Ninth National Eucharistic Congress in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“We won’t wait another 83 years before the 11th National Eucharistic Congress,” Bishop Cozzens told the bishops. “We all know that the work of renewing the life of the Eucharist in the church is a generational work. Many countries have regular national Eucharistic congresses, including places like Italy and Mexico.”

The next U.S. national congress may be in 2033, Bishop Cozzens said, in honor of the “year of redemption” — the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Catholics who have only recently felt moved to attend the Eucharistic congress need not wait another nine years, however; Bishop Cozzens told bishops that day passes and hotel rooms are still available for the congress in July.

“For five days, Catholics are going to take over a-one-and-a-half-square-mile radius of downtown Indianapolis,” Glemkowski said. “I’m so excited for people to come and just have that experience of, ‘Oh, this is a huge deal, like, this is a big thing that’s happening in this city.’ You’re going to spend five days wrapped in the communion of the church in a way that I think a lot of us are going to miss when it’s over.”

This post What to expect at the National Eucharistic Congress in July appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

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