Sunday, February 26, 2023

CW Investigates


Be advised that we are in a position in the coming days to give a full update on each and every investigation we are currently engaged with, and we will publish here in due course.

From the mis-behaviour of bishops, priests and others in State will now all become very public indeed...and a little hot...and not just under the collar!!

German bishops’ leader wants ‘common line’ on same-sex blessings ahead of synodal way vote


When the German bishops’ conference meets next week, the group’s chairman will aim to see the country’s bishops support the prospect of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, according to local media.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported Thursday that Bishop Georg Bätzing will call for “a common line in favor of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples” at the bishops’ plenary assembly in Dresden from Feb. 27 to March 2.

The bishops’ gathering will take place days before the final scheduled meeting of Germany’s controversial synodal way, a multi-year initiative bringing together bishops and select lay people to discuss far-reaching changes to Church teaching and structures.

Among the documents scheduled for discussion at the March 9-11 synodal assembly is a paper advocating same-sex blessings, in defiance of a Vatican declaration in 2021 that “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.”

The text, “Blessing ceremonies for couples who love each other,” is due to have its second reading at next month’s meeting in Frankfurt, after which it could be formally adopted as a resolution of the synodal way.

Bishop Bätzing has previously expressed support for same-sex blessings, but has not said publicly that he intends to seek a united front on the issue at the bishops’ Dresden meeting.

A press release announcing the plenary meeting noted that the 65 members of the German bishops’ conference will discuss “the current issues of the synodal way, especially with a view to the fifth and thus last synodal assembly,” but it did not mention any specific topics.

Several German bishops have publicly backed same-sex blessings — including Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Bishop Bertram Meier of Augsburg, and Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meissen — but others such as Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau have expressed opposition.

If German media reports are accurate, Bishop Bätzing may be seeking to avoid a repeat of the scenes at the last synodal assembly in September, when the bishops unexpectedly failed to pass a text calling for a change in the Church’s approach to sexual ethics, prompting protests.

KNA noted that the March synodal assembly will address a potentially “even more controversial” document on gender issues. The text, “Dealing with gender diversity,” will also have its second reading in March.

The draft document condemns the “wilful negative politicization of intersex and transgender persons in the Church and in society,” and says that “all ordained ministries and pastoral vocations in the Church should be open to the intersex and transgender baptized and confirmed who sense a calling for themselves.”

L’Arche after Vanier: ‘We’ve moved on from Jean’

 L'Arche Cork Day Service

When Laura Giddings first shared the news of L’Arche founder Jean Vanier’s abuse with her community in Tacoma, Washington, she felt a mixture of embarrassment, anger, and resentment at having to be the bearer of such a painful message.

It was 2020, less than a year after Vanier’s death at the age of 90, and an independent inquiry commissioned by L’Arche had concluded that the man seen then by many as a spiritual giant sexually abused six women between 1970 and 2005.

A winner of the Templeton Prize and recipient of the French Legion of Honor, the Canadian Catholic was synonymous with L’Arche, a network of 154 communities in 38 countries welcoming people with intellectual disabilities.

For Giddings, the executive director of L’Arche Tahoma Hope, the publication of a new report on Vanier this January brought back memories of 2020.

“Although the shock factor is not as great, and it’s taking more time to process all that is in the report, there are little details that stick in my head and make it harder to dismiss the findings as long ago and far away,” she told The Pillar in an email interview.

“For example, that Jean continued the abusive behavior until the year he died. That he lied about it, flat-out, to people I care about who loved and trusted him. And not only did Jean not show any remorse, but he didn’t seem to understand the damage he had done even when confronted by women he abused.”

“So yes, I continue to feel anger and resentment and sadness for those who were most affected.”

Three years on from the sudden collapse of Vanier’s saintly reputation, other L’Arche members struggle to find new words to express their sense of horror and betrayal.

“It’s just gruesome,” said Tina Bovermann, executive director of L’Arche USA, in a phone interview. “I mean, there’s nothing else to say about it. It’s gruesome. It’s shocking.”

The new report, produced by a team of academics commissioned by L’Arche, runs to almost 900 pages (65 in summary). The study commission report, as it’s known, is entitled “Control and Abuse, An investigation on Thomas Philippe, Jean Vanier and L’Arche (1950-2019).”

The document says that at least 25 women who were involved in relationships with Vanier between 1952 and the year of his death “experienced an accompanying situation involving a sexual act or an intimate gesture.”

The study describes in painstaking detail how Fr. Thomas Philippe, a French Dominican priest, came to serve as Vanier’s mentor, helping him to fashion a destructive double life.

Philippe — the brother of Community of St. John founder Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe — established a group called L’Eau vive (“Living Water”) in France in 1945. Vanier joined the organization as a young man and was initiated into Philippe’s deviant “mystico-sexual practices” with female members.

Vanier took over as manager of L’Eau vive in 1952, after Philippe left following complaints about his behavior. When Rome imposed canonical sanctions on Philippe in 1956, the Canadian defied a prohibition on communicating with the priest, hoping to be reunited with him and his “mystic sect.”

The researchers raise the disturbing question of whether L’Arche was founded — in 1964, in the village of Trosly-Breuil, northern France — “to serve as a screen for the activities of the group of ‘initiates.’”

