“The Graces of the 21st Century
in the Province of Saint Ann”
At the turn of the century, Father Thomas Fitzgerald, SSS, the Pastor of Saint Joseph Church in San Antonio invited a group of people to start meeting with him to form a group of associates. Provincial Superior Father Anthony Schueller, SSS, began to form a group of associates in Cleveland. These efforts and other similar ones throughout the Province continued into the first decade of the 21st century. Then the Superiors General of the two Congregations founded by Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Father Fiorenzo Salvi, SSS, and Sister Catherine Marie Caron, SSS, published in March 2010 the Project of Life, titled in the Province of Saint Ann the Rule of Life for Associates.
Provincial Chapter XXIII in November 2010 took up the topic of lay associates in light of the newly promulgated ROLA. A number of lay “associates” attended the Chapter and participated in the deliberations. They were installed as Associates of the Blessed Sacrament. The Chapter also endorsed a plan submitted by the Director of the Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (CEE) to initiate a twelve-month Initial Formation Program based on a series of booklets. The program was meant to be an introduction to the charism and mission of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament as well as the life of the Founder, Saint Peter Julian Eymard. The first formation booklets were evaluated in late 2013 and a revised set was printed at the end of January 2014.
Over the next several years, groups of lay women and men were formed at Saint Paschal Baylon Church in Cleveland, Saint Vincent de Paul Church in Holiday, Florida, Corpus Christi Church in Houston, Saint Eulalia Church in Chicago, and Saint Jean Baptiste Church in New York City.
On May 10, 2014, Pope Francis spoke to members of Institutes of Secular Life. His message was very encouraging for the growing number of people who had made the Covenant Promise as Associates. He said, among other things, that “by vocation, you are lay people in the midst of others. You lead a normal life ... (and) you are rich in the totalizing experience of God’s love, and are therefore capable of knowing and sharing the burden of life in its many expressions, fermenting them with the light and strength of the Gospel.” By this time, there were some 110 associates in the Province.
Over the next five years, the branches of associates in Cleveland, Holiday, Houston and New York City added to their numbers. And then other grace-filled developments took place. Under the leadership of Father George Dunne, SSS, a group of 19 women and men from the Life in the Eucharist teams were received as Associates of the Blessed Sacrament at diocesan parish, Saint Stephen, in Winter Springs, Florida. That number of Associates is now 45.
A group of parishioners were received at diocesan parish, Saint Philip, in Norwalk, Connecticut. Kathy and Daniel Krenicki had completed their formation at Saint Jean Baptiste Church. Kathy was received on her death bed. Dan then started the Initial Formation program. It included their pastor Father Michael Boccaccio. Father Michael was later appointed by his bishop to be the Local Director for all the Associates of the Blessed Sacrament in the Diocese of Bridgeport. There are now some 30 Associates at Saint Philip Church, including a dozen Spanish-speaking women and men.
A group of 19 men representing a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of San Antonio made their Promise Commitment at Saint Joseph Church in 2017. Leaders from this initial group went on to form an additional 180 Associates of the Blessed Sacrament from a number of parishes in the Archdiocese - the last group of 55 received this past October.
Four people gathered online for a year of formation. They were received as Associates of the Blessed Sacrament in 2018.
As of December 2020, some 500 women and men and one diocesan priest have made their Promise Commitment as Associates of the Blessed Sacrament in the Province of Saint Ann. Our local communities of associates regularly meet for prayer, ongoing forma-tion, and fellowship (often with the local community of religious). Inspired by the ROLA, our associates are engaged in many ministries that serve their parishes and local communities. They are catechists, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, members of parish councils and commissions, leaders and planners of faith formation programs, leaders of prayer and Eucharistic Holy Hours, members of Life in the Eucharist teams, and writers in our Daily Eucharistic Reflection program. Many serve their communities promoting pro-life causes, serving the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and more.
In 2015, lay leadership boards were initiated as called for in ROLA, 27. They assist the Local Religious Directors in animating and providing opportunities for formation, prayer, and social gatherings. There are now some 25 lay leaders who have responded to this call. They plan the annual retreats to commemorate the November anniversary of the founding of the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament in 1859. They partner with the Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing in building Eucharistic communities at the local level as well as in promoting the mission of Eucharistic evangelizing in the spirit of Saint Peter Julian Eymard and the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.
“May God Be Praised!”
December 31, 2020
Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing