Over the past several months, St. Thomas More parish in Irvine has hosted a series of events designed to bring parishioners closer to our Lord – and the Eucharist.
TARA REYNAUD, DIRECTOR OF ADULT FAITH FORMATION AT ST. THOMAS MORE PARISH, IS PICTURED WITH HER FAMILY AT THE RECENT CAMPOUT WITH THE EUCHARIST. PHOTO BY IAN TRAN/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
The St. Thomas More Campout with the Eucharist which was held on Aug. 11 and 12 was the arguably parish’s most ambitious undertaking to date.
Beginning with prayer and dinner on Friday evening and culminating with Mass and breakfast the following morning, the campout featured three presentations, each focusing on a different aspect of the Eucharist as the central part of Catholicism.
It was a time to pray and reflect in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Several hundred parishioners and community members turned out, many who slept in tents pitched on the church’s expansive grass field.
Attendees also had the option to participate for a few hours without camping.
Tara Reynaud, the parish’s Adult Faith Formation director, was one of the campout’s main organizers, along with Fr. Eugene Lee, the parish’s pastor, and other church leaders.
“We are trying to expose our parishioners to things that will excite them and bring them closer to Christ,” Reynaud said. “That’s all we can do. Fr. Eugene Lee and I have talked about doing things that sort of energize the community. That is our strategy, which is to get people fired up about the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit.”
Using sacred accoutrements such as a ciborium and a corporal, Fr. Lee demonstrated and explained the Liturgy of the Eucharist in great detail, focusing on the extreme care taken in handling the hosts and reasons behind every action in the process.
“We are being careful with every piece of the Body of Christ,” the pastor said. “And so I want to show them what I do and why. I want to just give them a little bit of explanation because they see me doing it all the time at Mass, but I don’t know if they really understand what exactly I am doing at that particular point.”
Parishioner Paula Hines, who attended the campout with her husband Richard, said the presentation was “eye opening.” “Growing up, I’ve seen that,” said Hines, a lifelong Catholic. “I didn’t know what he was doing, but now it has such a great meaning … and now it just makes me more excited to go to Mass. Because I know, I realize what’s happening in that moment. It just makes it so much more precious. It’s wonderful and beautiful what Fr. Lee has done for this church.”
Another presentation focused on Eucharist Miracles, which are defined as extraordinary and profound signs of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist.
FR. EUGENE LEE GIVES A PRESENTATION DURING THE ST. THOMAS MORE CAMPOUT WITH THE EUCHARIST HELD ON AUG. 11 AND 12.
One Eucharist Miracle recognized by the Church and explained during the presentation, occurred during a Mass in Lanciano, Italy, in the 8th century, when the host was changed into live Flesh and the wine was changed into live Blood, which coagulated into five globules, irregular and differing in shape and size.
In another presentation, Abraham Villela, the parish’s youth minister of confirmation, led a reenactment of the Passover Seder Meal that Jesus ate with His disciples to celebrate God’s passing over the doors of the Israelites who had covered the doorframes in blood from a sacrificial lamb, thus allowing them to live.
The meal included grape juice (in place of wine), unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
“The Passover finished when Jesus drank the wine,” Villela said. “For us, the Seder meal now goes into the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Himself said, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
Following the presentations, an hour-long communal gathering was held, including prayer, scripture readings and song.
From there, participants retired to their tents for the night.
Throughout the campout, however, campers were encouraged to leave their tents for an hour to kneel and pray at the base of the monstrance.
Participants weren’t required to camp out for the night and several committed to come from their homes to pray in front of the monstrance for an hour and then return home.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Richard Hines said of the campout. “Just because of the layout, and obviously the people that we know, it’s very comfortable, the grass is nice, it sets up even like a sunrise service on Easter. It’s just a little church, but a big church. It’s got a lot of energy.”
The campout was staged, in part, as a precursor to the Eucharistic Congress being held at Christ Cathedral on Oct. 20-21. Titled “I AM,” the event will feature guest speakers, prayer and celebration. The Diocese of Orange organized the event in response to the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative featuring spiritual celebrations at the diocesan, parish and individual levels.
St. Thomas More hosted a series of Spirit Nights and seminars leading up the campout, all with the goal of strengthening the church community’s bond with the Holy Spirit.
I AM Diocesan Eucharistic Congress will be held Oct. 20 and 21 at Christ Cathedral campus. For more information, visit https://www.rcbo.org/congress/