The Bishop spent a few minutes at the beginning of his presentation emphasizing the need for more priests and cited several examples especially in the rural areas wherein one priest has responsibility for more the one parish. This puts an extreme burden on the priest and it also means that the parishioners have limited access to a priest. The Bishop encouraged serrans to be diligent in our mission of promoting vocations both to the priesthood and vowed religious life.
He then turned to his primary topic being the Eucharistic Revival launched by the bishops of the United States. A three-year revival that began in June of this year with Eucharistic processions in dioceses across the country. It will culminate in a national Eucharistic Congress in July, 2024, in Indianapolis. Its intent is to awaken the faithful to fuller appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. It was prompted in part by a well-known Pew Research Center report that indicated that approximately two-thirds of American Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ.
The Bishop stated that this lack of belief goes back to our formation. Our current approach has led many of us to take the Eucharist for granted. If we were properly formed, then we would understand that the church has always taught that at the Mass, the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ. Jesus said, ‘This is my body, this is my blood.’ And we as a matter of faith, believe that the Eucharist is the actual presence of Christ. He encouraged us to make a special effort to concentrate and pay attention at Mass to increase our appreciation of this sacrament. He also stressed the importance of gathering. We need to understand we are a church not just individuals. We are members of the body of Christ. As a church, we gather around our risen Lord to participate and to proclaim to others that this is Christ, and we worship him. He also noted that the change in the Faith Formation process currently underway in the diocese in which ninth grade students will prepare for and receive the sacrament of Confirmation will leave these students with a better appreciation of the Eucharist.
Because the Diocese of Erie is geographically vast, processions were offered at various locations throughout the diocese to initiate the revival in June. The bishops revisited the issue at their spring and fall meetings in 2021. They have since published a document, The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church that he strongly encouraged us to read. He has also encouraged each parish to host a votive weekend to the Eucharist this month with preaching and other celebrations. Additional local events will be scheduled during the remainder of this first year with a focus on renewed attention to adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 40 hours celebrations and prayer.