TIVERTON — “We can never have too much love, too much reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist,” said Father Phillip Dufour, the newly installed pastor of St. Theresa and St. Christopher Parishes in the East Bay.
This philosophy also motivates the National Eucharistic Revival, embarked upon by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and two years in progress as of this writing. The culmination of this revival approaches in the first National Eucharistic Congress in over 80 years, taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana, from July 17-21. Roughly 80,000 Catholics are expected to attend the five-day event at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of NFL’s Colts. The Diocese of Providence, under the guidance of Bishop Richard G. Henning, hopes to send 150 representatives via bus to Indiana’s capital. Registration is now open for this historic event.
Father Dufour, the Eucharistic Revival coordinator for the Diocese of Providence, and Paige Bertuch, logistics coordinator for the diocese, spoke with Rhode Island Catholic about the importance of diocesan Catholic attendance.
During this event, participants can expect talks from well-known Catholic speakers, daily impact and breakout sessions, times of prayer and adoration and even the very public witness of taking Jesus to the streets – literally – in a eucharistic procession through downtown Indianapolis. But one of its greatest strengths is that the Congress will “bring together all these different people from different areas of the country to learn from each other … to be a witness to each other of how we can really be better Catholics in our communities,” Bertuch commented.
Both Father Dufour and Bertuch stress the uniqueness of this opportunity, particularly its accessibility to everyone. Bishop Henning hopes to see a contingent come from all corners of Rhode Island, with a diverse mixture of people: clergy and laity, old and young, families and single people and various ethnicities.
These are the people Father Dufour expects will take that transformational experience back to their parishes and breathe new life into the local fires of revival.
“I hope and pray that those who do attend the Congress, those the Lord is calling to attend the Congress, that it is not just for themselves, for their own spiritual upbringing … [but] that they become true apostles of the Eucharist when they come back to Rhode Island, when they come back to the Diocese of Providence,” he said.
Father Dufour sees this opportunity as a bridge between the earlier phases of diocese and parish renewal – the current phase – and the upcoming sending-forth aspect of revival.
“The last phase is the missionary phase,” he explained. “If we want to draw other people into love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, we have to have our house in order. It doesn’t mean that we’re perfect; we’re striving for perfection. Striving, growing in holiness, growing in reverence.
“A person who knows nothing about the faith, who has never even heard of the Eucharist, should be able to walk into any of our parishes and see the Eucharist. They may not know what it is, they may not know what it’s about, but they should say ‘That is something profound because of the way the people in the church are acting around it.’”
Bertuch reflected that while the Eucharistic Revival actually began two years ago, “the Congress marks the beginning of [revival] in our diocese.”
As a revert to the Faith, Bertuch understands the impact that the Eucharist can have on the faith life of one person. When she realized as a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst that Christ was truly present in the Eucharist, she became enflamed with a greater love for him and for her Catholic faith. Today, she loves working with others, especially younger people, to encourage them to a deeper faith life.
“It changed the trajectory of my life; imagine what it could do for the 10 other people we tell or the hundred other people we tell. It has such potential to change the world,” she said.
Father Dufour and Bertuch strongly emphasize that this is not a trip, but rather a pilgrimage, “an encounter with the Lord,” as Father Dufour put it, that should leave participants with a greater knowledge and love for God that they can then spread to others. Several priests have already signed up for the pilgrimage, Bertuch reported, so there will be plenty of spiritual guidance available for pilgrims.
Pilgrimage rates falls into four different price brackets, which include bus transportation from Providence to Indianapolis and back, as well as to and from the congress each day, hotel lodging for five days (with varying room occupancies) and entrance to the congress itself. The only costs not covered are food and any personal expenses. For those unable to manage the long bus ride, Bertuch can help arrange for flights, but the cost will remain the same, as pilgrims will still need local bus transportation around Indianapolis.
Organizing the pilgrimage has been a great deal of work for Bertuch, but she is excited to see what will come from it.
Father Dufour also expressed his enthusiasm to witness the fruits of their labors.
“Those who go to the congress, I hope that the flame is fueled for them to be able to come back and continue revival in their parishes, so that way we can then go from a place of spiritual strength to go out and welcome people who have been away, to spread the Eucharistic gospel, to help others encounter that most beautiful mystery.”
To sign up, go to www.dioceseofprovidence.org/eucharistic-congress. Any logistical questions can be directed to Bertuch at firstname.lastname@example.org