There is even a suggestion that the organization’s name, meaning “The Ark” in English, had a hidden meaning for the group. Writing to his parents, Vanier described L’Arche as “Noah’s Ark taking on all the small animals to save them, floating on L’Eau vive (the Holy Office must not know)!”

As Vanier’s fame grew, he often gave a polished account of L’Arche’s founding. But challenging his narrative, the report says: “Contrary to what is said about the founding of L’Arche, there is no ‘revelation,’ no cry heard, no vocational call defining the founding moment. The primary intention … was to gather around T. Philippe, whose ‘liberation’ they had been waiting for ever since 1956 and for which they had put their plans for the future on hold.”

“The ‘mystical-sexual’ beliefs they received from him are the cement that unites them and pushed them to rebuild a work. This work was originally only necessary to create an official support, a ‘screen,’ for their reunion.”

But the study commission concludes that the “original sectarian nucleus … did not seem to have developed beyond the parent house of Trosly-Breuil.”

Throughout his life, Vanier was closely associated with the Catholic Church, frequently meeting with figures such as Mother Teresa and John Paul II. (He received a phone call from Pope Francis shortly before his death.)

L’Arche has long been affiliated with the Church because of Vanier’s Catholicism, but the organization is not formally Catholic — and while the faith figures into its history, and its present, L’Arche today incorporates people from a variety of religions, or none at all.

L’Arche does not appear on the list of associations compiled by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, and its constitution does not mention the Catholic Church.

As L’Arche Tahoma Hope puts it, “L’Arche was founded in the Roman Catholic tradition, but with communities in 36 different countries throughout the world, each community tends to reflect some version of the predominant faith tradition of their country. Most communities in the U.S. are rooted in a Christian tradition.”

“While each community identifies itself with a particular faith tradition, and is rooted in prayer, all L’Arche communities welcome people of any or no faith and support each person in deepening in his or her own personal spiritual journey.”

‘I could arrest him for that’

The Pillar spoke with several members of L’Arche in the U.S. about the impact of the Vanier revelations. All of them said that it had affected their work and communities.

“Our founding story is inextricably linked with how Jean Vanier inspired hundreds of people in the Pacific Northwest,” explained Laura Giddings. “There are four L’Arche communities in Washington and Oregon as a result of retreats Jean gave — no place else in the United States has as many communities as close together. We need to take another look at how we tell that story.”

“In Tacoma, we are also blessed with long-term community members who knew Jean well and counted him as a friend and mentor. We want to support them in processing the anger, betrayal, and sadness that they feel. Not only for the women involved, but for not noticing or being aware themselves of what was going on in secret.”

She continued: “I’m hearing some staff express that they are second-guessing their own commitment to L’Arche; that their relationship to L’Arche’s identity now feels ‘unanchored’ and more complex than before. They are asking a lot of good questions about the nature of authority, about charismatic versus inspirational leadership, and about power dynamics in our relationships with core members.”

“Core members” are people with intellectual disabilities who are at the center of L’Arche communities, which also include live-in assistants. As part of its commitment to uncovering and grappling with the truth about Jean Vanier, L’Arche has sought to communicate the two reports’ findings about Vanier to its core members.

As part of its efforts, the organization has produced a three-page summary of the 900-page study, which presents its conclusions in just 16 sentences, accompanied by illustrations.

To convey that none of Vanier’s victims were core members, for example, the brief summary document has a drawing of a person in a wheelchair with a big red X across it.

A podcast series called “Lead Us Not”, produced by Sojourners, recently offered an insight into core members’ responses to the scandal. In the first episode, writer Jenna Barnett spoke with Charles Clark, a core member at a L’Arche community in Virginia.

On the day she met with Clark, he was dressed as a Texas Ranger, complete with gold badge. She asked him what he would say to Vanier if he was still alive.

“I’d say, you done a bad thing — abused people,” Clark replied. “I could arrest him for that.”

“You’d arrest him for that?” echoed Barnett. “Oh, yeah,” he said.

Luke Smith, executive director of L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., was present for the conversation between Barnett and Clark. He told The Pillar that when the Vanier revelations first emerged, “our primary thinking through of how we were going to share this news was with core members.”

“They were the first people we told as a community,” he said via Zoom. “They were the people who we really centered the messaging around.”

Smith suggested that the approach needed to vary from person to person, as some core members saw Vanier as a figure of continuity in a sometimes fast-changing environment, while others were barely aware of him.

“That has continued in terms of our response this year,” said Smith. “It’s thinking: how can we best share this news with core people? How can we best engage core people in this news, recognizing that a number of core people don’t want to talk about it? You heard in the podcast, Charles spoke about how he would arrest Jean…”

Smith said the rhythms of daily life at L’Arche helped community members to cope with the fallout.

“I’m not speaking on behalf of core members, but my sense in community is that we’ve moved on from Jean,” he said.

“I think that one of the most beautiful things about L’Arche is the fidelity to the mission that core people bring, bringing awareness of ‘Well, I’m here. These are the people I love. This is what I believe in. It is my experience of community. It is my experience of making known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, of being welcoming. And I’m going to continue doing that.’”

L’Arche USA’s executive director Tina Bovermann also highlighted the resilience of local communities.

