Eucharistic mission looks to strengthen faith in True Presence of Christ

Lent is all about growing closer to God, but what are the specifics involved in that process? The 2019 Lenten Eucharistic Mission that takes place March 28-30 promises to help Catholics grow in the knowledge of Christ’s True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Sponsored by the Diocese of Phoenix and Friends of the Cathedral, the three-day mission features world-renown scholars from the Augustine Institute, a graduate school and formation center in Denver. The annual diocesan-wide event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the diocese this year.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted lifts up the host during the Liturgy of the Eucharist at a Confirmation Mass at Most Holy Trinity Parish in this May 4, 2016, file photo. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

“People leave our faith but what draws them back is always the Eucharist.”

— Mary Ann Symancyk, board member for Friends of the Cathedral, which organizes the Eucharistic Mission
Eucharistic Mission

➤ 6 p.m., March 28
Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix

➤ 8:30 a.m., March 29
St. Paul Parish, 330 W. Coral Gables Dr., Phoenix

➤ 9 a.m., March 30
Ss. Simon and Jude

Full schedule with presentation topics

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said he hopes the mission will “assist us to have an even deeper sense of awe and wonder at the love of Jesus present under the humble appearance of bread and wine. The more we grow in love of our Savior, the more He can work through us for the good of others.”

MaryAnn Symancyk, director of adult formation at St. Paul Parish and a board member for Friends of the Cathedral, is hoping for a huge turnout.

“People leave our faith but what draws them back is always the Eucharist,” Symancyk said. “When we know our faith on that level, especially with the focus on the Blessed Sacrament, the more we can evangelize and the more people stay in our faith or come back to the faith.”

Among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, 91 percent believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, according to Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate study; but among those whose attendance is only a few times a year, it plummets to 40 percent. The goal of the Eucharistic Mission is to help attendees deepen their understanding of and love for the Bread of Life so that they can share it with others.

Of particular importance, she notes, is the need to understand the biblical roots of what the Second Vatican Council called “the source and summit of our faith.” People are often intimidated by our separated brethren who ask, “Where is that in the Bible?” when it comes to the True Presence, she said.

“We need to know the biblical references, the history of the Eucharist from the Old Testament through to the New Testament. That’s what the Augustine Institute will bring us.”

Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, has a doctorate in biblical studies from the Catholic University of America. His presentation takes place March 28 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, following the opening Mass celebrated by Bishop Olmsted. Dr. Michael Barber, associate professor of theology and Scripture at Augustine, will speak Saturday.

Symancyk said that although the speakers have top academic credentials, their talks will be given at a level the average lay person would understand. “They have a beautiful way of teaching the faith and catechizing on every level,” she said.

Parishioners, catechists, priests, deacons and teachers — everyone from the entire diocese is urged to attend and learn more about the Eucharist.

Augustine Institute materials — mostly instructional DVD sets — will be available for purchase at the mission, and Symancyk hopes attendees will consider buying them to give as Easter gifts.

“I think we’ve done enough with bunnies and chocolate — everybody’s covered on that. It’s time to give our faith at Easter.”