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BRAINTREE -- Prompted by new data regarding Catholics' understanding of Church teaching on the Real Presence, the archdiocese is planning a yearlong spiritual initiative, the Year of the Eucharist, to be held from 2020 to 2021, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley announced in a Dec. 10 letter.
In July of this year, the Pew Research Center released the results of a study on "What Americans Know About Religion." According to Pew, only 31 percent of the self-identifying Catholics who participated in the survey said they believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and wine consecrated at Mass, and half thought the Church teaches that the bread and wine are only symbols.
In fact, as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1376, the Church teaches that, "it has always been the conviction of the Church of God ... that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood."
Speaking to The Pilot on Dec. 5, Father Paul Soper, the archdiocese's secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of Pastoral Planning, said that news of the survey results "moved the cardinal very much."
In response, Cardinal O'Malley decided to call for a Year of the Eucharist, which would be a time of "celebrating the Eucharistic faith of our people and encouraging those who don't share fully the faith of the Church into a deeper relationship with Jesus," Father Soper said.
The Year of the Eucharist will formally begin on Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020, and conclude on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 6, 2021. The Year will culminate with a four-day Eucharistic Congress held June 3-6, 2021.
Father Soper said some aspects of the Year will be catechetical, while other aspects will celebrate the people's Eucharistic faith. There will be workshops for priests and deacons about preaching about the Eucharist, and the archdiocese's website will share people's testimonies of how the Eucharist has changed their lives.
"Bishop (Robert) Barron, in one of his recent podcasts, said that the way to approach the Eucharist is to speak about it with greater clarity and to treat it with greater reverence. And we're hoping to do both of those things in our parishes and our diocese," Father Soper said.
He said that although there will be archdiocesan-wide events, much of the spiritual initiative will be based in parishes.
"We're hoping that every parish has some sort of a response," Father Soper said.
Parishes will be encouraged to appoint coordinators and "missionaries of the Eucharist" to pray for the initiative and assist their parish leaders in implementing activities related to the Eucharist, such as Eucharistic adoration and training in how to share one's witness.
Father Soper said he encourages everyone to talk with their pastors about what they can do to help implement the Year of the Eucharist in their parishes.
He said he hopes that people who "have an active relationship" with the Eucharist will feel "supported" and that those who do not will "find in this some pathway to that belief."
Father Soper said that the Eucharist can help people return to the practice of their faith and a relationship with the Church.
"The first disciples had a relationship with Jesus, and then through that relationship with Jesus formed a relationship with one another, which is the life of the Church. Well, for modern disciples that same pathway can happen, that relationship with Jesus that grows into a relationship with other disciples," Father Soper said.