During Seton Route Mass, Bishop reminds faithful that ‘We are on a pilgrimage of our lives’

June 1, 2024 at 6:00 a.m.
A Eucharistic procession with the Seton Route pilgrims' monstrance moves from St. Mary of the Pines Church where Bishop O'Connell celebrated Mass to the parish center where Adoration was held. Mike Ehrmann photo
A Eucharistic procession with the Seton Route pilgrims' monstrance moves from St. Mary of the Pines Church where Bishop O'Connell celebrated Mass to the parish center where Adoration was held. Mike Ehrmann photo (Michael Ehrmann)

By Mary Stadnyk, Associate Editor, and EmmaLee Italia, Contributing Editor

Updated June 1, 2024

Sandra Koenig had just started to explain why she wanted to participate in the Eucharistic Revival when her cell phone alarm sounded.

“That’s why,” Koenig said, showing the reminder message that said “Adoration.”  

After attending the May 29 evening Mass in St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin, as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Koenig was heading to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel in St. Mary Church, Barnegat, where each Wednesday she spends an hour praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

PHOTO GALLERY: May 29, 2024: St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin (evening)

PHOTO GALLERY: May 29, 2024: St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin (morning)

“I love and believe that Jesus is in the Eucharist,” she said. Having been raised a Protestant, that belief was something that evolved over time and was her motivation for entering the Catholic Church in 2017.

“The Catholic Church is the only Church that has Jesus in the Eucharist,” she said, firmly adding, “The Eucharist is not a memorial or a representation of Christ, the Eucharist is Christ.”

The second day of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Seton Route visit in the Diocese of Trenton was held in the Manahawkin church where Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated two Masses – a children’s Mass in the morning with students mostly from St. Mary Academy, Manahawkin, and groups from St. Joseph School and Donovan Catholic High School, both Toms River; St. Dominic School, Brick, and St. Catharine School, Spring Lake. The Mass in the evening was open to the community. The perpetual pilgrims who carried the monstrance throughout the northeast route had left Connecticut May 18 and will continue on to Indianapolis for the national congress that would happen July 17-21.

Reaching the Young People

For the school Mass, the day began with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and accompanying praise and worship in the parish center, as well as a talk and Eucharistic procession to the church.

Filling the worship space, students listened to the Bishop speak about a soon-to-be canonized saint, Blessed Carlo Acutis, who not only was a modern day youthful role model for them, but also had a remarkable love for the Eucharist.

Despite his being very much like other children his age, loving sports and video games, he continued, Carlo also stood up to bullies, went to daily Mass and weekly Confession, prayed the Rosary, gave his money to the poor and volunteered.

“‘To be always close to Jesus, that is my life plan’ was his motto. … Carlo Acutis made a real difference in so many people’s lives because of his faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. He never hesitated, even at his young age, to share that faith and love with others, especially young people,” Bishop O’Connell said. With his computer skills, [he] spent the last two years of his life creating a website that listed every Eucharistic miracle in the history of the Church. It is still used and touring around New Jersey and the U.S.”

Although he died of leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006, his example has lived on as an inspiration to others wanting to grow closer to Jesus, Bishop O’Connell pointed out.

“I have told you about him in the hope that his example, his life, his love will inspire you to grow in your love and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and to never give up the opportunity when you have it to visit our Lord in the Eucharist,” he said. “During this day as we spend time here at Mass and in the presence of our Lord Jesus and in our conversations together, may Blessed Carlo Acutis help us to stay close to our Lord, to pray each day, to lead others to Jesus and to do good works for those in need, just as he did.”

Food For Thought

For the evening Mass, Bishop O’Connell was joined at the altar by priests of the Diocese as well as visiting priests, many of whom were participating in the pilgrimage. After Mass a Eucharistic candlelight procession was held with a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal carrying the pilgrimage monstrance from the church to a darkened parish center gym where the congregation fanned the perimeter. In the center, the monstrance that had been carried by the Seton Route perpetual pilgrims was placed on top of a leveled wooden structure. All had gathered for Adoration, praise and song, an experience that moved some tears.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell recounted highlights of Blessed Carlo Acutis’ life then read a quote a statement written by the young teenager: “Throngs of people stand in terminal lines to buy tickets to rock concerts, soccer games. But I don’t see crowds of people lined up outside the church waiting to see Jesus in the Eucharist. That should make us pause and reflect.”

‘Pause and reflect indeed, that’s what the Eucharistic Revival invites us to do,” Bishop O’Connell said, “but we cannot stop there. We are on a pilgrimage and not just a pilgrimage of days or weeks or years. We are on a pilgrimage of our lives, a true journey of faith.

The Bishop then referred to the recent survey that indicated that less than one-third of the Catholics surveyed understood or held the belief that Jesus Christ is truly, fully, really present  in the Eucharist in the tabernacle. The Eucharist was described as a symbol of Jesus’ presence, a reminder and they’re wrong, dead wrong,” he said. “Our core belief as Catholics is that Jesus gave us his Body and his Blood in the Eucharist, not some symbol or reminder.”

“When bread and wine are transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood and when we eat and drink this great gift, we are transformed, we become what we eat, Christ’s own body on earth,” the Bishop continued.

Bishop O’Connell affirmed that the Eucharistic Revival was intended to bring all Catholics closer to the Lord Jesus through direct contact, through encounter with him in the Eucharist.

“This is not simply about good teaching; it’s about encountering the Living Person of Jesus Christ and there is the transformation,” the Bishop said. “It is certainly our hope that all of us in the Diocese of Trenton and or guests who are here with us on pilgrimage will develop deeper and more profound understanding of the Holy Eucharist.”

Moving Forward with a Eucharistic Heart

Persons of all ages participating in the evening Mass with Bishop O’Connell in Manahawkin found it to be a heartening and thought-provoking experience, especially when realizing the intent of the Eucharistic Revival.

Angeles Irineo, an eighth grader in St. Joseph School, Toms River, and member of St. Joseph Parish youth group, said her interest in the Eucharistic Revival was piqued after viewing videos and taking part in discussions during youth group meetings.

“I find it to be very beautiful to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Irineo said, then added she found it moving to see so many other people with a strong devotion to the Eucharist.

Nicole Calao, a youth ministry volunteer in St. Joseph Parish, said it was “eye-opening” to hear the low number of Catholics who believe in the Eucharist. She said it’s her hope that the Revival will help people to “develop a deeper appreciation about the Eucharist and a closer relationship with God, not just during the Revival,” but as they go forward in their lives.


Students in St. Mary Academy, Manahawkin, attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with their teachers, families and other visitors during the second day of the Seton route pilgrimage visit to the Diocese on May 29. Mike Ehrmann photo 

Marijane Michalowicz, ministry coordinator in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, thought back to the faith strengthening experience she had when she attended the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976, and hearing Mother Teresa of Calcutta speak about the “hungers of the human heart,” -- the hunger people have in their hearts for Jesus.

“I was 17 and her talk made a lasting impression,” Michalowicz said, “I am filled with so much gratitude for what the Eucharist has been in my life.”

Now, witnessing the 2024 Eucharistic Revival 48 years later, Michalowicz said she hopes and prays that through the Revival, all Catholics and especially the young people, will come to a greater appreciation for and belief in the Eucharist.

“The Eucharist feeds us and then in turn we are called to feed each other,” she said.

Linda McGlynn of St. Mary Parish was disturbed when Bishop O’Connell spoke on how people will line up to see movie stars, but when it comes to seeing Jesus, the churches are empty.

“That made me sad,” she said. “Jesus is the one we should be lining up to see.”

PHOTO GALLERY: May 28, 2024: St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton

PHOTO GALLERY: May 30, 2024: Mary, Mother of the Church, Bordentown

PHOTO GALLERY: May 30, 2024: Lower Trenton Bridge 


Updated June 1, 2024

Sandra Koenig had just started to explain why she wanted to participate in the Eucharistic Revival when her cell phone alarm sounded.

“That’s why,” Koenig said, showing the reminder message that said “Adoration.”  

After attending the May 29 evening Mass in St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin, as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Koenig was heading to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel in St. Mary Church, Barnegat, where each Wednesday she spends an hour praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

PHOTO GALLERY: May 29, 2024: St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin (evening)

PHOTO GALLERY: May 29, 2024: St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin (morning)

“I love and believe that Jesus is in the Eucharist,” she said. Having been raised a Protestant, that belief was something that evolved over time and was her motivation for entering the Catholic Church in 2017.

“The Catholic Church is the only Church that has Jesus in the Eucharist,” she said, firmly adding, “The Eucharist is not a memorial or a representation of Christ, the Eucharist is Christ.”

The second day of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Seton Route visit in the Diocese of Trenton was held in the Manahawkin church where Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated two Masses – a children’s Mass in the morning with students mostly from St. Mary Academy, Manahawkin, and groups from St. Joseph School and Donovan Catholic High School, both Toms River; St. Dominic School, Brick, and St. Catharine School, Spring Lake. The Mass in the evening was open to the community. The perpetual pilgrims who carried the monstrance throughout the northeast route had left Connecticut May 18 and will continue on to Indianapolis for the national congress that would happen July 17-21.

Reaching the Young People

For the school Mass, the day began with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and accompanying praise and worship in the parish center, as well as a talk and Eucharistic procession to the church.

Filling the worship space, students listened to the Bishop speak about a soon-to-be canonized saint, Blessed Carlo Acutis, who not only was a modern day youthful role model for them, but also had a remarkable love for the Eucharist.

Despite his being very much like other children his age, loving sports and video games, he continued, Carlo also stood up to bullies, went to daily Mass and weekly Confession, prayed the Rosary, gave his money to the poor and volunteered.

“‘To be always close to Jesus, that is my life plan’ was his motto. … Carlo Acutis made a real difference in so many people’s lives because of his faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. He never hesitated, even at his young age, to share that faith and love with others, especially young people,” Bishop O’Connell said. With his computer skills, [he] spent the last two years of his life creating a website that listed every Eucharistic miracle in the history of the Church. It is still used and touring around New Jersey and the U.S.”

Although he died of leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006, his example has lived on as an inspiration to others wanting to grow closer to Jesus, Bishop O’Connell pointed out.

“I have told you about him in the hope that his example, his life, his love will inspire you to grow in your love and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and to never give up the opportunity when you have it to visit our Lord in the Eucharist,” he said. “During this day as we spend time here at Mass and in the presence of our Lord Jesus and in our conversations together, may Blessed Carlo Acutis help us to stay close to our Lord, to pray each day, to lead others to Jesus and to do good works for those in need, just as he did.”

Food For Thought

For the evening Mass, Bishop O’Connell was joined at the altar by priests of the Diocese as well as visiting priests, many of whom were participating in the pilgrimage. After Mass a Eucharistic candlelight procession was held with a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal carrying the pilgrimage monstrance from the church to a darkened parish center gym where the congregation fanned the perimeter. In the center, the monstrance that had been carried by the Seton Route perpetual pilgrims was placed on top of a leveled wooden structure. All had gathered for Adoration, praise and song, an experience that moved some tears.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell recounted highlights of Blessed Carlo Acutis’ life then read a quote a statement written by the young teenager: “Throngs of people stand in terminal lines to buy tickets to rock concerts, soccer games. But I don’t see crowds of people lined up outside the church waiting to see Jesus in the Eucharist. That should make us pause and reflect.”

‘Pause and reflect indeed, that’s what the Eucharistic Revival invites us to do,” Bishop O’Connell said, “but we cannot stop there. We are on a pilgrimage and not just a pilgrimage of days or weeks or years. We are on a pilgrimage of our lives, a true journey of faith.

The Bishop then referred to the recent survey that indicated that less than one-third of the Catholics surveyed understood or held the belief that Jesus Christ is truly, fully, really present  in the Eucharist in the tabernacle. The Eucharist was described as a symbol of Jesus’ presence, a reminder and they’re wrong, dead wrong,” he said. “Our core belief as Catholics is that Jesus gave us his Body and his Blood in the Eucharist, not some symbol or reminder.”

“When bread and wine are transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood and when we eat and drink this great gift, we are transformed, we become what we eat, Christ’s own body on earth,” the Bishop continued.

Bishop O’Connell affirmed that the Eucharistic Revival was intended to bring all Catholics closer to the Lord Jesus through direct contact, through encounter with him in the Eucharist.

“This is not simply about good teaching; it’s about encountering the Living Person of Jesus Christ and there is the transformation,” the Bishop said. “It is certainly our hope that all of us in the Diocese of Trenton and or guests who are here with us on pilgrimage will develop deeper and more profound understanding of the Holy Eucharist.”

Moving Forward with a Eucharistic Heart

Persons of all ages participating in the evening Mass with Bishop O’Connell in Manahawkin found it to be a heartening and thought-provoking experience, especially when realizing the intent of the Eucharistic Revival.

Angeles Irineo, an eighth grader in St. Joseph School, Toms River, and member of St. Joseph Parish youth group, said her interest in the Eucharistic Revival was piqued after viewing videos and taking part in discussions during youth group meetings.

“I find it to be very beautiful to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Irineo said, then added she found it moving to see so many other people with a strong devotion to the Eucharist.

Nicole Calao, a youth ministry volunteer in St. Joseph Parish, said it was “eye-opening” to hear the low number of Catholics who believe in the Eucharist. She said it’s her hope that the Revival will help people to “develop a deeper appreciation about the Eucharist and a closer relationship with God, not just during the Revival,” but as they go forward in their lives.


Students in St. Mary Academy, Manahawkin, attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with their teachers, families and other visitors during the second day of the Seton route pilgrimage visit to the Diocese on May 29. Mike Ehrmann photo 

Marijane Michalowicz, ministry coordinator in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, thought back to the faith strengthening experience she had when she attended the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976, and hearing Mother Teresa of Calcutta speak about the “hungers of the human heart,” -- the hunger people have in their hearts for Jesus.

“I was 17 and her talk made a lasting impression,” Michalowicz said, “I am filled with so much gratitude for what the Eucharist has been in my life.”

Now, witnessing the 2024 Eucharistic Revival 48 years later, Michalowicz said she hopes and prays that through the Revival, all Catholics and especially the young people, will come to a greater appreciation for and belief in the Eucharist.

“The Eucharist feeds us and then in turn we are called to feed each other,” she said.

Linda McGlynn of St. Mary Parish was disturbed when Bishop O’Connell spoke on how people will line up to see movie stars, but when it comes to seeing Jesus, the churches are empty.

“That made me sad,” she said. “Jesus is the one we should be lining up to see.”

PHOTO GALLERY: May 28, 2024: St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton

PHOTO GALLERY: May 30, 2024: Mary, Mother of the Church, Bordentown

PHOTO GALLERY: May 30, 2024: Lower Trenton Bridge 

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