“You read [the new report] and then you sort of fall into a hole because it just touches on the dark sides, the shadow sides, of humanity and the human condition,” she said. “And then we find our way back up and we reinvest in the mission of L’Arche today. We see the experiences today. We see the celebration and the joy, the grief, the life, and that’s where the mission is. L’Arche is not Jean and Jean is not L’Arche.”

Laura Giddings said that her community was wrestling with how to talk with core members about the latest report.

“It doesn’t feel right or just to leave them out of the conversation, since everyone else is talking about the report,” she said. “They have the right to hear and understand what happened, especially given that L’Arche will be talking about this report for some time to come, and it’s not clear yet what changes may take place based on the findings.”

“Yet, we also need to take care that we remain fact-based and able to offer honest reassurances that our community is safe for them and for our assistants, who core members care deeply about. We don’t want them to come away with a sense that sexuality itself is wrong. It’s also an opportunity to reinforce concepts of boundaries and consent.”

She added: “We plan to share with core members in a way that each person can take it where they need to — similar to how we’ve shared with staff. So, we’re planning for everything from indifference to needing in-depth, one-on-one conversation with a trusted individual over time.”

‘There are no longer any images of Jean on the walls’

The reckoning with Vanier’s vast, contradictory legacy began as soon as the first report was published. Schools named after him have been renamed. L’Arche has reevaluated and redesigned its safeguarding measures. Members told The Pillar that the changes were tangible. They spoke of a rapid process of “professionalization.”

Tina Bovermann said that L’Arche USA was embracing a new way of training leaders.

“We are developing a totally new leadership curriculum, which very intentionally is based off a model that is not coming from the faith-based world,” she explained.

“And not so because we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not about letting go of L’Arche’s spirituality or anchor in faith, but because so much of the language that we have within L’Arche now has a very ambiguous meaning.”

“And we want to be very intentional that we develop new mechanisms and new language, that we reclaim language and discard language in line with where L’Arche stands today.”

Bovermann said that pressing questions included “What do we discard? What should have maybe never been there? Where do we reclaim and renarrate? And what do we build today, apart from how the founding story has been and who the founder was?”

The 900-page report carefully scrutinizes the theological language employed by Vanier, a prolific writer and speaker. It highlights ambiguities and hidden meanings in his favored concepts, such as “communion” and “accompaniment,” tracing seemingly innocuous terms back to the distorted thinking of his mentor Thomas Philippe.

Bovermann noted that “communion” was “of course a beautiful concept and it’s really at the heart of what L’Arche’s mission is.”

“And yet,” she said, “clearly at least in Jean’s teaching and writings, though, the theologian of the study communion tells us that there were hidden meanings and undifferentiated sort of understandings of the notion of communion.”

“We don’t want to just do away with that notion, right? Within Christianity and theology, there are many, many, many interpretations of what that means. And there are many reference points that we could go to. So that’s probably more of a term that we want to reclaim and we renarrate for ourselves, so that we don’t fall into the trap of whatever Jean, or more so the Philippe brothers, have created there for themselves and others.”

Laura Giddings said she didn’t think “that L’Arche should, can or will ever be the same” after the reports.

“At a national level, we are looking at healthy leadership models that ask us to hold authority more collaboratively and in a less centralized way,” she noted. “In my community, we are getting more connected with disability rights leaders and self-advocates to help us overcome lingering paternalistic attitudes or any sense that those without disabilities in L’Arche treat or think about those with disabilities as anything less than full human beings with rights and gifts to share with the world.”

“One thing I appreciate about the icon crumbling — it allows the rest of us to step into a new narrative space where a variety of diverse voices can now be heard. It allows us to let go of an image of leadership that is unrealistic and damaging for both leaders and followers.”

She added that her community was also “sensitive about L’Arche language and traditions that the report refers to that now feel a bit tainted — from the logo and name, to the term ‘accompaniment.’”

“We no longer refer to any quotes by Jean or use his writings for study,” she observed. “There are no longer any images of Jean on the walls. This is a loss and creates gaps we don’t know how to fill yet. Whether this will remain true indefinitely is unclear, but for right now we take seriously the responsibility to not put those triggers out there for people who live, work and visit here to encounter.”

Luke Smith described the process that L’Arche is undergoing as “a refocusing.”

“It’s the people who are living the mission now, it's our story now that is important,” he said. “What happened in, for our context, ’83, when we [L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C.] were founded, or ’64 in Trosly — it is important to remember that. But what happened on Aug. 16, what happened on whatever day it was when someone came to the community, that is part of the founding story. That is the founding story that impacts most core people in their daily life.”

This miracle that came out of something bad’

In a Jan. 30 letter to members, L’Arche International leaders Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney said that the latest report marked “an important moment” as the organization prepared for a major assembly and to launch a new charter.

“What justifies L’Arche is not its founder, but the life of its members, with and without disabilities, at the service of a more human society. This task of re-reading our past will help us remain faithful to this commitment,” they wrote.

As L’Arche is an international federation that includes communities in vastly different settings, some branches are likely further along with the reckoning process than others.

But should L’Arche as a whole go beyond devising new safeguarding procedures, refining its language, and issuing a new charter? Should it opt for a thorough rebranding — adopting a new name, for example?

