Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A visit with the recently 'merged" parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans


Merged parishes: A journey toward unity

By Macie Capote
Clarion Herald

Following the recent merger of several parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans on July 1, the new pastors of the merged parishes are adapting to their roles and working to foster community within their congregations. Their common experience appears to be both excitement and challenge.

St. John Paul II

Father Vincent Phan, pastor of St. John Paul II in Waggaman (formerly Our Lady of the Angels), reported a positive attitude among his parishioners.

“Everyone is in good spirits and willing to help with anything that needs to be done,” he said.

Although attendance at the first merged Sunday Mass was lower than expected, the Saturday vigil Mass saw nearly double the turnout, Father Phan said. Some parishioners 
from the closed St. Bonaventure in Avondale may choose to join different parishes, but Father Phan said the ones who attended Mass at the merged parish are happy.

Over the past few weeks, Father Phan has been moving sacred items from St. Bonaventure to St. John Paul II and working to get to know everyone to help him make informed decisions about establishing the new pastoral council. He aims to connect with those who may feel left out.

“Hopefully, we can draw in more people from St. Bonaventure, but these things take time to digest,” Father Phan said. “It’s going to take a while, but I will do my best to bring what is genuine, and give the rest to the good Lord.”

St. Martin de Porres

Father Francis Offia, pastor of St. Martin de Porres in New Orleans (formerly Transfiguration of the Lord), shares Father Phan’s sentiment that the transition will be “a slow and steady process.”

Father Offia said attendance at his first Sunday Mass was strong from Transfiguration of the Lord and St. Gabriel the Archangel, but only a few parishioners from St. James Major attended, as many have yet to decide whether to join the merged parish.

He said he is working to be as diligent as possible in selecting his committees with the closed parishes in mind, but he won’t let the absence of parishioners set him back.

“I’ve been intentional and deliberate in including every committee from each parish in every decision I make,” Father Offia said. “I want to create a space where each parish has equal representation, but if you’re not there, I have to move forward.”

The newly appointed pastoral council at St. Martin de Porres has two people from each parish represented.

“Luckily, the people who were selected are people with a positive mindset,” he said.

Even though some parishioners have already made up their minds on whether they will be joining the merged parishes or not, Father Offia said that won’t stop him from letting them know they have a home at St. Martin de Porres. 

“We’re going to continue to reach out to everybody, even those who have decided they’re not coming,” he said. “We will continue to do what we have to to bring everyone together.”
In moving inventory from the closed parishes, Father Offia is committed to ensuring that something from each parish is represented within the church. 

“I’m bringing something to the new parish from each of the three communities,” he said. “I want to demonstrate my willingness and readiness to contribute and carry out the process of integration.”

With the financial state of the parish still unknown, Father Offia has opted to hold off on making decisions about his staff. Despite the confusion and uncertainty, he is confident that God has called him to get this job done.

“It’s a task, but I keep asking myself, ‘If not you, who?’” he said.

St. Michael the Archangel

At St. Michael the Archangel in Paradis, Father Lance Campo is still trying to get settled.
“I’m still learning a lot, but everyone has been very nice and welcoming,” he said. 

Father Campo has not yet formed a new pastoral council or finance council but plans to involve some members of the transition team in these roles.

Father Campo’s initial focus has been the parish’s finances and debt, making decisions about staffing and programs and taking inventory of the closed church, St. Gertrude the Great in Des Allemands.

With all of the planning, Father Campo said he is seeing some good come out of the merger, and for former St. Gertrude parishioners, it may have been a blessing in disguise.

Parishioners of St. Gertrude had been worshipping inside the church’s rectory for the past three years due to extensive damage to the church from Hurricane Ida. Some members of the congregation had to stand in the kitchen for Mass, due to a lack of space in the retrofitted chapel.

“They were very happy to be in a real church and see some of the things from their church here,” Father Campo said. “They haven’t been having Communion under both species because of the space, so they are happy to have that now as well.”

St. Josephine Bakhita

Franciscan Father Francis Kamau, pastor of St. Josephine Bakhita in New Orleans, spent the last three Sundays before the first merged Mass trying to prepare the parishioners of Our Lady Star of the Sea for the transition to St. Mary of the Angels Church.

“I spent a lot of time talking with the people about what I think will be the benefit and the good side of moving over and starting afresh,” he said. “We need to be spending more time thinking about our mission and where we’re headed instead of where we’ve come from.”

