by Joe Bollig
SENECA — The “Eucharistic Amazement” initiative that will be taking the country by storm this coming Lent had a modest predecessor right here in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
Before even learning of the U.S. bishops’ national initiative, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca got the jump on everyone and planned a four-week parish mission called “The True Presence Mission: The Mystery of the Eucharist.”
The mission, held on Oct. 3, 10, 17 and 25, was held in the church, where the format varied. But all four sessions basically included hymns, prayer, a meditation, a video from the Augustine Institute’s “Formed” teaching series and eucharistic adoration.
In the fourth session, archdiocesan consultant for liturgy and sacramental life Michael Podrebarac offered a eucharistic catechesis and, later, a meditation during eucharistic adoration.
“What is the Mass but the single most, greatest, glorification of God that we could possibly participate in?” he asked. “Because when Jesus offers himself, when our blessed Lord offers himself under the appearance to us as body and blood in bread and wine, his very body and blood, he does so to give glory to the Father.
“We know that he did so, as the good Sisters once taught us, to buy us back from the devil. And it is true. But what it ultimately does, it glorifies the Father, because it shows us the depth of his love for us. C.S. Lewis once said that perhaps St. Peter is in heaven now as we speak rejoicing in his three-fold denial of Our Lord on that most suffering night not because he is proud of his sin, not because he is gladdened by its memory, save for the fact that it demonstrates just how far down Jesus was willing to bend and pick him up.”
Jesus is also willing to bend to great depths to pick us up, too.
“It is thus our privilege to be able to participate in what St. Thomas Aquinas called a sacred feast, a sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, in which the memory of his passion is renewed, in which the mind and heart and soul are filled with grace and which the pledge of future glory is given to us. What an amazing gift of amazing love.”
The sessions were not only livestreamed, but also recorded for later playback on the parish’s YouTube channel.
The parish mission was organized by Susan Stallbaumer and Joan Henry, the parish evangelization co-directors, with the assistance of the parish evangelization team — which includes the pastor, Father Arul Carasala.
“The True Presence Mission,” said the organizers, was launched out of divine inspiration and an earlier COVID-caused disappointment.
Stallbaumer was praying about what the parish could do following her participation in the October 2019 archdiocesan “Enflame” convocation. She knew of a video resource from the Augustine Institute’s “Formed” series on the Eucharist called “Presence.”
Later, while serving as a eucharistic minister during a Mass on Dec. 29, 2019, she had a spiritual experience.
“As Father Arul handed me the ciborium, I looked into it and had a eucharistic encounter,” said Stallbaumer. “I truly saw the flesh of Jesus. And as I began giving each person the body of Christ, I just felt and knew it was truly Jesus. I always believed it in my heart, but this was the first time I had this beautiful encounter, this true presence feeling.”
She asked Father Carasala if she could present a class about the Eucharist during Lent 2020, and he agreed. The first class was held on that March 8 — and then the pandemic shut everything down.
The next year, Stallbaumer asked Father Carasala if she could offer a class on the sacrament of reconciliation during Lent 2021. He agreed to this, too. Later, she decided to use the format for the “Forgiven” class for a parish mission about the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist this fall.
“As I began to pray about that one, how to do it, the Holy Spirit put on my heart that as the Eucharist was a sacrament, it should be a mission — not in a classroom or parish hall, but the church,” said Stallbaumer.
Bob Niehues, a member of the parish evangelization committee, was pleased with how parishioners responded. This mission is only a part of their work to build a “culture of prayer” in the parish, he said, but he believes they are acting under the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“The feedback has been positive,” said Niehues. “This is a continuation of us trying to evangelize our parish. This is what our team was designed for and it’s what we’re trying to do.”