Students from St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, tour the exhibit during its two-week stay in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photos
Students from St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, tour the exhibit during its two-week stay in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photos
Catholic saints, sages and scholars through the ages have written that nothing substitutes for spending time in the presence of the Holy Eucharist.

That devotion serves as a cornerstone of a new traveling diocesan exhibit that depicts Eucharistic miracles over nearly two millennia. Offered as an opportunity for learning and reflection during this year of the National Eucharistic Revival, the exhibit content was drawn from the website created by Blessed Carlo Acutis. The grace-filled Italian teen had, before he died of leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006, catalogued scores of Eucharistic miracles including the 65-plus presented in this local display.

PHOTO GALLERY: Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit

The wide scale exhibit features a circular, seven “room” presentation of 8-foot panels, each covered with artistic renderings and descriptions of the miracles which took place. Arranged in chronological order, from the Third Century to 2013, they are accompanied by timelines and notations of some world events to help viewers place them within the historical era.

Each of the rooms points to the seventh and center room where the Eucharist is clearly visible in the monstrance, reminding viewers that the historical miracles all generate from the miracle at the core of the exhibit: Jesus present in the Most Holy Eucharist.

For Josue Arriola, director of the Diocese’s Department of Family Life and Evangelization, along with the staff and volunteers who worked to bring this to fruition, the design and the experience of visiting the exhibit is meant to visually capture the most fundamental tenet of Catholic teaching –  that the Eucharist is truly Christ’s Body and Blood.

Project for the Times

The idea for a visual learning project first emerged several years ago as a way to provide scores of faithful who participated each fall in the traveling Guadalupe Torch with a deeper experience of formation around the Blessed Mother.

Many people were willing to take part in such popular events as the Guadalupe Torches, Arriola and members of the team found, but there was not a full understanding of the iconography involved, or the Guadalupe story and its meaning.

Plans for an exhibit created by artists, artisans and parishioners from around the Diocese who volunteered their skills and their time were underway when COVID waylaid them in 2019.

The team never lost confidence in the idea, however. As COVID eased and things began to open up, Arriola, Jossie Ramos, the department’s administrative assistant, and the volunteer crew recognized that the type of project they envisioned could help to bring the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to the forefront of Catholics’ faith experience. 

Mark Di Sciullo, a member of St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, and the visual designer of the exhibit, noted how poignant it was that the original plan was for an exhibit of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“It was as though Our Lady made way for this to happen,” said Di Sciullo who, with his family, are among the sponsors of the exhibit that is co-sponsored by the Tom & Glory Sullivan Foundation and the diocesan Eucharistic Revival. In addition to Di Sciullo’s family, other generous funding sources came from the Knights of Columbus Council #17430, St. Ann Church, Browns Mills; Maria de Jesus Luna y Andrés Luna, Angel Romero and Felipe Garrido. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., came to know the Sullivans during his tenure at The Catholic University of America, Washington. 

Andres Luna, St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, his late wife Maria de Jesus Luna and their family all committed themselves as sponsors of the project. An expert in metal work, he created the schematic drawings of the circular frame separating the seven “rooms” of the display before the project went on hold.

The delay didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, said Luna. “It’s a long process with God on top,” he said, noting that family members and many other volunteers went right back to working on it. “We didn’t count the time,” he said.

Unique Spiritual Encounter

Those who experienced the exhibit didn’t seem to count the time, either. In speaking with some of them after they viewed or worked on the exhibit, it was clear they savored every second.

Student Anna Veres visited the exhibit in the complex of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, Oct. 14 with her theology class from Holmdel’s St. John Vianney High School. She expressed the hope that more young people her age “are able to visit, especially since it went hand-in-hand with what I’ve learned about Carlo Acutis.”

William Diederich and his wife, Deborah, of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, became so inspired when they learned the exhibit was traveling to St. Catharine School for two weeks that they volunteered to help set it up.

The couple said they saw helping out with the exhibit as a way to share that “Jesus is alive in it.”

“We thought this needed to be shared, especially with children,” Deborah said.

William echoed that sentiment. “We just feel lucky encountering a whole great team with so many nice people helping out. We had seven people working until 11 p.m. the night before it opened at St. Catharine School. It was wonderful. Everything just fell into place,” he said.

Msgr. Sam A. Sirianni is rector of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish, where the exhibit drew many prayerful visitors Oct. 3 through 17. Throughout the exhibit’s presence, he said, there was a sense that “something special was going on and that was a gift.”

Msgr. Sirianni encountered a number of repeat visitors, including one parishioner who stopped by when he was closing the exhibit down. “I apologized to her and she said, ‘Oh, don’t be sorry. This was my third time here.’” 

He expressed his belief that there were many parishioners who used their exhibit experience as a time of prayer. Msgr. Sirianni added, “The benefit, I would have to say, is that we’ll find out that people enjoyed its gifts, that they were very present and appreciative to spend peaceful and prayerful time before the Lord” especially during Adoration in the chapel after they had seen the exhibit.

“Spending time with Our Lord in silence,” he said, was very important. “It was a privilege and a grace and we need to be mindful of that. I encountered many people coming away who said they never knew,” how precious it is.

Parishes wishing to host the Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit can find an application form at dioceseoftrenton.org/eucharistic-miracles-exhibit.