The Eucharist impels us to mission

St. Michael the Archangel Parish hosts advent retreat led by USCCB’s Yohan Garcia

By Theresa Nguyen-Gillen

The Glenmary Home Missioners are hosting an advent retreat day on Saturday, Dec. 2, that is open to everyone in the Diocese of Knoxville, either in person or via livestream.

The retreat, titled “The Eucharist and Missionary Discipleship,” will take place at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Erwin from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

The day will be led by Yohan Garcia, who serves as the Catholic social teaching education manager at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Mr. Garcia will share his story and how the Eucharist impels each Catholic to be missionary disciples.

“Yohan Garcia is one of a generation of national, young lay leaders who God is raising up right now, many of whom are bilingual Hispanics like Yohan,” said Polly Duncan Collum, the director of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation at Glenmary.

“Yohan has a profound love for Jesus and the Church, and he is on fire for the Church’s social mission. He has a brilliant mind, a humble, prayerful spirit, and an amazing personal story of faith,” Ms. Collum said.

Ms. Collum, who is organizing the retreat for Glenmary, said she knew she wanted to collaborate with Mr. Garcia on the event after reading an article he wrote for the National Eucharistic Revival blog.

In the article, “This Is My Body: A Reflection on My Migrant Journey and the Eucharist,” Mr. Garcia details his decision to emigrate from his hometown of Puebla, Mexico, at the age of 16 in search of a better life.

Jesus and the Eucharist remained a source of strength for him as he journeyed hundreds of miles and, at one moment, found his life threatened at gunpoint.

“While these experiences of our human journey make us vulnerable,” Mr. Garcia wrote, “Christ lifts our vulnerability through His sacrifice on the cross. At the Eucharist, our burdens and preoccupations are transformed into feelings of hope and gratitude.”

Mr. Garcia’s first talk at the retreat will center on his migrant journey and the unifying power of the Eucharist. The talk will be given in English and Spanish. After the first talk, the group will break for lunch.

Following lunch, the retreat will split into English- and Spanish-speaking sessions. Mr. Garcia will give his second talk, “The Eucharist Prepares Us for Mission,” in Spanish while English speakers can participate in adoration, reconciliation, a rosary walk, outdoor Stations of the Cross, or fellowship.

Then the Spanish-speaking group will have those same opportunities while Mr. Garcia gives the second talk in English.

“My hope is that participants can experience the Eucharist as a community,” Mr. Garcia said. “When they go to Mass, that they will see the Liturgy of the Word differently and relate the parts of the Mass to their personal lives.”

The retreat will end with the celebration of the Eucharist—the Saturday vigil Mass.

The retreat is being held as part of Glenmary’s celebration of the National Eucharistic Revival movement.

Glenmary is a society of Catholic priests, brothers, and lay missioners who serve primarily in Appalachia and the Deep South.

In the Diocese of Knoxville, Glenmary currently serves at three mission parishes: in Erwin at St. Michael the Archangel Parish; in Maynardville at St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish; and in Rutledge at St. John Paul II Catholic Mission.

The Glenmary order also manages a volunteer program at Joppa Mountain in Grainger County.

The mission of the society to establish Catholic communities in rural areas that commonly do not have easy access to the Eucharist goes hand in hand with the mission of the National Eucharistic Revival.

Father William Howard Bishop, a Baltimore parish priest and founder of Glenmary, said in 1917: “One who has found a vast treasure, which was meant for the whole human race to enjoy, will not be excused for failing to try to bring his fellow men to a knowledge of it. We have found such a treasure, for we have drunk of the Water of Life, we have eaten of the Bread of Angels. We have Christ with us every day. Should we hesitate to show the world where He is to be found?”

Glenmary Home Missioners was founded in 1939 to serve what Father Bishop termed “No Priest Land, USA.” At that time, he noted that more than one-third of the counties of the United States, mostly in Appalachia and the South, had no resident priest.

Father Bishop foresaw that this area—then as populous as Canada, as large as Mexico and covering one-fourth of the United States—could be lost to the Church unless this vast priest-less “home mission” area was recognized by and designated a specific ministry of the Church.

Glenmary operates missions and ministries in the dioceses of Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Knoxville, Lexington, Nashville, Raleigh, and Savannah, Ga.

The mission of bringing the Eucharist to the peripheries is not limited to those who work professionally in Catholic social teaching and social justice, such as Mr. Garcia and Ms. Collum.

“All of us as children of God are called to be missionary disciples,” Mr. Garcia said.

The retreat on “The Eucharist and Missionary Discipleship” is free and open to all. Both talks will be livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person.

Visit to RSVP for lunch, view livestream information, and learn more about the Eucharistic Revival in the Glenmary mission areas.


Theresa Nguyen-Gillen is an associate editor of the Glenmary Challenge, which is the quarterly magazine that serves the Glenmary Home Missioners.

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