Father Kamau received mixed reactions from his parishioners: Some were excited and ready to trust him, while others expressed a need for time before making the transition.

Additionally, some stated they would not participate in the merger. In light of these mixed feelings, Father Kamau plans to delay the election of his pastoral council to allow everyone who intends to join the parish the opportunity to do so.

Despite the varied responses, Father Kamau said he is encouraged by the fact that attendance at Saturday and Sunday Masses has doubled. He believes that with the support of former staff and members, the parish’s future looks promising.

“It may not be all of a sudden, where everyone is here on Sunday, but over time we may start to see more parishioners join us,” he said. “I will continue to encourage and talk about the future so our community can be the best it can be.”

A plea from Americans asking the Pope not to further restrict the traditional Latin Mass

 US icons urge pope not to further restrict traditional Mass

American cultural figures, believers and nonbelievers alike, emphasize cultural and spiritual importance of ancient liturgy

A priest is seen celebrating the Holy Mass in its traditional form according to the liturgical books promulgated in 1962 by Pope Saint John XXIII in this undated photo. (Photo: The Institute of Christ the King)

Following the example of a group of British cultural icons, a group of American "Catholics and non-Catholics" and prominent cultural and intellectual personalities asked Pope Francis in an open letter July 15 not to further restrict the traditional Latin Mass.

"We come to you with the humility and obedience but also the confidence of children, telling a loving father of our spiritual needs," wrote signatories of the letter called "An Open Letter from the Americas to Pope Francis," inspired by Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

"To deprive the next generation of artists of this source of mystery, beauty, and contemplation of the sacred seems shortsighted," emphasized the signatories, including composer Morten Lauridsen, international religious freedom advocate Nina Shea and Blanton Alspaugh, Grammy award-winning classical music record producer.

"All of us, believers and nonbelievers alike, recognize that this ancient liturgy, which inspired the work of Palestrina, Bach, and Beethoven and generations of great artists, is a magnificent achievement of civilization and part of the common cultural heritage of humanity," they said, adding that "It is medicine for the soul, one antidote to the gross materialism of the postmodern age."

Earlier in the month, 48 respected and widely known British signatories asked Pope Francis the same in a July 2 letter published in The Times, praising the traditional Mass and warning against moves to unravel its "spiritual and cultural heritage."

"Although we don't know how it's been received in Rome, this letter has met sympathetic reactions from bishops in Britain," said Joseph Shaw, chairman of the London-based Latin Mass Society.

"While some have accused its 48 signatories of treating the Latin Mass as a museum piece, they're actually doing the opposite -- seeing it as something of spiritual value to the world. We hope this will have wider echoes," Shaw said of the British letter.

In an OSV News interview, Shaw said he hoped the British prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Arthur Roche, would recognize the signatories and resist pressure to "crack down on the Mass" by "those opposed to it on principle."

Meanwhile, a leading British priest said he believed new rules on the Latin Mass had "worked well" since "Traditionis Custodes," a July 2021 apostolic letter from Pope Francis.

"This left it to local bishops to decide where and when the Latin Mass could be celebrated, in consultation with the Vatican," Father Jan Nowotnik, mission director for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, told OSV News.

"Although it's sometimes been a focus for culture wars elsewhere, it isn't causing any great tension at present. Nor are traditionalists taking over lots of parishes or exerting some big influence," he said.

The traditional, or Tridentine, Mass, last presented in the 1962 Roman Missal, was restricted in favor of vernacular translations by St. Paul VI, in line with reforms at the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.

However, it was reauthorized in England and Wales under a Nov. 5, 1971, papal indult, or dispensation, following a petition from 105 British politicians, writers, artists and musicians, including novelists Agatha Christie, Robert Graves and Iris Murdoch, as well as composers Vladimir Ashkenazy and Yehudi Menuhin.

Permission to celebrate the Mass was widened by St. John Paul II in 1984, and was extended to all priests by Pope Benedict XVI under a 2007 apostolic letter, "Summorum Pontificum."

In "Traditionis Custodes," however, Pope Francis ruled that post-Vatican II liturgies were the "unique expression" for Latin-rite Catholics, and said traditional Masses should be allowed by bishops only if their adherents did not deny "the validity and the legitimacy" of Vatican II liturgical reforms and the papal magisterium.

Pope Francis added in a letter that accompanied "Traditionis Custodes" that bishops should not establish new groups or venues devoted to the Latin Mass, and said the situation "preoccupies and saddens me," referring to the fact that some traditionalists rejected Vatican II "with unfounded and unsustainable assertions."