L’Arche members told The Pillar that there had been some internal discussion of a more radical overhaul, but there were differing points of view.

Tina Bovermann said it had been “a bit of a shock” to learn that the name “L’Arche” itself had “somewhat of a double meaning, or had a meaning to the hidden group, this hidden sect, and had a meaning to everybody else.”

“L’Arche is an international federation. The brand, the logo, the name are used by thousands and thousands of people in the world and by more than 150 communities. So I do think that the question is there,” she said, stressing that there was no official word on the matter.

“That obviously doesn’t do away with all the more substantial cultural sort of questions that we are dealing with,” she added. “But we will see. I don’t know. We will see how, probably first and foremost, our own people, maybe even our people with intellectual disabilities, relate to the name ‘L’Arche’ going forward.”

Bovermann underlined that thinking through what needs to change — and what doesn’t — was unlikely to be a fast process.

“We’re not a big corporation that is going to do a rebrand and then that’s done. That’s not the posture here,” she said. “What we want to do is sit with what we’re learning and figure out how it sits in our souls and beings and bodies, how it sits within the communities, how it sits within assistants, how it sits within people with disabilities, core members, and then go from there.”

She said that first and foremost, there was “a task of listening,” which would be followed by “the task of planning,” and then “a task of doing.”

“I think it'll take some time if we want to do it well,” she commented.

Laura DeMaria, who serves on L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C.’s board of directors, said that, for her, “L’Arche is this miracle that came out of something bad.”

“I feel like that’s kind of the story of how God works,” she said, speaking via Zoom. “It’s kind of never over. He’s always able to bring the good out of something that’s bad.”

She recalled that she had “cried all day” when she first heard about the Vanier scandal in 2020. “But at no point did it make me think L’Arche is this tainted thing, that no good can come out of, and it needs to be broken down and the core members need to go live in other places, or something, kind of not at all,” she said.

“And it isn’t because I don’t believe that what he did wasn’t serious, because it was very serious. It’s more a matter of, that just has nothing to do with us: it’s not the way that we view other people. It’s not the way that we welcome people into the community. This relational aspect of L’Arche is completely separate from the bizarre, twisted relational thing that Vanier and those in that group came up with.”

DeMaria suggested that L’Arche did not need a total rebranding for two reasons. The first was that it would be “almost like admitting defeat.”

“To say: ‘Yes, L’Arche is Jean Vanier. Vanier has been proven to be a predator. Therefore L’Arche is bad. Therefore it has to change.’ I don’t think that that’s true,” she explained.

“These revelations are not intrinsic to who L’Arche is and what we do, and the relationships that exist there. So changing the name, it kind of admits defeat.”

Second, there is a practical issue: L’Arche has been known by that name for decades and people will always think of it that way, DeMaria said.

“I think instead it’s a time to reclaim and proclaim the goodness that L’Arche is and that there’s still a lot of value for what L’Arche is in this world, and to not run away or move away from that, but acknowledge and celebrate the good, and hold that up and say: ‘Despite this thing, we are still who we are, and it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing.’”

Along with other members, DeMaria suggested that the world needs L’Arche as much as — or even more than — before.

“One of the big reasons why I love L’Arche so much is because it is such a place of peace,” she said. “The whole world has been through something very tumultuous, just this turmoil for the last few years. And everyone's always looking for some kind of a peace. You can find that in L’Arche.”

“It doesn’t change that L’Arche is kind of this sign of what’s possible, of these very, very different people, people with and without intellectual disabilities, living together. And so it’s something to learn from.”

“Not only that, I hope that this experience can help other people learn about moving through something that’s difficult as a community and coming out on the other side of it. I think there’s a lot of good to be learned from this as well.”

DeMaria stressed that she didn’t want to sound naive or overly optimistic, or come across as diminishing the suffering of the women abused by Vanier.

“But it’s not the end of something,” she said. “I think it’s the beginning of something, and a time for people who recognize the goodness of what L’Arche is to come participate and be involved and meet the community, and see what we’ve done and see how it can apply broadly in the world and in relationships, and to any effort toward a thing that resembles peace, which the world really needs right now.”

Luke Smith, the executive director of L’Arche houses in the D.C. area, predicted that parts of the 900-page report would “take years to unpack.”

“We as a community made this commitment in 2020 to keep sitting with the news,” he said. “The worst thing, I think, would be to say, ‘Well, this happened and we’ve got to move on.’ What can we learn from it and what can we experience from it?”

“We’re really good at being responsive to the changing needs of our members, of saying ‘This isn’t what we’d normally do on a Monday; this is what we’re going to do today.’ As a community, that practice of being responsive, of recognizing the need and changing and being in mutually transforming relationships, is the baseline.”

“So that, for me, is one of the ways in which this news kind of propelled us forward. There’s always an opportunity for us to change. There’s always more understanding of who we are: the internal work that we can do personally, the internal work we can do as a local community. It’s always a moment to say we’re going to move forward.”

“Similarly, the study commission report is a further opportunity. For us to say, this is what we need to reflect upon, this is what we need to understand, this is the reality of who we are today. We need to sit with that and recognize that the mission of L’Arche, I would argue, is more needed today than it has ever been. Because of the reality of the life that we’re living, the world that we’re in: people with intellectual disabilities are further being marginalized. The pandemic highlighted that.”

