A hand enveloped in rays of light reaches out to share a business card that reads: "1-800-EUCARISTÍA, Need help? Call Jesus." This image is the cover and theme of a bilingual book, written by 120 young adults from 15 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S., that seeks to help young people over 18 prepare for Easter during Lent.

The Easter book is one of many initiatives of the Southeast Pastoral Institute, or SEPI, the educational branch of the Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry of the Southeast Region of the United States. Since 1980, hundreds of young people from the 30 dioceses covering the Southeastern parts of the country have participated in the annual process to produce a book in which they apply the Paschal Mystery to an issue of importance in their own lives.

This year, the young participants focused on the Eucharist.

"We all agreed on the need for young people to fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist," said Magdiel Argueta, 25, Hispanic youth ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee.

1-800-EUCARISTÍA reflects that young people have "a direct line to the heart of Jesus and how we can take refuge there," said Gabriella Escalante, the institute's youth ministry coordinator.

Over six weeks, the book will help even more young people to follow weekly themes as a "map to Jesus." It contains a guide for pastoral leaders with activities for youth and young adult groups (typically known as "pastoral juvenil" in Spanish), as well as opportunities for reflection and prayer for each young person.

Escalante added that this book is part of SEPI's longstanding support to Hispanic youth. The book project began "out of the need to listen to young people and involve them in creating something of their own," Escalante said. "This book collects all their experiences, ideas and concerns."

Every year, young people from all over the Southeast respond to SEPI's call to help others prepare for Easter. They produce the book in four face-to-face meetings over several months. Participants receive the book at the last workshop and are sent out to use it in their dioceses and groups.

Escalante said this process fosters leadership and community among dioceses. Many local leaders began their service to the Church by participating in the creation of the Easter book, she added.

SEPI, an educational and service organization that assists the Catholic bishops of nine states in the southeastern United States, was born in 1979 in response to the need for Hispanic education and formation. The Miami-based institute provides formation programs, evangelization and leadership development for Hispanic lay ministers and youth.

This year's Easter book seeks to convey "that God is there and that if you participate in the Eucharist, you can heal (you)... you can fill all those gaps that you have," said Ana Garcia, who is involved in youth ministry and currently works for the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida.

Argueta said that "many young people do not believe" or have doubts about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and that this may come from a need to have a personal connection with God. Therefore, the book is structured to help young people journey toward meeting Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, he said.

This begins with an analysis of one's own heart, he continued. "We are not going to talk about the Eucharist immediately because if we do it that way, it will not work. What we want is to take the young people slowly on the journey," said Argueta.

This year, the book was divided into two dimensions: a personal guide for the young participants who will receive a 150-page book to accompany them in their Lenten process and group e-guide for youth and young adult ministry leaders, which includes practical details such as activities, reflections and resources for work in group settings.

"The changes are not to the (Easter book's) essence, or structure, but to the way the message is delivered," Escalante said.

The book also includes opportunities for reflection on the Scriptures, linked with what the Church teaches, challenges and thoughts from the saints related to the weekly themes. The book's popular "Hechos de Vida" section, which includes testimonials connected to each chapter theme, is now in a podcast format.

Garcia – who also participated in creating the 2022 book, which was focused on the family – said youth ministers could adapt the book for teenagers so they too can have a tool to encounter Jesus during their Lenten preparations. The bilingual nature of the book makes it possible for youth born in the U.S., who may feel more comfortable expressing themselves in English, to talk with their parents about what they are learning, she added.

The leaders hope the book can help young people prepare for Easter and beyond by reminding them that they can always count on Christ in the Eucharist.

"The book is very rich: very rich in teaching, very rich in testimony," Argueta said. "And if we are willing to open our hearts … we will be able to get closer to Jesus."

Maria-Pia Negro Chin is Spanish editor for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter @MariaPiaChin

For more information about the book and other ways SEPI works with Hispanic Youth, go to https://sepi.us/en-pastoral-juvenil/