VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In the eyes of the world it would appear “absurd” to begin helping the poor and struggling for justice by spending time in adoration before the Eucharist, Pope Francis said, but that is precisely what an Italy-based religious order has been doing for 100 years.

Pope Francis greets members of the Sister Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist at the end of a meeting in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Aug. 25, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“In the face of immense needs and with almost no resources at their disposal, what sense did it have to tell the sisters to get on their knees in adoration and reparation,” the pope said Aug. 25 as he joined a celebration of the centenary of the Sister Disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist.

But the practice worked, Pope Francis told the sisters and their collaborators at the meeting in the Vatican audience hall.

The prayers and adoration of the early members of the congregation “generated a contagious force, which soon led them to undertake and promote works of material, cultural and spiritual redemption far exceeding all expectations,” he said.

ORLANDO, Fla. (OSV News) – Meeting in Orlando for their spring assembly, the U.S. bishops moved ahead on some efforts to advance the church’s mission in the U.S., including new pastoral initiatives aimed at activating Catholics as missionary disciples. The gathering’s June 15-16 plenary sessions proved relatively smooth, but featured moments of vigorous discussion at a few points, particularly around the formation of priests.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services gave his first address as U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president presiding over the bishops’ plenary assembly. He covered a variety of issues of concern to Catholics, such as the need for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform and for an end to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., and other prelates listen to a speaker June 16, 2023, during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring plenary assembly in Orlando, Fla. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

“We cannot fail to see the face of Christ in all of those who need our assistance, especially the poor and the vulnerable,” he said.

The papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, made his case to the U.S. bishops June 15 that synodality, oriented to Jesus Christ as their “true north,” unleashes missionary activity.

“The purpose of walking this synodal path is to make our evangelization more effective in the context of the precise challenges that we face today,” Archbishop Pierre said in his address at the U.S. bishops’ spring plenary assembly in Orlando.

The archbishop also singled out Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles, who was shot to death earlier this year, as “a model of synodal service, combined with Eucharistic charity.”

The U.S. Catholic bishops gathered voiced their approval for the advancement of a cause to canonize five missionary priests from Brittany, France, known as the “Shreveport martyrs.”

“They demonstrated heroic charity during the third worst pandemic in U.S. history,” said Bishop Francis I. Malone of Shreveport, noting they were all young men who voluntarily sacrificed their own lives to journey with the dying and bring the Eucharist to the faithful.

In their message to Pope Francis, the bishops also strongly condemned an execution that the state of Florida carried out June 15 in the evening following their meeting.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, updated the bishops on the progress of the 2023-2024 global Synod on Synodality. Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, presented on the National Eucharistic Revival, and outlined how the “small group initiative” in the parish year could help deepen people’s relationship to Christ in the Eucharist.

“We all know how much our church needs to move from maintenance to mission … this is really the heart of what we’re attempting to do,” he said.

Most votes taking place had near unanimous approval, such as the agenda items related to retranslating the Liturgy of the Hours into English, including having the future edition include some prayer texts in Latin.

The bishops approved the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Latino Ministry with 167 in favor and 2 against and 2 abstentions. The 62-page plan seeks to respond to the needs of about 30 million Hispanic/Latino Catholics in the U.S. and strengthen Hispanic/Latino ministries at the national, local and parish level.

Ahead of the vote, Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, California, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, told OSV News there was a great need to “get moving so that (the new pastoral plan) can be implemented in our dioceses and parishes.”

A day before the vote took place, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop J. Arturo Cepeda, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, called the plan a sign of the times that recognizes Hispanic/Latino Catholics — who account for more than 40% of U.S. Catholics — as “missionaries among us” that can reinvigorate the life of the church.

The most contentious discussion took place regarding the proposed second edition of the “Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests.” Some bishops took to the floor to object they had not had time to read the document, or that it was so lengthy priests would likely not read it and dismiss its contents.

Other bishops expressed concern that the discussion on “spiritual fatherhood” needed to be fleshed out, expressing concern that otherwise it could fuel the “narcissistic tendencies” and “hubris” of some priests.

Bishop Steven R. Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming, said he appreciated the document’s beautiful description of the Christian relationship to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “What I find lacking is that communal relationship to the Body of Christ … that puts us in solidarity with one another as brother and sister,” he said.

However, other bishops pushed back against delaying the document, noting the hard work that went into developing it, and that the document was meant to be a guide adapted to the realities of local churches.

Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt, ordained as a priest for the Servants of the Eucharist and Mary, who is an auxiliary for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, said the term “spiritual fatherhood” is “actually a term that is more familiar and clear for those who are younger in the priesthood.”

Ultimately, the bishops approved the formation document with 144 voting in favor, 24 against, and 8 abstentions.

The discussion and vote on priorities for the 2025-28 USCCB strategic plan were put on hold so that the bishops could reflect upon and, presumably, include some of the discussion from the synod conversations.

In a voice vote, the bishops approved beginning the process of consultation and revision of ethical directives for Catholic health care facilities to guide them in caring for people suffering from gender dysphoria and who identify as transgender.

Bishop Flores said potential changes would be “limited and very focused” in nature, and involve extensive consultation. He praised the calls from bishops on the floor for a “pastorally sensitive” approach to the complex topic.

The U.S. bishops also voiced approval for the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth to move ahead on drafting a new pastoral statement for persons with disabilities.

“We do believe a new statement is needed to address disability concerns in the 21st century,” Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, the committee’s chair, told the bishops June 16. The intended statement aims to emphasize the giftedness of persons with disabilities, eliminate outdated forms of referring to persons with disabilities, and would be inclusive of persons who have mental illnesses.

