By GREG HARDESTY     4/17/2024

Deacon Steve Greco recalls the aha moment.

He and his team had been compiling footage of various “I Thirst” events as part of a three-year, 21-city evangelical tour that is a companion movement to the National Eucharist Revival when, during dinner with his colleagues after an event in Fresno in March 2023, it hit him.

“I thought, ‘There’s a move here,’” said Deacon Steve, a permanent deacon and director of evangelization and formation for the Diocese of Orange who serves at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Irvine.

“There’s a movie to be made about this Eucharistic revival and the ‘I Thirst’ movement, and this movie is something that needs to go across the country and across the world,” said Deacon Steve, who also is president of Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry, which engages in evangelization and support of Catholic missions abroad.

The result of Deacon Steve’s epiphany?

A full-length documentary film, “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist,” which will show in 1,000 theaters in the U.S. June 4-6. The June 6 theatrical showings will be subtitled in Spanish.

“We had the Holy Spirit guide us,” said the deacon of the 1 ½-year process of putting the film together.

Tickets are available through Fathom Events (fathomevents.com), the entertainment content provider that broadcasts events in movie theaters throughout the country, beginning April 23.

A private theatrical showing will be held at the Christ Cathedral on May 7.

Deacon Steve is executive producer of the 91-minute film. The production team includes producer Jim Wahlberg, director and writer Tim Moriarty, producer and writer Stefan Slovak, editor Marc Boudignon and composer Sean Beeson.

“It’s by far the most important venture I’ve ever experienced,” Deacon Steve said.

Filmed in Europe, Africa, South America and other global spots – including Orange County (Bishop Kevin Vann and his fellow O.C. bishops appear in the movie) – “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist” features actors performing key Biblical events interspersed with comments from religious leaders and testimonials from laypersons about the power of believing in the Eucharist.

“From the time Jesus broke His bread at the Last Supper, the church fathers all believed in the real presence of the Eucharist,” Deacon Steve said. “The film seeks to depict what the power of the Eucharist is all about.”

Eucharistic miracles past and present also are depicted in the movie, which was made possible by donors including Deacon Steve.

“We hope to eventually show our movie worldwide,” added Deacon Steve. “But that will take another round of financing.”

The timing couldn’t be better for “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist,” said the deacon.

Although there’s a focus in the film on youth and young adults, the message of the film is for all Catholics – active or lapsed, and those considering adopting the faith, he added.

“Young adults are a population that isn’t attending Mass to the level we’re looking for, and we have a total of 50 million ex-Catholics in the United States alone,” said Deacon Steve, adding that 70 percent of people don’t believe in the real presence of the Lord during the Eucharist.

“You look at where we are – not just the Catholic Church but Christianity in general – and you’re seeing a major downward trend in the number of people attended Mass and services,” he added. “You look at what’s happening now, and people need to understand the power of the Mass; all of us need to understand that the Eucharist is real, it’s Jesus’ real presence, and if they understand that, then what’s going to happen?

“More people are going to go to church more frequently and when they’re in church, they’ll get so much more out of it, and they’ll be less likely to leave it and more likely to make it a priority.”

The “I Thirst” movement – in January this year, Deacon Steve and other leaders presented program in O.C. schools – takes inspiration from a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“No matter how far you have strayed without a destination, no matter how often you have forgotten Me, no matter how many crosses you bear in this life; I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I thirst for you – just you, as you are.”

Deacon Steve said working on the movie was difficult but beyond worth it. And he praised Bishop Vann and other Diocese leaders for supporting and helping him and his fellow filmmakers market the film.

“It was incredibly enjoyable,” he said of the experience, “but when you know that you’re doing God’s will, that realization energizes you.”

For more information about the June 4-7 showings of “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist,” visit jesusthirstsfilm.com or spiritfilledevents.com