Smith suggested that while the two reports would always be part of L’Arche’s story, “it’s not the story.”

“The story of L’Arche will continue and is centered around core members,” he said. “Someone celebrated their birthday on Saturday, and I was at planning meetings last week for people to set their goals for the coming year, and we had a Valentine’s Day party in which it was wonderful that my children got to be bingo callers and we got to play bingo… Those are the moments of L’Arche and the reasons why I’m here, and the reasons why we choose to come together to see the unique and sacred value of each person.”

Smith also expressed hopes that L’Arche could one day share its experience with other communities whose founders have been revealed to be abusers — an all-too-common experience for 21st-century Christians.

“There are 900 pages of the report, and to do to do well by the women who were abused, to do well by other people who are deeply impacted by this news, we owe each other and ourselves the time to process it and to make sure that we do change, that we do respond to what is in that and we sit with what is required from it,” he said.

“I think that’s really important to remember because we are an intentional community. We’re an intentional faith community. We have to be intentional about our response. And I know we are being intentional about our response. And I think that there’s some wisdom there for the rest of the world to consider.”

The cost of communion - Is the Eucharistic Congress too expensive?

 Registration open for 2024 National Eucharistic Congress -

When registration opened for the 2024 Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, Todd Kooser was eager to sign up his family.

He went online soon after and registered himself, his wife, and his three children - two sons and a daughter. They’d been looking forward to attending the five-day event for a while.

“We started making plans to attend [the Congress] when it was first announced,” Kooser, a software developer from Ohio, told The Pillar.

“This seems like a once-in-a-generation type of event and I'm glad that I can be a part of it, but I'm even more excited that my kids get to be a part of it during their more formative years,” Kooser added.

“My hope is first of all to have a powerful experience of adoration as well as opportunities for my kids to experience being a part of the church in a larger context,” he said.

Kooser said those kinds of experiences have meant in his own life.

“My wife and I both grew up in the Life Teen movement which fostered in us a Eucharistic devotion from a young age, as well as providing us the opportunity to participate in World Youth Day and other Catholic conferences and retreats,” he explained.

“Our two oldest are making their First Communion this year, and our primary hope is to help them develop a devotion to Christ in the Eucharist as well,” he said.

Before registration opened for the Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Lucas Oil Stadium and a neighboring convention center, Kooser “wasn't sure if there would be a price or if it would be supported by donations and sponsorships.”

In fact, there is a cost to register for the 2024 Eucharistic Congress. Registration fees listed on the Eucharistic Congress website are $375 for individuals. For families, the cost is $299 per adult, and $99 for each child over age two. The fee for seminarians, clerics, and religious is also $299.

Registration covers five days of talks, catechesis, and liturgies, as well as smaller events at the convention center, but it does not cover food, lodging, travel, or parking for the event.

When Kooser found out that it would cost his family $895 dollars to register for the Eucharistic Congress, he said the price was worth it.

The fee, he said, “seems reasonable when compared to any other 5-day event. I'm sure the organizers are covering a significant portion of the cost.” 

For Mary Pearson, things seemed a bit different.

Pearson is a Catholic mother of five, living in Southern California. After she heard last year about the Eucharistic Congress, she told one of her children the family might attend, and “that child … has not forgotten,” she said.

But Pearson said she’s not sure her family will actually make it to Indianapolis — and cost is a big factor.

It would cost the Pearsons - two adults and five kids - $1,095 to register for the talks and liturgies of the Eucharistic Congress.

Pearson said she was already unsure if her family could afford airfare for the event. But when she saw the registration cost, “I was pretty put off by those numbers… It does seem like too much to me, personally.”

“I guess in my mind the biggest cost would have been just getting there,” Pearson said. “I didn’t think the actual events would cost so much.”

Pearson told The Pillar that while she’d like to take her family to the Congress, the costs of travel and registration make it “pretty unlikely that it will actually happen.” 

The 2024 Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis has been in the planning stage, mostly by a group of bishops and a small staff, for nearly two years — as an element of the USCCB’s three-year Eucharistic Revival Project.

And while chairman Bishop Andrew Cozzens told bishops in November 2021 that participants would pay likely fees of approximately $300 to attend, Pearson and Kooser weren’t the only ones surprised by the price when registration opened online Feb. 15.  

Other Catholics hoping to attend told The Pillar that they, too, had not realized there would be a registration fee for the Eucharistic Congress, or said they had expected that it would be much lower.

So when Catholics do register for the Eucharistic Congress, how was the price set? And what exactly are they paying for?

Tim Glemkowski, a married father of three with another baby on the way, was appointed executive director of the Eucharistic Congress last spring — he had worked before that in the chancery of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Glemkowski told The Pillar that as soon as he started working on the Congress, in May 2022, he realized that cost was an issue.

“We have our fourth kid due in May,” he explained. “When I began, our initial cost projection was $300 a ticket. I was thinking that would mean that it would be $1,800 for our whole family to attend. So my first goal was how to drive that down.”