During the discussion, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston joined Bishop John T. Folda of Fargo, North Dakota, in noting the importance of Catholics being allied with the disability community against assisted suicide, and the cardinal asked for more attention to support parents of children with autism.

The bishops also heard an update on the upcoming World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, and were encouraged to have their own stateside events for youth and young adults “to form them as missionary disciples.”

Finally, just before the bishops concluded their assembly, Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, discussed The Catholic Project’s 2022 study of 10,000 Catholic religious and diocesan priests that found most priests distrust their bishops with only 24% saying they had confidence in bishops in general.

Bishop Boyea encouraged the bishops to help priests “feel kinship and fraternity with us” through better personal communication, such as recognizing important moments in their lives, and better lines of communicating information to them.

“This is not the completion, but a beginning, to heal our relationship,” he said of the report.

At the conclusion of their assembly, recognizing it was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the bishops prayed together the Litany of the Sacred Heart, invoking Jesus’ heart repeatedly to “have mercy on us.”

SCRANTON – The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has announced that parishes may once again resume the practice of distributing the Precious Blood to the faithful at Masses beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 6, 2023.

For the last three years during the COVID-19 pandemic, the distribution of the Precious Blood at Mass had been suspended out of an abundance of caution to protect the health and safety of the faithful.

In making his announcement, Bishop Bambera stressed that resuming the practice of distributing the Precious Blood to the faithful is at the discretion of the pastor, administrator or parish life coordinator.

Altar wine is is seen in this 2019 file photo. (CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence)

Not every parish may be ready to immediately resume this practice and Communion from the chalice was optional even before the pandemic. Some parishes may feel it is better to reintroduce the Precious Blood from the chalice gradually or even wait until after flu season is completely over.

As always, it is the choice of each individual whether to receive under both forms or under one form only. Those who receive under only one species are not deprived in any way of the fullness of the Lord’s Presence.

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has also announced that its parishes may begin offering the Precious Blood at Masses beginning Holy Thursday as well.

Many other dioceses – including Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Youngstown, Ohio – have already lifted this restriction and have not seen any significant increases in viral transmission.

LARKSVILLE – As the month of March ended, so too did a series of 12 Lenten Holy Hours celebrated by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton.

Beginning at Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale Feb. 23 and ending at Saint John the Baptist Parish in Larksville March 29, Bishop Bambera joined the faithful of each deanery to proclaim and adore the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Hundreds of faithful attended each of the Lenten Holy Hours – meaning overall that several thousand people experienced the love of Jesus poured forth from the Cross.

Organized to help highlight the National Eucharistic Revival that has been underway for nearly one year – the Lenten Holy Hours were a time for the Church to discover anew the life-giving strength of the Eucharist – the living presence of Jesus among us.

During his homily at each stop, Bishop Bambera emphasized three important realities that he hoped the faithful would take from each Holy Hour.

First, through the Eucharist, we learn that we are incorporated into Christ’s Paschal Mystery – His suffering, death and resurrection – through which we are saved.

Bishop Bambera stated,

“‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,’ Saint Paul reminds us, ‘you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.’ What does that mean for us? It means that we do not suffer alone, for Christ suffers with us. It means that the deaths that we experience are known and grieved by Christ. It means that like Jesus who rose, despite our suffering and deaths, we have hope for new life in this world and the world to come.”

“But to make this mystery our mystery, Christ, in the Eucharist, first beckons us to remove the facades that we so often use to mask our troubles and disappointments, our suffering and pain, our failures, sins and death and to come to him as we are to be forgiven, healed and created anew through the power of his resurrection. His death is our death. His rising to new life is our rising as well.”

Second through the Eucharist, we are bound together as brothers and sisters.

Bishop Bambera continued,

“Recall the words of Pope Benedict in this first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, ‘I cannot possess Christ just for myself … Communion draws me out of myself towards him and thus also towards unity with all Christians.’ That means that while the love of God given to us through Christ is without conditions, it is not without consequences. Communion with the Eucharistic body of Christ must be accompanied by our communion with the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church – our brothers and sisters.”

Third, Through the Eucharist, we are sent forth on mission – to be the living presence of Jesus in our world today.

The bishop noted,

“Saint Paul challenges the Corinthians, ‘You who share the same bread and cup receive the same Christ in the Eucharist, and as such, you become one with each other and with the Lord whom you receive.’ You become one with your husband, your wife; one with your child; one with the neighbor you find intolerable; one with the person of color or ethnic background or lifestyle that you’d rather not accept; one with the poor.”

“Eucharist compels us, brothers and sisters, to remember that we not only receive the risen Christ but also are called to something more. Early in his pontificate, Saint John Paul II wrote to the bishops of the world about the gift of the Eucharist. As he spoke of the sublime gift of God in the sacramental presence of Jesus that we honor and adore this night, he also said this: ‘The authentic sense of the Eucharist is that it becomes the school of active love for my neighbor. If authentically received, Eucharist must make us grow in awareness of one another.’”

As he concluded his remarks each evening, Bishop Bambera told the faithful there is nothing that cannot be forgiven and healed by Jesus.

“Allow his mercy and forgiveness to envelop your lives and to recreate your spirits,” Bishop Bambera ended by saying. “Trust in His promise to save. Open your hearts and let His love fill you with peace. Receive Christ and then, filled with His life, become Christ for our broken world.”

To read Bishop Bambera’s full homily from the Lenten Holy Hours, visit the Bishop’s Office page here on the Diocesan website.