Both the American and British open letters came after a traditionalist website, Rorate Caeli, said June 17 that opponents of the traditional Mass, "especially in the United States and France," were seeking a "wide, final and irreversible" ban in a document under preparation by the divine worship dicastery, although the claim was contested by other Catholic news media saying that no such document was under preparation in Rome.

In their July 2 Times letter, arranged by composer James Macmillan, the British public figures said they worried the Latin Mass faced being "banished from nearly every Catholic church," adding that their appeal was "entirely ecumenical and non-political."

The traditional liturgy is a "cathedral of text and gesture" -- developing as venerable buildings did over many centuries -- and to "destroy it seems an unnecessary and insensitive act in a world where history can all too easily slip away forgotten," said the signatories, who included Julian Fellowes, award-winning writer of the "Downton Abbey" TV series, and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, creator of musicals "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita," as well as human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger and writers, historians, musicians and film stars from religious and nonreligious backgrounds.

A former government minister who signed the letter, Rory Stewart, told OSV News the traditional Mass was a "rare and precious connection to the deep history of the church," extending right "to the church fathers, to the whole community of past believers and communities of worship linked through the language of the liturgy."

Meanwhile, the editor of Britain's Catholic weekly, The Tablet, Brendan Walsh said what was "at risk or under threat" was not the Latin Mass, which was allowed "all over the Catholic world," but parish celebrations of older Roman rites, which were "flecked with queasy reminders of the anti-Judaism the post-conciliar church is still struggling to disinfect itself from."

In his OSV News interview, Father Novotnik said concerns about the traditional Mass raised "deep theological and ecclesiological issues," amid fears that groups favoring "an older form of liturgy" also opposed other current reforms.

However, this was rejected by Shaw, the Latin Mass Society chairman, who said "small discontented groups" existed throughout the church, adding that Pope Francis had faced criticism not just from "traditionalist Catholics" but also from "angry liberals."

Although bishops varied in attitudes to the traditional Latin Mass, many had "become more open-minded and reassured" after visiting more traditionalist communities who "respected their authority, produced vocations and made sense financially," Shaw said.

"Opponents of the traditional Mass have expressed fears about a parallel church -- but if we're now pushed out of parishes, this really will create a parallel church," Shaw told OSV News.

"People signed this letter because they care about the Latin Mass and believe spiritual traditions have value and can't just be crushed under the mortar of stupid, incomprehensible arguments. The way to deal with diversity isn't to marginalize an already marginalized minority even more."

Thursday Saint of the Day


St. Camillus de Lellis

Feastday: July 18
Patron: of doctors

St. Camillus de Lellis was born at Bocchianico, Italy. He fought for the Venetians against the Turks, was addicted to gambling, and by 1574 was penniless in Naples. He became a Capuchin novice, but was unable to be professed because of a diseased leg he contracted while fighting the Turks. He devoted himself to caring for the sick, and became director of St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. He received permission from his confessor (St. Philip Neri) to be ordained and decided, with two companions, to found his own congregation, the Ministers of the Sick (the Camellians), dedicated to the care of the sick. They ministered to the sick of Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome, enlarged their facilities in 1585, founded a new house in Naples in 1588, and attended the plague-stricken aboard ships in Rome's harbor and in Rome. In 1591, the Congregation was made into an order to serve the sick by Pope Gregory XIV, and in 1591 and 1605, Camillus sent members of his order to minister to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia, the first field medical unit. Gravely ill for many years, he resigned as superior of the Order in 1607 and died in Rome on July 14, the year after he attended a General Chapter there. He was canonized in 1746, was declared patron of the sick, with St. John of God, by Pope Leo XIII, and patron of nurses and nursing groups by Pope Pius XI. His feast day is July 18th.

Pope Francis delivers powerful message to our youth and youth ministers


FIle photo of Pope Francis in Portugal for World Youth DayFIle photo of Pope Francis in Portugal for World Youth Day  (AFP or licensors)

Pope Francis: 'Let your youth be a gift for Jesus'

In a message to a gathering of youth ministers in Paraguay, Pope Francis calls on young faithful to let Christ transform them, and to live their youth 'as a gift for Jesus' and the world.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"Let Christ transform your natural optimism into authentic love; a love that knows how to sacrifice, that is sincere, real and genuine, so that your youth will be a gift for Jesus and for the world and you will be able to spend your life in a worthy and fruitful way."