Glemkowski explained that the Eucharistic Congress is being organized by a non-profit formed for just that purpose, whose board of directors is chaired by Bishop Cozzens. Five other bishops sit on the non-profit’s board, along with four laypeople.

The Eucharistic Congress has advertised that as many as 80,000 Catholics will come for the five-day event, which has been framed as a generational moment for American Catholics, and which includes several large catechetical and adoration events in Lucas Oil Stadium, along with daily Masses, “breakout sessions,” and a variety of cultural and formational events in proximity to the stadium.

And as they plan, Glemkowski said, staff and the non-profit’s board have tried to keep costs down — and had success at lowering the event’s cost from its initial expected price tag.

He noted that Cozzens initially told bishops the event would cost about $28 million — a figure that prompted some pushback at the November 2021 USCCB meeting, including from Archbishop Timothy Broglio, now president of the bishops’ conference.

But projected costs are now much lower, Glemkowski said.

“The initial budget that had been presented saw this as a $28 million event, and we worked really hard to bring the total expenses for the event somewhere down closer to $14 million, in order to be able to do things like heavily discounting kids’ tickets.”

Still, Glemkowski said that from his view, the Congress can only make so many cuts.

“We want this event to be as accessible to as many groups as possible, and we have fought and worked hard to make that possible,” he said.

“But, honestly, we can only make it as cheap as we can make it. Not because of decorations or things like that, but because of safety. We’ve tried to cut a lot of fat off the budget, but the key is security and safety. Just the nuts and bolts of this have significant costs,” he said.

He added that in addition to the Indianapolis event, the Eucharistic Congress has other costs to consider when setting its budget, including support for the four walking Eucharistic pilgrimages planned to precede the Indianapolis gathering.

“There are also operating costs - and they’re low - but there are operating costs for the [non-profit] running things. Still, compared to other significant Catholic events in the last decade, we’ve been able to keep our staff leaner and more efficient than many of those,” he said.

“There are also costs for some of the support for the different Eucharistic Revival initiatives that we’re working on, in conjunction with the USCCB committee on evangelization and catechesis,” Glemkowski said.

“We’re helping to support a lot of the good work of getting the word out about the Revival, and marketing efforts, and building things for the parish year of the Eucharistic Revival.”

Describing revenue projections from ticket sales as a “matrix,” which takes into consideration several factors, Glemkowski said that when Congress organizers set their ticket prices, they also looked at the ticket costs of other Catholic events.

“When we set the price, we were looking at other events,” he said. “Everything from big evangelical conferences to World Youth Day, to SEEK,” an annual conference for college students sponsored by campus ministry apostolate FOCUS.

The 5-day 2023 SEEK conference cost $449 to register, though the fee did include some meals.

“The [Congress] price was set because we’re trying to position ourselves in the event landscape, and really looking at the costs of doing an event of this size and magnitude and scale in a safe and effective way,” Glemkowski explained.

He added that the Congress had initially projected ticket revenues of $18 million for the event, “from $300 a ticket times 60,000 people.”

Congress organizers declined to share current ticket revenue projections, but Glemkowski said they are now “much less” than $18 million.

Alongside ticket revenue, the Eucharistic Congress has worked to net sponsorship revenue to support its projects, and lists several large Catholic and Catholic-adjacent organizations as sponsors. But Glemkowski said that benefactors have not expressed much interest in helping to defray ticket prices for event attendees.

That’s why staff and board members have taken a few other approaches aimed at making the Congress affordable, he said.

The first is a scholarship fund, mentioned on the FAQs of the congress’ website.

Eucharistic Congress staff are still working to raise money for scholarships, Glemkowski said. “We want to do that as our own work to make this an achievable possibility,” he explained.

The application period for scholarships has not yet opened, Glemkowski said, but organizers say they expect to have a process in place by October.

In addition to scholarships, Glemkowski said that Eucharistic Congress organizers have tried to help parishes and dioceses offer lower-cost registration tickets, and help families fundraise to cover their expenses.

Before public registration opened this month, the Eucharistic Congress made pre-order tickets available to bishops, to order at a bulk discount for their dioceses. Tickets could be purchased during that period for $200 each, Glemkowski said.

Nearly 20,000 tickets were sold at the discounted price, Glemkowski said. While some went to sponsors, staff, or volunteers, bishops ordered more than conference organizers were expecting.

“More bishops booked more tickets than we expected,” Glemkowski said.

“This was another step in trying to be bold, in saying that if the percentage is higher than we expect, we expect that God will provide.”

The Diocese of Portland, Maine, is among the local churches to purchase discounted tickets.

The diocese, which did not respond to questions from The Pillar, began advertising this month that local Catholics can register for the Congress at a cost of only $110 per adult — $265 less than the Congress’ individual rate, and $90 less than the Congress sold tickets to the diocese.

Children are able to register at the standard child rate of $99 each.

While registering on the Congress website would cost a family of five some $895, Maine Catholics registering through their diocese would pay $517 — a savings of $378, enough to cover the cost of gas for a round-trip between Maine and Indianapolis in a 2010 Honda Odyssey, according to the federal Energy Department.

According to its website, the diocese discounted the tickets using a grant from its Lay Continuing Education and Formation Endowment Fund. The site informed potential attendees to anticipate that travel, lodging, and other expenses would be additional costs, adding that the Maine diocese was developing a group travel package.

