Bishop Alfred Schlert has announced that the Diocese of Allentown will celebrate a “Year of the Real Presence” beginning on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11.

The Year of the Real Presence will be a special time in parishes and schools around the Diocese. It will celebrate the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and will enable parishioners to rejoice in the gift of being present with their brothers, sisters, and clergy at Mass.

The celebration will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese.

“This year will be an opportunity for all of us to rededicate ourselves to Christ’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, the center of our diocesan life,” Bishop Schlert said. “In addition, as the pandemic slowly lifts, it will be a time for people to return to Mass to be ‘really present’ with their family, friends, parishioners, and clergy,” he said.

Jesus is present to us in many ways, but only in the Holy Eucharist is He uniquely present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This is the “Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”

The priest celebrating Mass is acting in the person of Christ. When he consecrates the bread and wine, it is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ.

The transformed, or “transubstantiated,” bread and wine are not merely symbols. They continue to look like bread and wine but they are not; the substances change. They truly are the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery that the Church can never fully explain in words.  

Sadly, many Catholics believe the bread and wine are merely symbols, and not actually Jesus’ Body and Blood, according to a nationwide survey. That is a troubling statistic, Bishop Schlert said.

During the Year of the Real Presence, he said, parishes and the Diocese will emphasize, catechize (teach), and promote the Catholic belief in the Real Presence.

As vaccines become more widely available and as the pandemic eases, parishes and the Diocese will continue to invite people back to Mass, to be present and to worship together.

In addition, during the Year, the Diocese and parishes will reach out to those Catholics who may have fallen away from the Church over the years, and invite them to return.

During the Year of the Real Presence, churches around the Diocese will have increased opportunities for Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist. In addition, Confession will be widely available so that the faithful can receive the Holy Eucharist in a worthy manner.

A special website will be created, www.YearOfRealPresence.org.  It will contain information about events during the Year, and will contain resources for people to learn more about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The website also will list the hours of Adoration available in each parish.

By dying on the Cross, Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins. Through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the altar, we are joined to that sacrifice in an unbloody way, and receive its benefits.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body.” He took wine and said, “This is the cup of my blood.”

The power and strength of the Real Presence is Jesus’ promise that He is truly present at the altar, and He is present to us in a very intimate, personal way when we are ‘really present’ for Mass and consume the Holy Eucharist.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. – (John 6:56).