by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With Pope John Paul II as his inspiration, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann is trying to build eucharistic amazement among archdiocesan Catholics.
He’s building on a good foundation.
Two things Archbishop Naumann noticed when he arrived in the archdiocese were the increasing number of parish adoration chapels and of parishes scheduling times of adoration.
Later in 2008, he witnessed the devotion of thousands of people who gathered at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., for the Global Living Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration event.
It seems to him that this year is a great opportunity to realize Pope John Paul II’s vision for eucharistic amazement.
“One of the things Pope John Paul II did at the beginning of his papacy was to reinvigorate the Corpus Christi procession in Rome itself,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“Pope John Paul II, in his 2003 encyclical letter, ‘On the Eucharist in its Relationship with the Church’ (‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia’), said that one of his ambitions and goals was to renew ‘eucharistic amazement’ in the church,” the archbishop said.
“By that,” he continued, “I think he meant for us to be more aware of the miracle we participate in each and every time we go to the Eucharist and receive the Lord in the Eucharist.”
Archbishop Naumann has made the late pope’s ambition and goal his own, and is asking archdiocesan Catholics to save June 14 as an opportunity to rekindle their own eucharistic amazement.
On June 14, the solemnity of Corpus Christi, Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph will lead a eucharistic procession and solemn exposition of the Eucharist at St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park.
The procession will start out from St. Agnes Church, then head north on Mission Road to 50th Street, then west on 50th Street to Reinhardt Street, and finally south on Reinhardt to Bishop Miege High School’s Dickson Doll Stadium.
In June 2007, Archbishop Naumann joined Bishop Finn for a public eucharistic procession on the solemnity of Corpus Christi, followed by Benediction and adoration. The original intent was for the two dioceses to host on alternate years, but an exception was made for the event at Kauffman Stadium.
To lay the groundwork for the June 14 devotions at St. Agnes, Archbishop Naumann is visiting Catholic high schools in the archdiocese to preside at eucharistic adoration and Benediction.
The archbishop was at St. James Academy in Lenexa on Jan. 16 and at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park on Feb. 11.
The archbishop also offered two opportunities for eucharistic adoration and Benediction for Catholic students who attend public schools — the first at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa on Feb. 11, and the second still to come at 7:30 p.m. on March 3 at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka.
For many students, these adoration experiences will be their first, although some have had previous experience of the devotion at either archdiocesan or parish events.
“[Archbishop Naumann] sees that teens are in a vulnerable position,” said Dana Nearmyer, archdiocesan coordinator for evangelization and Catholic formation. “They’re making very important decisions, and he wants them to make those decisions with the understanding and benefit of the Eucharist.”
“[The archbishop] believes that the time they spend praying to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will enhance their consciousness of what’s occurring in the Mass and the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”
The faculty at Bishop Miege High School had been preparing for Archbishop Naumann’s visit since last fall, said Mary Perrini, director of campus ministry.
In October, the school distributed a letter from Archbishop Naumann to students, parents, faculty and staff. In November, the school held an adoration and Benediction service for faculty and staff in its chapel.
“We started forming the teachers in the experience so that they could help form the students,” said Perrini. “During Advent, we did it with all the students through the religion classes, led by Father Greg Hammes. We did smaller adoration services in January.”
All contributed, felt Perrini, to a very positive experience for both students and faculty on the day of the archbishop’s visit.
Miege president Dr. Joseph Passantino was struck by the dramatic change of pace brought to the usually lively school.
With that large of a student body, he said, “stillness and silence was a challenge.”
Because faculty and students alike “are constantly multitasking,” he said, “slowing down for that period was not easy, because it worked against habits that we’ve formed.”
But he, like Perrini, thought the day was highly successful.
“This was a good opportunity to slow down and devote oneself to one’s own formation and relate to God,” he concluded.
In the case of St. James Academy, said Debbie Nearmyer, director of faith formation, Archbishop Naumann’s visit dovetailed nicely with the school’s curriculum.
“We have eucharistic exposition and adoration in our chapel all day every Friday,” said Nearmyer. “Students normally attend during their theology classes for about 20 minutes. It’s just part of our catechesis. We really believe students need time and space to be able to hear Jesus speaking to their hearts and developing their relationship with him.”
Nevertheless, having the archbishop preside at eucharistic adoration and Benediction for the whole school was a powerful witness and a meaningful experience, she said.
“I hope that this is something that will help our young people to develop a personal relationship with Jesus by quiet prayer and adoration of his presence in the Eucharist,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“At the same time that they are developing this in their personal prayer life with Jesus, it also is a way of instilling this eucharistic amazement — realizing the miracle that Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament,” he continued. “Those are the two things I hope with our young people.”