By Tim Puet
Catholic Times Reporter
Bishop Robert Brennan is inviting people from throughout the Diocese of Columbus to come together for a two-day Eucharistic Gathering on Friday night, Aug. 27 at Columbus St. Joseph Cathedral and Saturday morning, Aug. 28 at Columbus St. Charles Preparatory School.
The event is part of the diocese’s Real Presence, Real Future initiative aimed at strengthening ties among the diocese’s 278,000 Catholics in 23 counties and upholding the faith for future generations.
Friday’s program, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., will include Eucharistic Adoration, Vespers, a talk by Bishop Brennan, a Eucharistic procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
Because of limited seating capacity at the cathedral, admission to the event will be by invitation only, with representatives of each of the diocese’s 102 parishes and three missions invited, along with the priests, deacons and religious of the diocese.
The Saturday program in St. Charles’ Walter Student Commons is open to all, with doors opening at 7:30 a.m. and Mass beginning an hour later. Principal celebrants for the Mass will be Bishop Brennan and Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia, with the priests of the diocese as concelebrants.
Following the Mass, Archbishop Perez will present two talks, with music in between. The program will close with Benediction and a sending forth of those in attendance to spread the Good News of the Gospel. The event is scheduled to end at noon.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available on Saturday, and the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed at all times during the programs, which both will be livestreamed on the diocesan website, www.columbuscatholic.org, and broadcast live on St. Gabriel Radio at 820 AM in Columbus and 88.3 FM in southern Ohio.
“The Eucharistic Gathering is the next step in the Real Presence, Real Future initiative,” Bishop Brennan said. “The initiative began on Ash Wednesday with the start of 40 days of Eucharistic Adoration around the diocese, which brought individuals together before the Lord at a different parish each day. That period also included a Monday (March 29) when all parishes were open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, followed by joyous parish celebrations throughout Easter and the next 50 days, ending with Pentecost Sunday.
“Now the Church is in Ordinary Time, and this upcoming event will allow us to come together as a diocese to celebrate our connection with the Lord in the Eucharist and our connection to each other. We’re going to pray, to gather and to ask the Lord to keep us focused on Him.”
“I’m looking forward to the gathering for several reasons,” said Father Adam Streitenberger, diocesan director of evangelization. “First, it’s a way of formalizing the diocese’s welcome back to people after the COVID pandemic caused churches to close from mid-March to the end of May of 2020, with the bishops of Ohio dispensing the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days for more than a year.”
The obligation is being reinstated beginning this weekend, June 5-6, for all Catholics except those with health issues or who have significant fear or anxiety of contracting the coronavirus in a large group.
“The gathering also brings another opportunity to pray for the success of the ongoing Real Presence, Real Future initiative and to reflect in a deeper way on its significance and meaning,” Father Streitenberger said.
“And it will provide the people attending the events and those watching and hearing them at home with a chance to hear Bishop Brennan talking about the vision behind the initiative and Archbishop Perez taking a look at the Church now and in the future.”
“We have an opportunity for encounter with the Lord each Sunday in our individual parishes,” said Stephanie Rapp, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, who is co-chair of the event. “The gathering will give the faithful of the diocese a chance to encounter Him together and to experience the richness and the diversity of our diocese through prayer and music.”
“We’ve been in isolation for so long because of COVID,” said co-chair Pamela Harris, director of Catholic Ethnic Ministries for the diocese. “We’re communal by virtue of our baptism, and these two days will give us a visual reminder of what community looks like.
“It’s designed not just so we can receive Christ with us, but so we can let our light shine and share love and commitment to one another and for one another.”
The theme for both days of the program is Matthew 28:19-20, which frequently is described as Jesus’ Great Commission to the Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
“I Will Be With You Always” will be the theme of Bishop Brennan’s keynote address on Friday, with Archbishop Perez speaking Saturday on the subjects “Real Presence” and “Real Future.” Spanish interpretation and sign language interpretation will be available on Saturday.
Archbishop Perez and Bishop Brennan were ordained together as auxiliary bishops of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, where both served from 2012 to 2017. Archbishop Perez was bishop of Cleveland from 2017 to 2020, when he was appointed to his current position. Bishop Brennan was installed as the 12th bishop of Columbus on March 29, 2019.
Music for Friday’s Vespers and procession at St. Joseph Cathedral will be provided by the cathedral choir. On Saturday, the Filipino choir of Columbus St. Elizabeth Church will present selections before the Mass. The Columbus St. Dominic Church choir, directed by Vernon Hairston, will sing at Mass, with the Ghanaian choir of Columbus St. Anthony Church featured following the Mass. There also will be a time of praise and worship between the talks by Archbishop Perez.
Event organizers ask those planning to attend Saturday’s program to register in advance, but walk-ins will be admitted. A registration form will be available soon at www.realpresencerealfuture.org.