This was the encouragement Pope Francis sent to the XXI Latam Meeting of Caribbean and Latin American national youth ministry leaders, gathered in Asunción, Paraguay, July 15-20.

Expressing his joy to greet the participants, the Pope emphasized the value of youth ministry for the Church, as he called on young people to let Christ use their energy to do great things.

"The command of Jesus to 'arise',” he acknowledged, "means both a task and a responsibility."

Do not be afraid of the Lord

"Do not be afraid of the Lord who passes by us and whispers in our ear, bends down to us and offers us his hand to lift us up every time we fall," he said, noting Jesus wants us "on our feet," "resurrected," and therefore, we shouldn't "be afraid to let Him into your life."

"Open wide the doors of your heart to Him," he continued, saying to do so "for the new life that comes from Him," one that is "without comparison" and "deserves to be lived."

“Do not be afraid of the Lord who passes by us and whispers in our ear, bends down to us and offers us his hand to lift us up every time we fall.”

Mary accompanies with a mother's love

The Holy Father went on to entrust those gathered to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"May she accompany your steps and intercede for you with a mother's love," he said, "so that, together with children, adults and the elderly, in intergenerational communion, you may be protagonists in a Church that is ever more synodal, disciple and missionary."

In a particular way, he said, "I thank the young Paraguayans who have worked with dedication to make this meeting possible." 

As the Holy Father encouraged them to live these days together in grateful faith, Pope Francis likewise invited them to continue to prepare themselves during this Year of Prayer to celebrate the next Jubilee 2025 with joyful hope.

National Eucharistic Congress begins today; "expect miracles"


2021.08.16 Eucaristia

Bishop Cozzens: ‘We expect miracles’ at US Eucharistic Congress

Thousands of pilgrims from across the United States converge on the city of Indianapolis for the start of the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

By Christopher Wells and Joseph Tulloch

Tens of thousands of pilgrims arrived in the US city of Indianapolis on Tuesday at the conclusion of the pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress, taking place from 17-21 July.

More than 100,000 faithful took part at various points in the pilgrimage, which began on 17 May and covered more than 6,500 miles – over 10,000 kilometres – along four pilgrimage routes from every corner of the United States.

Pilgrims took part in a welcoming Mass celebrated by Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson, and concelebrated by numerous bishops, including Cardinal Antonio Tagle – Pope Francis’ delegate to the Congress – and Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, the chair of the organizing committee for the Congress.

The Tenth National Eucharistic Congress in the United States marks a high point in ongoing National Eucharistic Revival sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Called to be missionary disciples

The Eucharistic Congress is the culmination of the second year of the Revival, dedicated to revival in parishes throughout the country. “It’s a missionary year where we’re inviting every Catholic to take up their call from Pope Francis to be missionary disciples,” said Bishop Cozzens in a phone interview with Vatican Radio.

Bishop Cozzens says the American bishops took their inspiration from Pope Francis’ programmatic 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

“Encounter and mission are the two staples of our Eucharistic Revival in Congress”

“Encounter and mission are two staples of our Eucharistic Revival in Congress,” Bishop Cozzens said, explaining, “We want people to encounter Jesus and then send them on mission, which we got, of course, from Evangelii gaudium.

Expecting miracles

Asked about his expectations for the Eucharistic Congress, Bishop Cozzens said, “We’re expecting to see miracles – because when people come together in Jesus’s Name, He shows up so powerfully. “So we expect deep conversions, healings, and most of all, a real growth in missionary spirit.”

“We're expecting to see miracles”

‘We want to be set on fire’

Highlighting the theme of the third and final year of the Eucharistic Revival, Bishop Cozzens said, “Our goal is to help the Church in the United States make this transformation that Pope Francis has called for, the missionary transformation, so that we can become the missionaries we’re called to be.”

Bishop Cozzens added, “We feel really honoured to be gathered at a time in our world when there’s a real need for Jesus and His life. We know that Jesus in the Eucharist gave His life for the world. And we want to be set on fire to be able to bring Him to those who are most in nee