For his part, Glemkowski said the Congress has made fundraising suggestions to parishes hoping to help raise money for pilgrimage groups attending the Eucharistic Congress. He said he’s heard from parishes “already thinking through fundraising efforts to make the Congress as accessible [as possible] to Catholics of all income levels.”

Glemkowski also said he thinks some families might have had sticker shock when they saw the registration fees, because “families aren’t always in the habit of thinking about conferences as a portion of their budget — that’s more common with youth groups or college kids,” who attend events like SEEK, he said.

But will the sticker shock deter potential attendees? That remains to be seen.

Liz Hansen is a Michigan freelance writer, and the mother of four children. Registration through the conference website would cost her family $994.  

Hansen told The Pillar that from her view, the conference fee is out of reach for most Catholic families.

“I literally can't imagine who they're thinking is their crowd. It's laughable. I only have a mid-sized family in some Catholic circles, and that's a sizable chunk of a mortgage payment. And then most hotels won't let a family larger than 5 in one room, so we'd be looking at multiple nights in a hotel at twice the rate, plus having all your meals out,” Hansen told The Pillar.

Still, Hansen said that price isn’t the only deterrent for her family.

“We're in the minority of Catholics who actually believe in the Real Presence, and I think it's more important than ever to run to Him in the Eucharist to find our bearing,” Hansen said, but “we’re honestly just not a ‘come find Jesus in a stadium of Catholics’ family.”

On the other hand, Josh Hengemuhle, a father of three, had been considering taking his family to the Congress, and said cost has made a difference.

Hengemuhle said that the cost struck him as “a lot, though when you spread it out over a few days it's better.”

But, he added, “for my little Catholic family of five, that’s 900 bucks.”

The cost, he said, “moves it from a strong consideration to a complicated decision … From ‘how can we make this work’ to ‘can we make this work?’”

Hengemuhle said he is also waiting to see “what the value is for kids. What my kids will get for that $100. I don’t think my seven-year-old will want to sit through a bunch of talks.”

As he waits for more detailed programming and event schedules to be released, Hengemuhle said he thinks the Congress “could be a great $100 investment for some powerful catechesis for my kids, but if it's not incredibly intentional of including them, it's not going to be worth it.”

As conference organizers plan schedules, one potential attendee had a suggestion.

Steve, a father of 9, is a diocesan official in the midwest. Registering his family for the Eucharistic Congress would cost $1,489 on the Congress website.

Steve, who was not authorized by his employer to speak on the record, acknowledged the reality of conference costs, but said they’d be out of reach for his family.

“Having hosted events at the diocesan level and overseen trips to the March for Life and NCYC, I understand the financial constraints of hosting such a large event and the cost of convention space, and top-tier speakers,” Steve said.

“From that point of view, $1,500 for a family my size isn't unreasonable. That having been said, if the expectation is that regular Catholics will be able to attend the Congress, I'm not sure they will achieve their goal. It's certainly out of the price range of our family.”

Steve said that he is “praying for the success of the Congress,” and “promoting it in our area,” even while his family will not likely be able to attend.

He wondered if “the Revival wouldn't have been better served by smaller regional gatherings that would be more manageable for families.”

While some dioceses are planning local and diocesan Eucharistic events during the revival, they are unevenly spread across the country.

Steve said that he would like to attend the Indianapolis event, and to see his children attend. And he wondered whether the Congress might consider making some events easier to attend — especially the actual liturgies.

Steve also suggested that the Congress sell day passes, or partial tickets, for Catholics who'd like to attend part of the event, but not all of it.

“I'd love for my children to be able to attend even part of the Congress, and if there were affordable tickets for one day or for a primary Mass, it might be worth the sacrifice for us,” he said.

Glemkowski told The Pillar that there are no plans to sell partial tickets to the Eucharistic Congress, citing the challenge of logistics.

But he did say that organizers are looking into possibilities for making the Masses and other public liturgies free to attend. He said the biggest issue - and cost - is security.

Still, while Glemkowski mentioned World Youth Day as a comparable event requiring tickets, he also acknowledged that the public liturgies and other “central events” at World Youth Days are open for free, to all pilgrims who wish to attend.

While the present plans for the Congress would only open liturgies to registered participants, Glemkowski told The Pillar that “we don’t really consider the fee to be directly related to the liturgical elements. That’s one of the things we’re trying to push on — can some of those liturgical moments be more accessible?”

“But these are all early conversations that are going to take a little bit of time to figure out.”

While registration has already opened, Glemkowski told The Pillar that he and other Congress staffers are still working to make the event, or at least parts of it, affordable to more families.

He urged patience.

“We’re exploring long-term options to make this a more accessible event,” he told The Pillar.

“We want this to be an event of the entire Church together, experiencing together the power of an encounter with our Eucharistic Lord, together,” he said.

“And we want families to be there. We need families to be there. We’ll keep working on this, because it’s important.”

‘This Music Is Truly a Prayer’: LA Carmelites Sing Beloved Hymns of Adoration

 ‘We are inviting you to step inside our chapel and listen and join your hearts to ours that vibrate in praise and worship of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Even the soft jingling of our rosary beads adds to the flavor of what you’d hear!’ says Sister Gianna Heinemann, the community’s music director.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles have recorded a CD perfectly timed for the Eucharistic Revival in the United States: Adoration From Carmel: Eucharistic Hymns From the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.

