ORLANDO | Father Jorge Torres remembers his First Holy Communion fondly.
He had just emigrated from Mexico to New York with his family when his mother took both him and his sister to church for the Sacrament. That spark ignited in his heart and led him to the priesthood in the Diocese of Orlando.
Now God is calling him to help launch a Eucharistic Revival with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The theme for the USCCB’s strategic plan for 2021-2024 is “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ, Source of Our Healing and Hope.” Father Torres explains it’s “in response to studies that show many Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence – that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus.” He prays these efforts will help all Catholics to “experience our Eucharistic Lord in a whole new way.”
“This is a passion of mine,” shared Father Torres. Since receiving his First Holy Communion, “this has been inside my heart.” He recalled gathering parishioners at his first assignment St. Ann Parish in Haines City and studying John 6, Eucharistic miracles, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its teachings on the Eucharist.
“I look forward to doing this throughout the country,” he said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ plan has five strategic priorities: evangelization, life and dignity of the human person, protect and heal God’s children, vocations and pandemic recovery. Church leaders started building the program more than one year ago, but paused when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Father Torres considered that a hidden blessing.
“The timing could not be better after the pandemic because we are all looking for ways to encounter the Lord, for community, and how we can help those in need,” he shared.
Paraphrasing Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, chairman of the committee, he said, “There comes a point when we need to stop and hold up the Eucharist so we can refocus.” Father Torres affirmed, “If we allow this to be a time of exploration, not only for the Church, but for the world, it will reap copious fruits.”
The clergy don’t plan to do this alone. They’re asking for help from the faithful and preparing online training to form lay Eucharistic missionaries and diocesan days of Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation. Apostolates will be encouraged to help “animate” parish Eucharistic activities, and follow-ups for youth after World Youth Day 2022.
“My hope is everyone will take that step in inviting someone,” Father Torres said. He is grateful for his catechist, priests and faithful who played a role in his own Eucharistic revival. The lawyer, the cashier, the car mechanic “each have a role,” he said in “sharing the Good News.”
“The more people see that invitation (to the Eucharist) can change lives, the more it will have a greater impact,” he said.
Those invitations must come at times of joy and great sadness. Having battled loss in his own life, “The Eucharist was always a place to go to encounter each other and encounter healing. I saw that time and time again through unexpected tragedies. … The Pulse nightclub attack and various experiences the Lord has brought me through to minister to His people,” Father Torres said. “Suffering is not separated from the Eucharist. At times it may go hand in hand. The beauty is that when we suffer there, we are suffering with Jesus. We are not alone.”
Father Torres leaves for Washington, D.C., in early July to serve as a specialist to the conference’s Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis. He takes with him experience as parochial administrator of St. Ann in Haines City and Most Precious Blood in Oviedo, and as pastor of Holy Redeemer in Kissimmee and Our Lady of Lourdes in Melbourne. He is a former diocesan vocations director and campus minister at the University of Central Florida.
As secretary of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, Father Torres studied vocation patterns for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It always starts with an encounter,” he said, adding he hopes the revival will also spark a fervor for increased vocations.
Citing the end of John 6, he quoted Jesus as he spoke to his apostles about the Eucharist: “‘Are you going to leave me as well?’ Peter responds, ‘To whom shall I go Lord. You have the words of everlasting life.’” These words were inscribed on Father Torres’ ordination card.
“There comes a point when we see there is nowhere else to go, but to Our Lord,” he said. “Once again it is Him guiding me step by step. … May His heart be the one that beats instead of mine.”