Father Martin O'Reilly, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, and episcopal vicar of Burlington County, celebrated Mass for the catechists in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.
Father Martin O'Reilly, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, and episcopal vicar of Burlington County, celebrated Mass for the catechists in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.
When the three-year national Eucharistic Revival initiated by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2022 moves to the parish phase this June, it will be catechists who play a key role in helping parishioners engage in this time of formation and renewal.

“It is faith formation and the witness of the catechist that helps connect not only the children but parents as well to the liturgy,” said Michelle Angelo, associate director of the diocesan Department of Catechesis.

The Eucharistic Revival, meant to inspire, educate and renew a devotion to Christ in the Eucharist, “is a reminder to catechists to be more intentional in their sharing and teaching on the Eucharist,” she said.

To help prepare catechists for the central place they will have in the parish-phase, the Diocese of Trenton offered a daylong conference March 18 that drew more than 200 individuals involved in parish catechetical ministry. 

Keynote speaker Dr. Joe Paprocki, national consultant for faith formation, offered two presentations to help catechists renew their own love and devotion for the Eucharist and provide them with practical ways to share that love with those they serve.

Additional topics covered in breakout sessions included teaching people with special needs about the Eucharist and developing ways for the catechists, themselves, to draw closer to the Eucharist.

A Mass was also celebrated by Father Martin O’Reilly, who is co-chairing the Diocese’s participation in the Revival.

In his homily, Father O’Reilly offered the catechists encouragement, reminding them that, in spite of frustrations, “you are doing God’s work … You are held responsible for being Christ’s ambassador and to share your story” and love for the Eucharist.

“This is what the Eucharistic Revival is about – making Christ alive and present,” Father O’Reilly said. “All Christ asks of us is to make him alive to your people.”

Denise Contino, diocesan director of catechesis, spoke on the impact of the event held in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish in Freehold.  She explained that the Eucharistic Revival is about bringing the Eucharist to all people, “and we were able to provide tools for them all.

“The day was about helping catechists to be creative in delivering the message during the parish phase,” Contino added. “We hope the catechists and leaders left the day energized and excited to intentionally plan how the Eucharistic Revival will reveal Jesus in the Eucharist to all families and learners.”

Reaching The People

Paprocki emphasized that catechists can help others to see the Eucharist as being the “greatest gift you can ever imagine. The Church wants us to rekindle the flame and excitement in receiving the Eucharist,” he said.

Speaking on how faith formation on the Eucharist “should resemble Mass instead of class,” Paprocki encouraged catechists to employ a “language of mystery” by using elements that are seen at Mass – music and song, silence, storytelling, movements and gestures, signs and symbols, rituals and works of mercy.

The celebration of the Eucharist not only involves words, but gestures as well, Paprocki said. “Often, we need to go beyond words to touch people’s hearts.”

Michelle Dore, catechetical leader in St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, will supply her catechists with teaching resources on the Eucharist for all grade levels, including a lesson on how silence can be “a way of talking to God,” she said.

Joana Schmidt, who heads up catechetical ministry in St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, said that teaching children in pre-K through first grade about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is “a tricky topic” since they are mostly non-readers. However, she now has resources that encourage learning through play and experience. She also suggested having conversations about special meals that children can relate to, such as Thanksgiving or birthdays.

Believing that the conference gave him a better handle on how to explain the existence of Christ in the Eucharist, Don Santora, first-year seventh grade catechist for the three parishes that make up the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley, plans to share that information with his students and aims to get them engaged in the Eucharistic Revival.

“I’m hoping to get the kids to attend Mass more often and to get excited about receiving the Body of Christ at Mass,” he said.

Sue Latella, who prepares second graders for First Holy Communion in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, will update her lesson plans to include more on how the Mass and the Eucharist are closely tied together by creating a sacred space in her classroom and implementing a weekly ritual that the students can participate in each week.

Amanda Palaka, fourth grade catechist in St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, plans to share what she learned, including the idea of telling personal stories about the Eucharist and recognizing the impact those stories could have on others.

“If we simply share our love for Jesus, we could make more of an impact than we realize,” she said. “There are so many small gestures that could easily be added to the classroom that could make a big difference in capturing the students’ attention.”

The catechetical formation conference was sponsored by the diocesan Annual Catholic Appeal and Loyola Press.