Each year, one of the annual initiatives of the Diocese of Venice Department of Education is the development of the devotional lives of our students through a Diocesan-wide devotional project.
The 2022-2023 devotional project is “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance.” Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the theme was approved and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it supports the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally on March 24-25, 2023. The devotional project during the 2021-2022 academic year was the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, and during the 2020-2021 academic year it was St. Joseph.
To get the devotional project off the ground, a training session took place Nov. 4, 2022, at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. The training included two eighth graders (a boy and girl) from each school who will act as Junior Catechists for this project. Just as they did in previous years, these student leaders will catechize their classmates with a classroom lesson and go classroom to classroom, teaching about our Catholic devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.
“At our training day, we highlighted the importance of leadership in the faith, evangelization and discipleship,” Father Belmonte said. “We met for Benediction and Adoration, a training session with the students led by our Diocesan Curriculum Director, Jennifer Falestiny. I led the parents who brought their children to the meeting in a presentation on devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.”
Father Belmonte started the training session for the Junior Catechists with the words of St. John Vianney, “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.”
“The 15-week project is intended to bring to our students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist,” Father Belmonte said.
The junior catechists were trained and received a Catholic Altar kit complete with miniature chalice, paten, cruets, ciborium, as well as all the elements for learning about the Mass. These eighth-grade leaders will visit classrooms at their schools to teach their classmates about the Most Holy Eucharist. They will teach on how to visit the Blessed Sacrament, encourage their classmates to learn about Eucharistic miracles and track their visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
High school students will be learning about the 15 Eucharistic miracles during their theology classes.
As part of the devotional project, Bishop Dewane gave each school a Lego Mass set, pocket prayer cards and informational cards relating to visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
“Our efforts are part of the National Eucharistic Revival initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to rejuvenate belief in the Real Presence among U.S. Catholics,” Bishop Dewane said.
The Catechism teaches us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is the sanctifying grace which is the point of everything in our Catholic religion. “By learning about the Most Holy Eucharist and teaching how to visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, our junior Catechists will help their classmates to participate in the very life of God. St. John Vianney would be very pleased indeed,” Father Belmonte said.
In addition to the student-led classroom lessons, there will be weekly teacher-led classroom activities.
Outside of Mass times, students are encouraged to visit Our Lord in the Tabernacle. With each visit during the 15 weeks, students are asked to say the Devotional Prayer to the Most Holy Eucharist which was provided in a pocket-sized card.
In addition to the classroom aspects, this devotional project has several other components.
There is also a Digital Blessed Sacrament Visit Tracker, a website where teachers can help students keep count of each visit to Our Lord (at Mass, during Adoration, in the school or Parish Chapel) from Nov. 15, 2022, to April 10, 2023. The school with the most visits will be recognized at the end of the devotional project.
Each school also received a Catholic Altar Learning Set for a differentiated STREAM project. In December, the schools will learn about CAD/CAM 3D modeling challenge for students.
Finally, there is an art competition. As in previous years, students will be encouraged to produce art work based on our Catholic artistic tradition around the Most Holy Eucharist.
“With Bishop Dewane, it is my hope that our emphasis on devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist and the study of these various Eucharistic miracles will bring us closer to Our Lord as we visit Him truly present in the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Belmonte said. “May He inspire all of us to emulate the love He has for us to others in our schools and in the world.”
For more information about this Diocesan devotional project, please visit www.dovblessedsacrament.com.