Archbishop's Column
The Catholic Transcript - September Issue, 2004

The Year of the Eucharist

The people of Connecticut are known to be people of steady habits. With Catholics, these habits are often the practice of the sacraments. Cultivated by repeated practice, these habits develop into a profound habit of being, of being Catholic.

When Catholics are asked, therefore, what we find most attractive about the Church, it is no surprise that a frequent reply is “the sacraments.” When I ask people who return to the Church after many years away why they have returned, their response is often immediate: “I missed the Mass and the other sacraments.”

The Mass, the Eucharist, is at the heart of our habit of being, of being Catholic. It is the central event in the life of the Catholic, the identifying action of the Catholic.

It is with exceptional joy, then, that we have welcomed Pope John Paul II’s proclamation of a Year of the Holy Eucharist, running from October 2004 to October 2005. It is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our appreciation for the Eucharist, to strengthen our convictions of being Catholic, and to nourish in God’s grace our spiritual lives.

I will be working with the Presbyteral Council and other groups to develop celebrations and other events for the Year of the Holy Eucharist. At this time I request that all the parishes, institutions, and agencies in the Archdiocese make specific plans to observe this unique Year.

Parishes might schedule special celebrations of the Eucharist, Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament, extended periods of Adoration, Forty Hours Devotion, Eucharistic Processions, Benediction, etc. Experience shows that Eucharistic devotions make a profound difference in the tone of a parish, notably increasing participation in the Mass and in various parish service activities.
Parish lectures on the Eucharist can promote a richer understanding of the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives. Special attention should be given to extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, lectors, musicians, choir members, ushers, altar servers, and sacristans. Efforts to improve the quality of our celebrations are always in order. Parish liturgy committees, parish councils, and other parish groups should be involved.

Catholic schools and religious education programs should be distinguished by their emphasis on Eucharistic celebrations and devotions during the year. College and university campus ministry programs will be all the more substantial for their focus on the Eucharist.
Catholic hospitals and nursing homes might focus on the healing powers of the Eucharist and highlight the availability of the Eucharist for our patients, residents, and staff members.

Catholic Charities/Catholic Family Services and other Catholic social service agencies will continue to draw much encouragement from their reflections on the connection between the Eucharist and the services we provide.

We will be promoting these efforts and activities from the Archdiocesan level as the Year proceeds. St. Joseph’s Cathedral will be active in this regard. Everyone has his or her own parish, but the Cathedral belongs to everyone. The Archdiocesan website will be adding a special section for information on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a helpful review on the Eucharist for all.

In my column for the May issue of The Catholic Transcript I wrote about The Sacrament of Redemption, a new Instruction on the Eucharist published by the Holy See on April 23, 2004. As I mentioned there, it affirms many of the points addressed in the General Instruction for the Roman Missal, published in 2002. It takes special richness from the Holy Father’s beautiful encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, on the relationship of the Eucharist and the Church, which he addressed to all in the Church on Holy Thursday, 2003. Now we have the Year of the Eucharist, beginning next month.

In the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (No. 199), we read:
“ . . . active and conscious participation in the liturgy, most of all in the Eucharist, leads naturally to the practice of charity toward the poor and the needy.” In His multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Our Lord foreshadowed His institution of the Eucharist. May the observance of the Year of the Eucharist in our Archdiocese reveal new depths in our celebration of the Eucharist and multiply our works of mercy and service. May the Eucharistic Lord give the increase to our habit of being, of being Catholic.