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A North Vancouver church might be livestreaming Masses daily, but its pastor is ensuring his flock does not forget the importance of approaching the Eucharist in person, too.
Father Steny Mascarenhas, OCD, is hoping 100 glossy posters filling the pews of St. Edmund’s Church will keep parishioners inspired, hopeful, and coming back for Holy Communion.
“With this situation we are in, with the virus, with all the financial and other struggles we see around, it is important that we remain close to Jesus without losing hope and trusting him,” he said.
“Throughout history there have been times, ups and downs in the Church, so many plagues, but the faith kept people alive, kept people going. That’s what we’re doing here.”
The posters are a portion of the International Exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles created by Blessed Carlo Acutis. Some parishioners had them professionally printed and displayed in the pews, showcasing 98 events deemed by the church as Eucharistic miracles. These events, spanning centuries and the globe, include testimonies of consecrated hosts seen bleeding, left untouched by flames or floods, or recovered in surprising ways after being stolen or lost.
A tabernacle can be seen at the front of the church while poster boards describing Eucharistic miracles are displayed in the pews. (Agnieszka Ruck photo)When the B.C. government mandated that churches suspend worship services, it left room for a maximum of 10 people at a time to enter a church for private prayer. So Father Mascarenhas invites his parishioners to spend their private prayer time in contemplation of Eucharistic miracles.
Those hoping to view the display must register and only nine people can enter the church at a time. A member of church staff oversees registration and sanitization during three time slots on Monday through Friday and one on Saturday.
Father Mascarenhas is also emphasizing the importance of receiving the Eucharist during the pandemic. After celebrating Mass before a video camera in an empty church, he offers Communion to two dozen or so faithful who watched the livestream on YouTube and trickle into the church afterward in accordance with all applicable regulations to receive Communion.
“It is not enough that we watch online,” he said. “We still need the Eucharist.”
The Eucharist “can help us come out of the situation we are in, have strong faith, and not lose hope.”
Sharon Dlima finds the display particularly moving.
“This exhibition speaks to my heart directly,” said the lector and catechist. “Jesus is truly present and he is wanting to speak to us through the power of the Eucharist. We are talking about something real here. It’s not just something artificial. It’s serious business. It’s Jesus talking to me and wanting me to spend time with him in the Blessed Sacrament.”
She believes the exhibit can be a powerful evangelism tool. “If you doubt that God is real, go and see for yourself. He has given us proof, and it is in that exhibition.”
Members of the community in private prayer. (Contributed photo)Parishioner Pat Labreche also finds comfort in the exhibit. “The stories are quite moving,” she said, recounting one miraculous occasion in Avignon, France, in 1433, where major flooding left a church standing in four feet of water, save for one dry path from the front door to the altar, where the Blessed Sacrament was displayed. It reminded her of the parting of the Red Sea.
“Jesus, over the years, when people have doubts, has made himself visible to them,” she said. “He is our way to heaven, and if we keep him in the centre of our lives, he’ll journey with us.”
Father Mascarenhas invites anyone interested in contemplating Eucharistic Miracles in private prayer to sign up through St. Edmund’s Parish.
“We are here. We are waiting for you. Jesus is waiting for you.”
After the display has spent a month or two inspiring the faithful at St. Edmund’s, he hopes another parish will be interested in taking it on.
Mini-exhibits on Eucharistic miracles are also being planned for some schools in the archdiocese with support from the Real Presence Association.
The creator of the Eucharistic Miracles exhibit, Carlo Acutis, was beatified in 2020. The tech-savvy teen was known for his strong faith, skills in computer programming, and passion for miracles. He was only 15 years old when he died of leukemia in 2006.
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