The sisters sing such selections as Domine non sum dingus (“Lord, I am not worthy”), O Sacrament Most Holy, Let All Mortal Flesh, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Font of Love, Soul of My Savior and Panis Angelicus (“Bread of Angels”).

Sister Gianna Heinemann, the community’s music director, composed many of the music arrangements for this recording that the sisters sing both a cappella and with a chamber ensemble. Sister Gianna was interviewed about the Eucharistic album and her vocation by the Register via email.

Why did the sisters decide to make this album, and where was this beautiful album recorded?

A few years ago, our sisters were leading the singing for a Eucharistic procession during a Catholic conference up in Napa, California. Charlie McKinney from Sophia Press was present and was moved by our singing and approached us regarding an album. We were delighted to record songs around the theme of Eucharistic hymns, especially since our U.S. bishops have called us to a three-year National Eucharistic Revival. We sisters were also delighted because they wanted to do the recording in our beautiful, resonant St. Joseph Chapel in Duarte, California.

Why do people find this style of singing so appealing — especially from a community that lives this music and the lyrics that go with it?

This music is truly a prayer and not a performance. As you might imagine, singing on a stage is not our preference, but it’s another one of the ways God is using us to touch souls. Singing is praying twice [as St. Augustine said], and that’s how we see it. We pray [that] this style of singing draws people into peace and feeling closer to God. As our foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, says, “Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament wants to be your Confidant, your Friend, your Consoler. He wants to fill your soul with His Love.”

What is your background with music?

I began at age 8, with piano lessons from our church organist, who really imparted a love of music to me, especially music of worship of God. I also studied flute and some organ. Only in the convent have I discovered a God-given gift of vocal arrangement and composition. I love writing music with my sisters’ unity of voice in mind and what will bring beauty and draw souls to the Lord.

How did your community choose the songs you recorded?

We were asked to choose traditional hymns that are familiar to many. So we went down the list of the many Eucharistic hymns that we sing often in our daily life and tried to choose a nice balance of old, new, chant, contemporary, English, Latin, orchestral and a cappella. Many are used to a mixed genre of music, as our past albums reflect this mix. We see it as a myriad of ways to connect with whoever might chance upon our music.

What makes Adoration From Carmel: Eucharistic Hymns so distinct?

What you hear on this CD is quite ordinary for us, though, for the listener, it would be extraordinary, in that many do not usually have an open ear to our regular rhythm of life, which includes singing throughout our times of prayer. Often, it’s in the ordinary that we experience the extraordinary. We are inviting you to step inside our chapel and listen and join your hearts to ours that vibrate in praise and worship of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Even the soft jingling of our rosary beads adds to the flavor of what you’d hear!

What was it like to work with classical producer Brad Michel, who has won multiple Grammys?

Brad Michel was a joy to work with and had a stamina and simple, humble way about him that made the two full recording days so easy and enjoyable.

Please share a little of your vocation story. How and why did you choose to become a sister here?

I chose to become a sister because of the Lord’s invitation, first and foremost, an interior call that I heard at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. This was the first time I saw young, vibrant, joyful sisters in all different colors of the holy habit, and their life baffled me at the same time that it attracted something deep within me to belong totally to Jesus and become his spouse and mother of souls. God called me to Los Angeles to our Carmelite community, and I am blessed to have made my final profession of vows in 2019.

What are the sisters’ hopes for this album, in how it will affect listeners, promote Eucharistic adoration and increase Eucharistic reverence?

We truly hope this album is an offering for the fueling of what God is doing with the National Eucharistic Revival in our country. May it be one more way for souls to find their ultimate purpose and receive the love the Father has for them.

How will the proceeds help your community?

All proceeds from this project support our mission, which is to accompany souls in their encounter with the personal love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus through our work in education, retreats and eldercare.

Do you have any plans for another album?

We will see what the Holy Spirit has in mind! He is the writer, director and producer of all our music projects, our “side” hobby, as we say, for our primary apostolate is the witness of our consecrated life and our service to the Church.

Ireland: Archbishop welcomes appointment of new Papal Nuncio

 Nunciatura Apostólica

The Holy Father Pope Francis has appointed His Excellency Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, Titular Archbishop of Illici, up until now the Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia, as the new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.

The President of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference and Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said: "I very much welcome today's news that Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland. I pray God's blessings on Archbishop Mariano and look forward to meeting with him when he takes up his appointment in Ireland in the near future."

As Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Montemayor succeeds His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo who currently serves as Apostolic Nuncio in Prague, Czechia.

Archbishop Montemayor was born on 16 March 1956 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was ordained a priest on 15 November 1985. Between 1991-2008 he earned a PhD in Canon Law, and served at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ethiopia, Brazil, Thailand, and the Secretariat of State. In 2008 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Capo Verde and Apostolic Delegate in Mauritania. In 2015 he became Apostolic Nuncio in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2018 he was Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia.

Archbishop Montemayor speaks the following languages fluently: Spanish, Italian, French, English, and Portuguese.