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

These nuns died joyful martyrs; Wednesday's Saints of the Days


Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne

Sixteen Carmelites caught up in the French Revolution and martyred. When the revolution started in 1789, a group of twenty-one discalced Carmelites lived in a monastery in Compiegne France, founded in 1641. The monastery was ordered closed in 1790 by the Revolutionary gov­ernment, and the nuns were disbanded. Sixteen of the nuns were accused of living in a religious community in 1794. They were arrested on June 22 and imprisoned in a Visitation convent in Compiegne There they openly resumed their religious life. On July 12, 1794, the Carmelites were taken to Paris and five days later were sentenced to death. They went to the guillotine singing the Salve Regina. They were beatified in 1906 by Pope St. Pius X. The Carmelites were: Marie Claude Brard; Madeleine Brideau, the subprior; Maire Croissy, grandniece of Colbert Marie Dufour; Marie Hanisset; Marie Meunier, a novice; Rose de Neufville Annette Pebras; Anne Piedcourt: Madeleine Lidoine, the prioress; Angelique Roussel; Catherine Soiron and Therese Soiron, both extern sisters, natives of Compiegne and blood sisters: Anne Mary Thouret; Marie Trezelle; and Eliza beth Verolot. The martyrdom of the nuns was immortalized by the composer Francois Poulenc in his famous opera Dialogues des Carmelites.

The National Eucharistic Congress begins tomorrow through Sunday in Indianapolis

 National Eucharistic Congress, a Catholic mega-event, to kick off evangelization year

'I have this sense that we as a nation are about to experience a profound breakthrough,' the Rev. Josh Johnson, an emcee of the congress, said.

FILE - Families attend the CatholicHOM session of the Eucharistic Congress, June 18, 2022, at the Georgia International Convention Center near Atlanta. Photo by Carlisle Kellam

July 15, 2024

(RNS) — Two years ago, faced with low Mass attendance, deepening political and theological divisions and the continuing fallout from the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops set forth on a campaign that will come to fruition this week in Indianapolis, where Catholics will pack a National Football League stadium while praying in the presence of the Eucharist.

Is this any way to transform American Catholicism?

The Rev. Josh Johnson, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, thinks so. 

“Everything flows from the practice of just sitting and watching and looking at Jesus,” said Johnson, explaining that the Catholic practice of contemplating the consecrated Communion host comes from Jesus’ mandate to the disciples to sit with him in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion. “Adoration draws us to imitation and participation in his work,” he said.

Johnson believes that a transformation based on the Eucharist can be part of a larger revival in American culture. “I have this sense that we as a nation are about to experience a profound breakthrough,” he said.

Rev. Josh Johnson, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo courtesy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge

Johnson will be one of three emcees onstage from July 17 through 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium for the National Eucharistic Congress, the kickoff for the final year of a three-year Catholic evangelization campaign, which, in its first two years, focused on diocesan leaders and the people already in the pews. 

The coming third year will be the year of mission, for which Congress leaders will be encouraging Catholics to “walk with one” or to build a relationship with one person and consider inviting them to engage in the life of the church.

“Go find one person in your life that the Lord is calling you to,” said Tim Glemkowski, the CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress. “Part of accompaniment is understanding where someone’s at and walking with them and always inviting, like Jesus does,” he said.

Glemkowski said that the initiative might seem like “a small gesture of the Gospel,” but if millions of Catholics participate, the impact could be great.  For the past two months, four groups of young adults have carried the Eucharist from San Francisco; New Haven, Connecticut; Brownsville, Texas; and the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota in a cross-shape toward Indianapolis, spending two months traveling to Mass and Eucharistic processions in various cities.

Montse Alvarado, president and COO of the Eternal Word Television Network and another emcee for the congress, said she tears up when talking about what she witnessed along the pilgrimage’s Juan Diego route from Brownsville, named for the Mexican saint who witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“I’ve never seen the church like this before,” she said, explaining that she was surprised that “people came out in droves in 100-plus (degree) heat.”

The gathering in Indianapolis will feature evening Eucharistic adoration sessions, Masses, confessions, speakers and panels, exhibits, a reliquary chapel, a preview of a musical about St. Bernadette de Lourdes and more.

Bishop Robert Barron, then an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, proposed a National Eucharistic Revival in 2019 after the Pew Research Center released a survey that suggested that only a third of Catholics believe in the church’s doctrine on the Eucharist, which includes the teaching that Jesus is really present, not symbolically so, in the Eucharist. (The Pew study’s wording was quickly criticized, and later studies found significantly higher belief in the real presence among Catholics.)

Subsequent planning was led by Crookston, Minnesota, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Barron’s successor as the U.S. Bishops Conference’s committee chair of Evangelization and Catechesis. 

Glemkowski said the Pew study was less of an impetus than Pope Francis’ teaching in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which calls for “a new chapter of evangelization” marked by “the joy of the Gospel.”

