Have you heard about the National Eucharistic Revival?   If so, you may be wondering, what is it?  What’s the history behind it?  Why are so many people talking about it right now?  Let’s break it down:

A Concern:

In 2019 the Pew Research Center released survey results indicating that only 31% of Catholics in the United States believed that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus.”  Rather, the Pew survey indicated that 69% of Catholics believed that Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus.”

A Hope:

In 2023 the Diocese of Pittsburgh conducted a wide-ranging survey in every parish, the Disciple Marker Index Survey.  Results indicated that 91% of Catholics in our Diocese strongly agree or agree that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!  This is a vast difference from that national survey only a few years prior!

What We Believe:

During the Last Supper, the night before Jesus’ Crucifixion and death, Jesus met with his apostles in the upper room to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover.  That night, Jesus instituted a new Covenant as He raised bread and said “Take and eat. This is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)  His words were not merely symbolic.  Rather, Jesus made himself physically and spiritually present, to be consumed by his faithful during that first Eucharist and in every subsequent Catholic Mass.  Today, as an ordained priest repeats our Lord’s words, “Take and eat. This is my body.”, Jesus changes the substance of the bread and wine into His body and blood. 

The early Christians recognized this Truth from the very beginning.  On the day Jesus rose, the original Easter Sunday, He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and “made himself known to them in the breaking of the Bread.”  (Luke 24:25)  

The Gospel of John, Chapter 6, records Jesus’ words, teaching about the Eucharist.  Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, … he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and… abides in me, and I in him (Jn 6:51, 54, 56).  

The early Christians believed in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  The sacrifice of the Mass is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and has been celebrated ever since.  During the Protestant Reformation, the True Presence came into question. In response, in 1551 The Council of Trent declared the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as a dogma of faith.  Today, the Catechism of the Catholic Church writes, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian Life.” (CCC 1325).  “By the consecration, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about.  Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner.  His Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.”  (CCC 1413)

Eucharistic Revival:

The Holy Spirit is constantly guiding His Church.  In 2022, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a 3-year initiative of National Eucharistic Revival which will conclude on Pentecost 2025.  This summer, a National Eucharistic Congress will occur on July 17-21 in Indianapolis, IN, bringing together between 40,000 and 50,000 Catholics from across the country!  Additionally, four Eucharistic Pilgrimages started in each corner of the country this spring and have been processing across the nation and will meet on July 16th in Indianapolis.  One of these processions passed through the Diocese of Pittsburgh between June 12 and 19th.  

A Journey of Faith: The Eucharistic Revival Walk Passes Through Pittsburgh

From June 12 to 19, 2024, Pittsburgh witnessed a profound expression of faith and community as the Eucharistic Revival Walk passed through our city. This spiritually uplifting event, part of the National Eucharistic Revival initiative, brought together believers from all walks of life to celebrate and deepen their understanding of the Eucharist.

On June 13, many local Vincentians joined in the Eucharistic Revival Walk portion that took place between Resurrection Church and St. Pius X Church (both part of St. Theresa of Kolkata Parish in Beechview/Brookline), ending right next door to our office in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh. After gathering at the church, not only Vincentians, but many other participants of the Procession also joined us at our office for fellowship and refreshments. Thank you to all who participated in this much needed and welcomed revival walk with our Lord Jesus Christ! The procession has since moved on outside of our diocesan borders on its way to Indianapolis. 

On a Wednesday night in April, I spent one of the most interesting evenings that I have had in a long time.  I had the pleasure of attending the SVdP Conference bi-monthly meeting at The Triumph of The Holy Cross parish.  But the story of this Conference is both a short story as well as a much longer story to be told.   

The short story is the Conference history, which only began this past September when, after repeated attempts to get approval to start a conference, Denise Boring succeeded in her efforts to establish the new group.   She accomplished this through her own diligence but also with help from others within the parish and with consultation and helpful suggestions from Vincentians and leaders from other conferences in the Diocese.   As the Parish outreach representative, a Social Worker in her vocation, and from living in the area, Denise knew there was a tremendous need within their rather large geographic area.   And she knew that many members of the church had a heart for this type of ministry.   Soon, they gathered a strong group of leaders, and the new conference was ‘off and running’!   When the first meeting was held, there were 25 persons present and ready to get started. 

The longer part of this story entails all that the conference has been doing since it began.  That includes: establishing their own furniture warehouse that has swollen with many donations from parishioners as well as other locals; a food pantry which is also well stocked and much needed; a clothing pantry that currently cannot accept any more donations since the time spent sorting and organizing clothing has become overwhelming; and a home goods room that contains various items that are in demand as well.  All the Vincentians help in a variety of ways as each person is allowed and encouraged to find their own niche, whether it is home visits or picking up furniture donations or keeping records, among many other areas of interest.

The Triumph of The Holy Cross Conference sustains itself with donations from church parishioners and from others in the area.   “Others” may include individuals and businesses that, through the conference’s concerted effort to establish a high profile in the community, have learned of the important work SVdP accomplishes in their area.   On the night I attended the Conference meeting, the parish priest showed his support by attending and participating in their discussion.   And, week in and week out, they are sustained spiritually through many avenues.   One way is through their worship at Mass along with the guidance they receive from their Spiritual Director, Deacon Brian.   But they are also uplifted by the friends in need in various ways.   Last but not least, they are buoyed by the friendships they have created with each other that would have never otherwise happened.  They even developed their own conference logo and made t-shirts for Vincentians to wear.

One other very positive outcome of the new Conference is the unity it has helped develop within the parish.    We all know that the Diocese has had to merge numerous churches into new parishes over the last five years and that this has sometimes created boundaries and even friction.   However, since none of the three churches of the parish ever had a SVdP group in their church, this new endeavor was neither claimed (nor disowned) by any of the churches.   All three have come to embrace the SVdP Conference’s work as part of the greater mission that they share within the Church.

As the months ahead portend even more need and work to do, The Triumph of The Holy Cross Conference continues to schedule fundraisers, invest what they can to help funds grow, enhance awareness of their activities within and outside the parish, and share the message of the need to spread the love of Jesus Christ to the least among us.  To say that I ‘spent one of the most interesting evenings’ at their meeting that night is a complete understatement.   It was, in fact, one of the most inspiring evenings I have spent in a long, long time!


Pete Hutchinson

SVdP continues with a collaborative endeavor in which we partner with two other organizations to help friends in need with various aspects of getting back on track in life.   That effort is called the SOS Collaboration.

Those other organizations are Skyline Recovery Pittsburgh, which houses persons who have previously been incarcerated or struggling with addiction, and Off The Floor Pittsburgh Furniture Bank which provides furniture at a significantly discounted price.  Alongside them, SVdP hopes to increase our ability to help friends in need. 

Skyline Recovery maintains four recovery houses in the Pittsburgh area, three of which are for men and one for women, who are trying to get their lives together and become self-sufficient.   The cost of a monthly stay at these homes is about half what a normal apartment in the area would cost.   Residents come and go as they please within the boundaries of rules that benefit all who live there.  The ultimate goal for them is to find their own place of residence and become self-sufficient.

Off The Floor is located on the Northside of the city and has been in operation for 20 years.   It provides all types of furniture and furnishes approximately 1,000 homes each year.   They have a steady record of fully furnishing four homes per day in the area.  Off The Floor charges partner agencies a set fee of $275 for all furniture delivered, regardless of amount of furniture with the exception being an extra $50 for a new mattress.

Furniture items are obtained through a system in which persons needing furniture must obtain a referral from a partnering agency that OTF is associated with.   SVdP and its many conferences are one of those agencies.  Once a referral is submitted, OTF schedules and delivers whatever the client needs to their home address.   

Persons wishing to donate to Off The Floor also must go to the OTF website to submit their request to schedule a furniture pick-up.  That process includes the donating person to acknowledge that items are in good shape.  

As we proceed in this collaboration, SVdP hopes to grow in this coordinated effort with these organizations, as well as other local organizations, to provide wrap around services and more comprehensively help those friends in need in western Pennsylvania.  

Please keep all three of these organizations and their workers/volunteers in your prayers. 

Throughout her adult life, Teresa (Terry) Skelley had always been an active volunteer for organizations that helped those in need. So, after her husband passed away in 2016, her priest at St. Robert Bellarmine asked her to attend a meeting of their St. Vincent DePaul Conference one evening.    

Terry went in as a curious potential volunteer and walked out as the new President of the Conference!   She has been in that position for the SVdP Conference at Mary, Mother of God parish ever since.  On top of that she is also the current Central District Council President. Such are the sometimes amusing ways that God works with us.

As a musician and church Music Director, Terry had long contributed to the work and mission of the church in many ways. But apparently the group that night, along with God, knew that Terry possessed the leadership skills that would help her in this calling.

Besides those skills, her faith has helped and sustained her through all the challenges.  Those challenges included the Covid pandemic crisis several years ago as well as continuous membership changes within the conference. The Holy Spirit really stirred up that faith when, as a young 15-year-old girl, Terry connected with the charismatic movement within the Church, a movement that began right here in Pittsburgh from within Duquesne University in 1967.  Since then, she has been a faithful servant of the Lord in many ways. 

Terry sustains her faith with her attendance at Mass, often daily but most certainly weekly as her music playing circulates her throughout the diocese. Privately, she also spends at least an hour of regular daily prayer time that begins with a reading of either the lessons for the day or other personal devotionals that she has. She also runs an on-line intercessory prayer chain.   Terry likes the quote attributed to St. Francis de Sales that says “Every one of us needs a half hour of prayer a day, except if we are busy – then we need an hour”. 

While the Covid-19 period was tough for all conferences, Terry laments the continual frustration of having limited funds to help those friends in need throughout her community. And, as with most conferences, she struggles with the need for more volunteers. She has been uplifted, however, by the help from other conferences who have lent a hand to financially ‘strapped’ conferences like hers, who are surrounded by a community with many needs.

But those challenges are offset by the sheer joy she finds when she and her fellow volunteers can see where they make a difference in people’s lives.  Her first memory was a stark example of how the need is great in their service area. On a home visit one of her members discovered that the sole contents of the refrigerator for the person was a stick of butter. And maybe the most memorable case involved helping a woman who was a cancer patient but could not eat her food bank items because of the reaction it gave her that conflicted with her cancer medicine. The woman did not even have a stove with which to prepare food. After the conference purchased her a new microwave, upon opening the package the woman began to cry, saying “Do you know how long it’s been since I received something new out of a box”.

As important as these stories are, Terry reflects on the big picture which reminds her that SVdP does more than ordinary social agencies do by bringing personalized attention to friends in need.   That attention focuses on the individual in an effort to lift up the dignity of each of the persons they serve.

She also feels blessed in having in her conference “a crew that is uniquely gifted” as well as connected within the greater community. Those connections enable them to do what they can for others through the work of SVdP and beyond. She is also grateful for her local priest along with the parish who supports the work that they do. That support is not just from collections twice a year and moments during Mass when SVdP can ask for help, but also from the spiritual support that comes through the dedicated attention of their local Deacon.

What does the future hold for Terry? She only knows that she will continue to serve the Lord, through the Church and other places, in whatever manner she is summoned to do so. Accepting that this may present itself in unexpected ways, just as it did eight years ago!

A good part of the blessing for those in need that comes from SVdP begins with a simple request for assistance. And whether it’s a need for a bed and some furniture, being behind a few months in back rent, mounting unpaid utility bills, hungry children, or an eviction notice, those friends in need who contact us are, for the most part, initially responded to by our volunteers.

Besides direct contact with churches, or referrals through the Findhelp program, the new SOS Collab network, or the SVdP website itself, most contacts reach us through phone calls to the Council Office. Those calls are often more than just requests, they are pleas for help filled with distress and desperation from persons whose stories can tug at your heartstrings.

These calls are met with empathy, compassion, patience, and understanding from our volunteers who respond to over 1,000 calls we receive monthly. Sr. Jan Franklin and Joe Mulvaney are regular volunteers navigating the many calls and resources we offer to friends-in-need. Student intern Dominque Jetter is pitching in during the school year and Pete Hutchinson also helps (prior to this, Rick Musser did this job all week long, all by himself!).

When we return these phone calls, the potential clients receive the needed personal connection, but volunteers must also determine which SVdP Conference covers the area where the person lives. From there, clients are directed to a local parish along with the explicit message that we will try to help them in their time of need. If there is no Conference located in the area in which they live, or help is unavailable, our volunteers attempt to find other resources or organizations which might be able to assist the friend in need.

From that point, the Vincentians (who are also volunteers) in each Conference follow up and, if they are able, provide assistance. Sometimes a moving story will trickle back to the Council Office volunteers, but mostly we just pray that those who are struggling have had their burdens relieved, even if just a little bit. Sadly, those thousands of calls are likely the tip of the iceberg since our voicemail is limited to 100 messages at a time and, until those calls are responded to, others calling for help after the phone bank is filled may be shut out. 

It would be a great blessing if there were a few more volunteers to help us meet the tremendous need that is out there. Doing this volunteer work is a rewarding experience. The people you help will often let you know how much your service means to them. Besides that, the staff at the SVdP Council Office will never let you forget how much your work is appreciated.  And finally, the Holy Spirit knows and will, in some way, let you know how much it matters.

If you are inspired to volunteer some of your time for this, please call the Council Office and leave a message with anyone there (412-321-1071) or you may email phutchinson@svdppitt.org. We’ll get back to you right away!

In addition, we need another kind of volunteer. Are you organized and good at planning events and connecting people? The Help Thy Neighbor Walk Planning Committee meets year-round to plan, enhance, and grow the annual Walk in North and South Parks, calling attention to the important work of Vincentians in the fight against poverty and social injustice, and in the growth of their commitment to their faith and Christ. The next planning meeting will be held on January 29, 2024, at 11am, by Zoom. Please contact director of formation, Karen O’Keefe, at 412.321.1071 x 1203 or kokeefe@svdppitt.org with your interest. If you have even just a couple of hours to give each month, we need and welcome your involvement.