In March 1991, Father Jack Dowling, sss, Provincial Superior of the Province of Saint Ann and his Vicar Provincial, Father Robert Rousseau, sss, travelled to Corpus Christi Parish in Houston, Texas. It was one of the most significant graces of my long relationship with the Congregation that I was invited to accompany them. On the 23rd of the month, the three of us met with some 15 parishioners of the church.
In February 1990, the Eucharistic ministers for the parish had been invited to attend a program called “Life in the Eucharist” (LITE). It had been created by Father Rousseau. The program addressed five topics related to the Eucharist. It integrated the principles of adult religious education, music, small and large group discussions, and a Eucharistic theology that reflected the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the charism and legacy of the Congregation’s Founder, Saint Peter Julian Eymard.
At the end of the program, the participants were asked on the evaluation form if they were interested in being part of a group to put on the program for other parishioners. Fifteen of the people who expressed an interest were then invited the following November to be trained and formed as the first LITE Team in the United States. For the next several months, the group met weekly to develop presentations and witnesses and organize themselves under Father Rousseau’s guidance to present the first lay led LITE program. This took place in March 1991 with their fellow parishioners at Corpus Christi Parish.
A week after the LITE program was completed, the LITE Team met with Father Dowling. At the meeting, he thanked them for being willing to be partners with the religious of the Congregation in promoting their Eucharistic mission. He then told them that in light of their involvement with the religious in this ministry, he saw them as lay associates to the Congregation.
The idea of being considered “associates” of the Congregation was very new and even “overwhelming” to the members of the group. At the time, it was difficult to really understand the implications of what they heard that day.
The following September, the LITE Team from Corpus Christi was invited to travel to Cleveland, Ohio, to present the program to Blessed Sacrament pastors and local superiors at their annual meeting. It was a life-changing experience for these women and men, and judging by the comments of the religious at the end of the meeting, it opened up a new sense of a ministerial partnership for many of the religious as well. The late Father Tim Mangan, sss, said at the end of the meeting: “We don’t have a vocation crisis. We have fifteen vocations right in front of us; fifteen people who have responded to a call to join us in spreading the Eucharistic mission of our Congregation.”
Father Rousseau subsequently put on the LITE program at Saint Paschal Baylon Church in suburban Cleveland. A group of them also responded to the invitation to form a LITE Team. Now there were two teams presenting LITE programs in their respective parishes and throughout their Dioceses. Over the next 25 years, more LITE Teams were formed and many of them felt honored to be considered “associates” to the Congregation. And in time, women and men who worked at the Provincial Center in Cleveland and on parish staffs throughout the Province felt and were seen to be “associates”. But as yet, there was no formal recognition as such by the Congregation.
That all changed in March 2010 when the Superior General of the Congregation, Father Fiorenzo Salvi, SSS, reinstituted the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Patterned on the Rule of Life for the Congregation, he introduced the Rule of Life (Project of Life) for Associates. It expressed “a renewed vision of associated life of lay faithful with (the) Congregation taking into account the experiences of the last (30) years...”: In the Province of Saint Ann, this reality was uniquely found among the various LITE Teams and the collaboration of lay people in parish ministry.
In November 2010, a number of these original LITE Team members were received as Associates of the Blessed Sacrament, including Noreen Hoard, Nancy MacRoberts, Patty and Bubba Pizzitola from Houston; Louise Borgione and Marjorie and Frank Zalar from Cleveland. In addition, Susan Work, the Administrative Assistant to the Provincial Superior in Cleveland, and I were also received.
Since that first group of lay women and men were trained to present the LITE program, other women and men joined the ranks of being LITE Team members. Currently, there is a LITE Team at Saint Paschal Baylon Church in Cleveland, at Corpus Christi in Houston, at Saint Vincent de Paul in Holiday, Florida, and a number of Teams at Saint Stephen Church in Winter Springs.
In the course of the last 40 years, nearly 100 LITE Team members have become Associates of the Blessed Sacrament.
The last ten years has seen a remarkable development of the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament in the United States. We will focus on that in the next issue of Connections.
October 31, 2020
Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing