Op-Ed: Why Were US Catholic Priests Excluded from the Eucharistic Congress?

AUSCP NewsBlogOpinion
Submitted by: Rev. Steve Newton

On June 19, 2022, The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) announced a National Eucharistic Revival, which will climax with the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis next month. To complement the theme, The Real Presence of Christ, The Association of US Catholic Priests chose Eucharist: Sacrament of Encounter for its June 2024 assembly, which just ended.

As it became clear that the USCCB’s revival would focus on the Real Presence in the consecrated host, AUSCP planned its program to focus on the Real Presence throughout the rest of creation. We also contacted those planning the Eucharistic Congress to ask for a place at the table with a booth or impact session. Despite many calls for a year, we never heard back until a month ago. They told us that a group had just canceled their booth, and we could have it if we acted fast. We acted immediately and excitedly. They asked for our website address (auscp.org). A month later, two days ago, we received this message: “We were holding a few spots left when you first reached out with others who had enquired first about the opportunity. Normally, we have a few fall through, but in this case, the others who reached out were excited enough to commit. As such, we don’t have any booths to offer you at the Congress this year, and we are sorry to disappoint you!

I am not a conspiracy theorist. But I can read between the lines. So can you, I bet. They looked at our website, saw who we are, and intuited that our understanding of the Eucharist goes beyond monstrances and processions. We don’t disparage adoration and worship, but narrow theologies and pieties do not limit our understanding of the Eucharist.

The AUSP presenters were excellent. Lexington Bishop John Stowe gave the opening retreat (setting the tone for the entire assembly- the Risen Christ has brought the whole world into one body and blood to be blessed, broken, received, and given). Notre Dame theologian Michael Driscoll explained how the Eucharist schools us for action. Jesuit Tom Reese fascinated us with facts and stories about the intersection between a synodal Church and the Eucharist through communion, mission, and participation. Frank and Mary Frost, the producers of the new film: “Teilhard: Visionary Scientist,” led a discussion after showing their documentary that included Teilhard’s cosmic sense of Eucharist. Dr. Kim Harris, a theologian and musician from Loyola Marymount, used words and music to engage the participants in giving testimony of our Eucharistic Encounter. She stressed ‘eucharist’ as a verb, although it is usually used as a noun. Everyone gathered at Lexington’s St. Peter Claver Church for a dynamic celebration. Bishop Stowe preached the Word as if discovered anew and presided over the liturgy, with Archbishop John Wester and Deacon James Weathers standing with him. The parish choir and Dr. Harris led the congregation in animated singing. During the Lexington assembly, all the components of the Eucharist came together. It’s a shame that they won’t in Indianapolis.

Rev. Steve Newton, CSC
June 27, 2024

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