Editor’s note: Bishop Douglas J. Lucia recently participated in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Fall General Assembly in Baltimore. The meeting took place November 15 through 18. According to the USCCB website, the “meeting agenda includes discussion and votes on a number of items including: the Eucharistic revival initiative and approval of a national Eucharistic Congress in 2024; an update of the ‘Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines’; a statement on the Eucharist, The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” and much more. The Bishop sat down with the Catholic Sun staff for an interview to discuss his experience:
CS: Bishop Lucia, you said previously that this was your first in-person meeting since being ordained and installed in 2019.
BL: Yes, it was my first in person meeting and, because there’s a custom that the junior Bishops are the tellers for the meeting, I ended up being one of the tellers along with the bishop of Greensburg, PA and one of the auxiliaries of Newark, and so we had front row seats for the meeting.
CS: So, you had to work?
BL: Yes, we had to count votes. Luckily there was only one paper ballot and the rest we could do electronically, although we had a scare at one point where there was a ‘technical hiccup’ and we thought “no, what if we have to count all these votes by hand…”
CS: How many bishops were there?
BL: There were about 240 bishops present, and that would only be the ordinary and auxiliary bishops, and the Eastern bishops. That does not include the retired bishops who do not have voting privileges, so it was 240-plus.
CS: That’s a large group. After the pandemic interruption, this is the first time to be together, and your first time in-person ever; what was the mood like?
BL: I think the mood of the bishops was just to see each other and to meet the new men. It was a time of renewing friendships and acquaintances. But as the work of the conference began on Monday, we began with a morning of prayer and that really set the tone for the conference. We had prayer and then an executive session in which we had time to discuss and reflect upon the document on the Eucharist. I was very impressed by how the Holy Spirit was working in that body of Bishops. I found especially, as putting the finishing touches on the document, how bishops were very united, but also that there was a point of finding a common language, where we could all just talk and ask questions we needed to ask. I was just so impressed by the process.
CS: What kind of questions come up when you are talking about the Eucharist?
BL: Well, I think in this case we wanted to record the preparatory document for the Eucharistic Revival, but we also were conscious that the people were concerned about the disposition that one should have when approaching Holy Communion. Another part is not wanting the document to be so long that it can’t be used as a teaching tool…do we have the basics in this document that we can continue to develop? By the end of the discussion on Monday afternoon I was very impressed with the document that was coming out.
CS: This was the final document on Eucharist from the conference?
BL: Yes, this was the final document. Bishops are encouraged to again make sure their flock is properly instructed and that it is for us to address with people the challenging questions, but whenever we do that we always do it as pastors.
CS: Some of the mainstream media reporting on this described the document as falling short on the questions surrounding Catholic political and governmental figures receiving Eucharist while not always embracing Catholic teaching on these and other subjects? How did you feel about how the document was positioned?
BL: I thought the document was very pastoral, and that’s the whole thing. The bishops are shepherds, we are called to be pastors, and to me the document that came out was very pastoral. Does it answer every theological question? Does it answer every angle that someone can bring out? No. Is it a foundation for the three-year Eucharistic Revival that’s going to happen, which has been enthusiastically endorsed? Absolutely!
CS: What do you hope will be the goal of the revival?
BL: For me, my goal is that we will have a renewed appreciation of the treasure of the Eucharist. It is such a treasure. Sometimes, it’s what we do in life, where we have things that we take for granted. So, for me, this is such a wonderful opportunity. If I can use a very common analogy…as a kid, my dentist always had a treasure chest, and at the end of your appointment, you always got to go into the treasure chest. For me, Eucharist is like going to God’s treasure chest and discovering what He wants to share with us.
CS: There are published accounts of estimates that many Catholics do not embrace the Eucharistic doctrine of transubstantiation. What does this document offer as a teaching tool or a moment of reflection that might change that?
BL: Well, a couple of things. There is a new study being commissioned to find out exactly what people really do think about the Eucharist. A second thing is that the three-year period of this Eucharistic Revival begins on the diocesan level, and hopefully this is where the teaching documents will come from. In the second year of the process, it’s meant to be parish focused. It’s almost like taking the teaching of the Eucharist and applying it to our home life, applying it to family life. Then, the third year is focused on the wider context of church, and there is going to be a Eucharistic Congress to address that, held in Indianapolis. That’s going to be in July of 2024.
CS: There is a lot going on in the next few years. There is the Synod, the Eucharistic Revival; what does that say about the Church today?
BL: To me, it says the Church is alive. There are people who often say to me “you need to go back, we need to go back.” My belief is that you never go back, you always go forward. When you go forward you take that treasure with you, and you take the treasure into where you are now. When you build a new home you take the treasures from the old and you bring it into the new. To me, that’s really the whole idea of a new century, a new era. There’s so much…this is truly a moment of the Holy Spirit, where if we are willing to open ourselves to that Spirit, much can happen. Very interesting, as well: the revival is described as three years “and beyond.” This movement is not going to stop after three years.
Editor’s note: The USCCB Fall Meeting covered other topics as well. More of the interview with Bishop Douglas J. Lucia can be found on our website, thecatholicsun.com.