Maria Esteva is eager to see how the Eucharistic Revival will unfold over the next three years.

“The Eucharistic Revival is definitely needed” because it will provide a way to explain to many more people about what the Eucharist means,” said Esteva, a parishioner of Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro. “As Catholics, receiving the Eucharist is the most important thing we do.”

On the day when the Universal Church marked the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, dioceses from around the United States officially launched the start of the three-year national Eucharistic Revival which has as its goal to reignite devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

PHOTO GALLERY: Eucharistic Revival Opening Mass

In the Trenton Diocese, the Eucharistic Revival opened with a Mass and Eucharistic Procession in Corpus Christi Church, with Father Martin O’Reilly, episcopal vicar of Burlington County; pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, and co-chair of the Eucharistic Revival for the Diocese, serving as principal celebrant and homilist. 

The diocesan observance was welcomed by Father John Testa, pastor of Corpus Christi, who noted that it was an honor for the revival to be inaugurated on the parish’s feast day.  The more than 200 in attendance included some from outside the parish. 

The Eucharistic Revival

“Today is about recalling what it is God can do for us if we believe,” said Father O’Reilly. At every Mass, Christ says to us that “you must eat my Body and drink my Blood if you want to have life in me.”

Jesus, said Father O’Reilly, wants us to be invigorated and filled with hope and joy “when we receive him, and then he wants us to take that hope and joy and share it with others.”

Father O’Reilly explained that the Eucharistic Revival was spearheaded by the U.S. Bishops following a 2019 Pew Research Center survey that found that 69 percent of Catholics in America didn’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S. Bishops conducted a follow-up to the Pew Survey, and that indicated “fairly close” results of about 63 percent, he said.

“That was a cause for concern” for the bishops, Father O’Reilly said, in that it’s not so much about the Eucharist being one of the pillars of the Catholic faith, but that “many of us were truly depriving ourselves of what it is that Christ wanted to give us.”

Father O’Reilly reflected on various Scripture passages pertaining to the Eucharist including when Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Though a difficult concept to grasp, including for the disciples, Father O’Reilly said, “Jesus [was] ultimately giving himself to them,” and asked his disciples to continue sharing his Body and Blood “to everybody who wishes to receive it because I want them to have my life in them.”

“Every time we come to celebrate the Eucharist, to process forward to eat of the table, Christ is entering us. It’s mind-boggling, it’s incomprehensible,” he said. “Jesus wants us to be invigorated, he wants us to be filled with hope, filled with joy and he wants us to take that hope, take that joy and share it with others. Because that’s what the Eucharist is, the Bread of Life, the Blood of Hope. It’s food that sustains us.”

Following Communion, Father O’Reilly exposed the Blessed Sacrament and placed it in a monstrance. As the congregation knelt and the choir led in singing hymns such as Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All, Father O’Reilly carried the monstrance in an indoor procession around the perimeter of the church. Father Testa and Father Stanley Lukaszewski, a retired priest of the Diocese who concelebrated the Mass, also walked in the procession along with Deacon Mike Hagan who carried the incensor and the altar servers. Eucharistic processions were likewise held in many parishes around the Diocese as part of the Revival’s launch.

Christ’s Greatest Gift

As longtime parish catechists, Harry Vahey said he and his wife, Regina, are well aware that today’s students need to see proof or evidence before they will believe and that makes the teaching of the Real Presence more challenging.

“We try to explain believing as a gift of faith, not wishful thinking, that it’s something built upon confidence, conviction, and an expectation that Christ is near, is listening and wants to help if we only let him in,” Harry Vahey said. “The proof for our students is what Christ actually said at the Last Supper and the understanding that only God could do this and that only God using the hands and voice of the priest at the altar can do this at our Mass.”

Regina Vahey added how Jesus, before he “suffered for our salvation, left us the greatest gift of all – himself. And by his power as God, he gave us himself in the Blessed Sacrament.

“How filled with wonder and awe should we be to realize he is really present in Masses [whether they are] celebrated in the largest basilica, in the smallest country churches, on makeshift altars on the hoods of vehicles when needed, and in large stadiums when the Pope visits countries of the world.  

“He is always present with us,” Regina Vahey reiterated. “We need the faith given us by the Holy Spirit to believe it. The Eucharistic Revival is a start to renew this faith.”