Priests speak out on importance of Eucharist, Eucharistic Congress

Managing Editor 

The Eucharistic Congress was a unique, one-time way for people of all ages to gather to focus on what is most important to our Catholic faith: the holy Eucharist. Among the thousands of people at the BOS Center on Oct. 28 were the dozens of priests who serve in parishes, schools, hospitals, and other areas of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki and as many as 30 priests took time at the Congress to hear the confessions of the hundreds of people who stood in long lines at the BOS Center to take part in the sacrament. Later Bishop Paprocki and the priests concelebrated Mass, which was attended by thousands of lay people. 

We asked some of the priests who were on hand that day to tell Catholic Times readers why the Eucharist is so vital in our spiritual lives — and why attending the Eucharistic Congress meant so much to them and to the people in their spiritual care. Here’s what they had to say: 

Father Seth Brown

“It may happen that in the day-in and day-out way of life, parishioners may get a little too parochial, meaning they don’t have the opportunity to witness the work the Holy Spirit is doing in other places and with other disciples within our diocese,” said Father Seth Brown who brought 29 people from his parishes to Springfield on Oct. 28. “So, the Eucharistic Congress will not only prioritize the truth and worship of the Blessed Sacrament, it will allow serious Catholics to be inspired and encouraged by each other, and to network.” 

Father Brown said he had been praying to St. Raphael — “the angel guide of Tobias” — that the Congress would be a place of happy meetings and a province of divine joy. 

Father Seth Brown is pastor of Mother of Dolors Parish, Vandalia and St. Joseph Parish, Ramsey; a diocesan research theologian; and chaplain of Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry, Vandalia. 

Father Jeff Grant 

Father Jeff Grant, a priest for 41 years, believes it is all-important to remember that the Eucharist is the source of our Catholic faith and said he was happy to be at the Eucharistic Congress and to see such great attendance. “In the Eucharist we find nourishment for the deepest hunger in our hearts,” he said. “It offers consolation for the trials of life and hope for an eternal future with God. What better proof is there of God’s love for us?” 

Father Jeff Grant is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield. 

Father Rob Johnson

As a priest, Father Rob Johnson knows that putting Jesus front and center in our lives makes all the difference.  “One of the great privileges of being a priest is hearing the stories of so many different people, especially stories of conversion and friendship with Jesus,” he said. “What I have noticed is that, as radically different as people are, stories of deep conversion almost always involve the Blessed Sacrament. To put thousands of people in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and simply let Him go to work — that’s what I am excited about at the Eucharistic Congress.”

Father Rob Johnson is pastor at Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Maryville,  and associate vocation director in the Alton Deanery. 

Father Zach Samples

“Our diocesan Eucharistic Congress is an opportunity for us to come together as a diocese to reflect on the meaning of Jesus Christ’s Real Presence, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist,” said Father Zach Samples, who was ordained in 2022. “It is the Eucharist that unites us — that binds us together as a family of faith in this local Church. We are all created in God’s image and likeness as unique expressions of God’s love, and it is this love that draws us together. 

“When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we receive that very same unitive love, and we are transformed,”  he continued. “As we come forward and say ‘Amen,’ we become what we receive and are sent forth to be Jesus Christ’s hands and feet. The Eucharist shows us that Love has a name, and it is Jesus Christ. The Eucharistic Congress gives us an opportunity to embrace this love more deeply and to be sent forth on mission to be witnesses of Christ’s love.” 

Father Zach Samples is parochial vicar at St. Peter Parish in Quincy, and associate chaplain at Quincy Notre Dame High School. 

Father Daniel Willenborg

Father Dan Willenborg said that leading up to the Eucharistic Congress he prayed that all attending would be  “inspired as we come together to learn from renowned speakers, share our faith with others, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, and above all, come together as one family in the celebration of this historic Mass.”

“The Eucharistic Congress is a great opportunity for the parishioners who are attending to grow in their sense of being a part of the wider diocesan faith community and to share in their enthusiasm and love for their faith, most especially in the shared unity of our Eucharistic Lord in holy Communion,” said Father Willenborg, who has been a priest for 18 years. 

Father Daniel Willenborg is pastor of Holy Family Parish in Litchfield and St. Agnes Parish in Hillsboro, and is the liaison for prison ministry.