“The church is being invited on a mission to prioritize and go to the least and the lost,” Glemkowski said of Francis’ leadership.

Glemkowski said the revival’s greatest success so far has been gaining about 8,000 parish point persons to implement the revival locally. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that there were 16,412 U.S. Catholic parishes in 2023.

In another nod to Francis’ emphasis on a “synodal,” or listening, church, Glemkowski said the idea for the congress as “the climactic moment” of the revival and for a pilgrimage came from synodal listening sessions, crediting Cozzens, who had chaired the synod process while in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, with bringing the “synodal strategy to the Eucharistic Revival.”

Some critics, however, have seen the revival precisely as going counter to Francis’ vision, and not only because so few of his lieutenants will be on hand. While the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Cardinal Christophe Pierre, will open the congress and a papal delegate, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, will celebrate the closing Mass, the U.S. cardinals Francis has created are either at the peripheries or not present.

In an April 2023 essay in Commonweal, Lexington, Kentucky, Bishop John Stowe lamented that “plans for a mega-event featuring plenty of (pre-Vatican II) piety and theology have replaced the focus on the Synod for a Synodal Church in the USCCB.” The 10 women religious speaking at the congress all wear habits in a time when some U.S. sisters have discarded them as a way of embracing the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

The congress’s original $28 million budget has also drawn substantial criticism, which has continued even after budget cuts brought that number down to $14 million.

“It’s a bad look to be spending $14 million that arguably we don’t need to spend on a Eucharistic Revival while we are abandoning peace and justice ministries at the national level,” said Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, referring to recent mass layoffs in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Millies added that the initiative’s response to a decline in Catholic participation is “counterproductive,” arguing that showy rites full of gold monstrances — the ornate displays for the consecrated Eucharist — and processions does not challenge Catholicism’s “toxic brand,” which he said Catholicism has incurred in its approach to abortion politics and the sexual abuse crisis.

According to a 2023 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, the top reasons that former Catholics cite for disaffiliating are a lack of belief in Catholic teachings (70%), “negative religious teaching about gay or lesbian people” (53%) and clergy abuse scandals (45%).

“This Eucharistic Revival is preaching to the choir that hasn’t left,” said Millies, encouraging the church to search for common ground with former and prospective Catholics by focusing on Catholic social teaching and antiracism.

Though the congress is just a three-hour drive from Chicago, Millies said, “I’m not intending to go, nor I might add, do I know anyone who is.”

Some of the best-known faces of the U.S. church’s social ministry, such as Sister Norma Pimentel, the Rev. Greg Boyle and Kerry Alys Robinson, are not on the schedule, even though the congress will feature a service opportunity to “feed the hungry.” 

Glemkowski called the divisions the biggest challenge the revival has faced. “That this initiative, at times, became perceived by some as sort of on either one side of an ideological divide or another, to me, was heartbreaking,” he said.

“We’ve tried as hard as possible to prove that we’re here to unify the church,” Glemkowski said. “One of the attacks of the enemy against (the revival), right, of the devil, would be that it would be perceived as some sort of partisan project instead of really just an invitation to the whole church back to her heart.”

Yet, Johnson, the Baton Rouge priest and revival emcee who opened a chapel devoted to the Blessed Sacrament at his church, said Eucharistic adoration and social justice are not incompatible but complementary. “All the work that we do for racial justice, all the work we do for the poorest of the poor in my neighborhood, all the work we do with the teens in the inner city, it’s all a fruit of our time with the Blessed Sacrament,” said Johnson, who also serves as the national chaplain for Vagabond Missions, an inner-city youth ministry.

And EWTN’s Alvarado believes her presence demonstrates that all people are welcome in the church. A former executive director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative law firm focused on religious liberty cases, called herself “a culture warrior for unity,” emphasizing that Becket worked for “religious freedom for all religions.”

Alvarado said including her, an unmarried lay person, as an emcee alongside Johnson, a priest, and Sister Miriam James Heidland shows that the congress’s organizers were open to including someone outside a “typical vocation” onstage.

“I’m going to show up there with heels and big hair, and I think represent a part of the church that longs to feel like they have a place as preachers, as teachers, as whole members of the church,” Alvarado said, connecting her role to the “revolution happening inside the Vatican,” where women can now be members of dicasteries and voting members of the synod.

“We need the church not to be political,” Alvarado said. “We need the church to be about Jesus, and there’s nothing more Jesus than the Eucharist.