The National Eucharistic Revival being sponsored by the USCCB enters its second phase this summer, styled the “Year of Parish Renewal.” This can be an important opportunity for parishes looking to finally move on from our collective COVID setback, or reignite energy and enthusiasm in the face of ever-creeping malaise and missional drift.
A quick look at the “Leader’s Playbook” available on the Revival’s website states that “the purpose of the Year of Revival is to discern how we might heal, form, convert, unify, and send our parishioners through a rekindled relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.” It goes on to introduce four “invitations” to pastors and parish leaders to pursue this lofty goal. What is especially pleasing to me is that these invitations align perfectly with the priorities we set forth over 10 years ago in our book Rebuilt.
The first invitation concerns attentiveness to the celebration of the sacrament, toward reinvigorating worship. This can happen through a wider participation at Sunday Mass and a heightened sense of the sacred. The second invitation proposes a regular or monthly “Encounter Night” for parishioners to meet the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This too strengthens the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, as it strengthens the appreciation of the Eucharist.
As we wrote in Rebuilt:
“The weekend experience is the number one opportunity for people in the community to connect with church. And almost everyone who actually does come in contact with the parish does so on the weekend.”
As such it is our very best opportunity to reach the lost and make disciples, and so, deserves our very best efforts.
Invitation #3 is simply an invitation to preach in message series: “We are encouraging parish priests to implement a series of homilies to be devoted exclusively to the Eucharist.” We like to say that the pulpit is the rudder of the whole parish and what parishioners are hearing from the pulpit will determine where the parish will go. If they’re getting one message on a single theme over multiple weeks, the whole parish is going to go further, faster.
In addition to preaching in series, the invitation goes on, “each parish will be invited to participate in a small group program…providing formation and opportunities for growth.” We argue in Rebuilt that the single biggest game changer for parish renewal is getting people up out of the pews and into small groups. Groups are where a church of any size gets small, up close and personal.
Finally, the invitation “Imagine if every faithful Catholic invited one person in their inner circle who has fallen away from attending Sunday Mass or had the courage to reach out to one coworker who seems interested? Our churches would be renewed.” We call this “Invest and invite.” Invest relationally in friends and family who are unchurched, and be on the lookout for the right opportunity to invite them to church.
Why not take up these wonderful invitations and make the coming year a time of revival, renewal, and rebuilding for your parish.