By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Three months ago, Deacon Mike Linnenbrink experienced excruciating pain in his knee as he assisted Father Dan Dorau at the altar during Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in West Point.
As he held the chalice containing the precious blood of Christ, Deacon Linnenbrink prayed silently to Jesus to take his pain away for that Mass and the next one at which he was preaching.
“I heard a voice say, ‘Do you really believe I can do that?’ I said, ‘Yes.’” As the deacon headed to the tabernacle, which required negotiating stairs, he felt no pain. “I made it through the next Mass. I had no pain,” he said as he reflected on his appreciation for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Now Deacon Linnenbrink, recovering from knee surgery, is part of small team organizing a study on Jesus and the Eucharist for the Lenten season in the four parishes he serves: St. Boniface Parish-Farmington, St. James the Less Parish-St. Paul, St. John Parish-Houghton and St. Mary of the Assumption-West Point.
Jesus and the Eucharist is a seven-session study of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) National Eucharistic Revival. The small-group study helps parishioners connect with one another as they fall “deeper in love with our Eucharistic Lord” (eucharisticrevival.org/ jesus-and-the-eucharist).
The USCCB launched the National Eucharistic Revival on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 2022 as a movement to restore understanding and devotion to the Eucharist in the U.S. “by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist” (eucharisticrevival.org). The movement culminates with the National Eucharistic Congress, which will bring together an estimated 80,000 people in Indianapolis July 17-21.
Numerous resources are available on the revival website and the small-group study is one of them that drew the interest of Linda Pieper of the Houghton parish. She researched the website after she and her husband, Lee, attended an inspiring presentation on the Eucharist last summer. Their presenters were Associate Professor Ella Johnson of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of Liturgy and of Deacon Formation, and Patrick Schmadeke, diocesan director of Evangelization.
Father Dan Dorau, pastor of the four parishes in Lee and Van Buren counties, appreciates and supports the efforts to “try to revive the Eucharist in our families and our parishes.” Linda Pieper believes “the Eucharistic Revival ties in nicely with what the diocese is trying to do with welcoming and belonging.”
Jesus is present
As she perused the offerings on the revival website, Linda Pieper thought to herself, “This is prayerful stuff.” The fact that people from all over the country are converging this summer in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress also inspires the Piepers, Father Dorau and Deacon Linnenbrink and his wife, Liz, all of whom plan to attend, along with four others from their parish cluster. “It’s like NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) for adults, on steroids!” Father Dorau quipped. The Piepers, Linnenbrinks and Father Dorau, meanwhile, are working together on the Lenten series for their parish cluster.
The centerpiece of the Lenten study is a professionally produced package of weekly videos. Each one begins with greetings from a different bishop, teaching from prominent theologians and other Church figures, and testimonies from Catholics sharing “their experiences of the transformative power of Eucharistic love in their own lives” (eucharisticrevival.org).
St. James the Less Parish in St. Paul will host each session from 2-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons beginning Feb. 18, the first Sunday of Lent. All are welcome to participate — parishioners and visitors, too! Other parishes around the nation have reported that the videos explain the Eucharist wonderfully, draw people together and enliven their parishes and fellowship, Linda Pieper said. Liz Linnenbrink said she even invited the sixth- and seventh-graders in her religious education class. “We want them to have a better relationship with Jesus.”
Like the other planners, Liz Linnenbrink is a cradle Catholic who grew up in a family that embraced their Catholic faith. “I thought I knew everything about the Catholic Church,” she said, but she learned so much more as she journeyed with her husband Mike through his formation for the diaconate. She has grown to appreciate a much more personal relationship with Jesus Christ, particularly through the Eucharist. “I don’t think people realize the value of taking (the Eucharistic) Jesus into their bodies.”
Lee Pieper, so grateful for his appreciation of the Lord’s presence in his life, desires to pass on the faith to the next generations and for them to “believe what the Lord can do for us.”
Father Dorau hopes this focus on the Eucharist will help Catholics “to be more intentional when they receive the Eucharist. When we stand in line to receive Communion, are we really thinking about what we are doing? If we can comprehend a tiny bit of what Jesus is doing for us, we would be overwhelmed.”
After the Lenten series, adoration and reconciliation will take place at the four parishes. An Encounter Mass will be celebrated the fourth Sunday of every month beginning in May. Adoration will precede the Mass and fellowship will follow. “It’s another part of welcoming and belonging,” Deacon Linnenbrink said.