December 1, 2023

Bishop Rhoades sees providence at work in Eucharist, synodality coming together

By Sean Gallagher

Bishop Kevin 
C. RhoadesBishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in northern Indiana was the only person from the Hoosier state to take part in the meeting of the Synod of Bishops on synodality held on Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican.

While parishes and dioceses around the world helped to prepare for this synod meeting, the Church in the U.S. launched its three-year National Eucharistic Revival and began planning for the National Eucharistic Congress to be held on July 17-21 next year in Indianapolis.

In an interview with The Criterion, Bishop Rhoades reflected on the providential nature of the universal Church’s consideration of synodality happening at the same time as the Church in the U.S. began its focus on the Eucharist. (See part one of this interview)

He also spoke about the synod’s completion of its exploration of synodality when it meets next October, expressing his hope that its documents will focus more on the Eucharist and will give greater emphasis to the teaching charism of those in ordained ministry and especially bishops.

The following interview is edited for clarity and content.

Q. How might Catholics in Indiana understand the eucharistic revival and synodality in light of each other? How, on the one hand, might synodality help Catholics grow in their love for the Eucharist? And how, on the other hand, might their experience of the Eucharist help grow their being part of a synodal Church?

A. “The Eucharist makes the Church. Christ makes us into his body through it. He comes to us and that creates our unity. We are one body in Christ. And we even speak of receiving the Eucharist as holy Communion. This is what unites us to Christ and to one another. It makes the body of Christ. We are a eucharistic Church.

“Synodality is all about communion. It’s all about walking together. That’s what the word means. We’re walking together as brothers and sisters in Christ to the promised land of heaven. The Israelites, the people of God, as they walked through the desert, were fed with manna. The same with us. We’re nourished by the new manna, by the Eucharist in our journey to our heavenly homeland.

“So, the Eucharist is really central here. It’s central to the whole notion of communion, which is the first major theme of the synod. It’s communion, participation and mission.

“The Eucharist also strengthens us for mission. We receive the grace we need to live our faith, to live eucharistic lives, lives of self-giving love.

“To me, it’s all very connected. We are sent on mission, having been nourished by the body and blood of Christ to bring Christ’s love and presence into the world. Everything we do in our service of the poor, all of our ministries and apostolates, are to spread the Gospel by our words and our deeds. That’s what the Eucharist nourishes us to do. We’re to live eucharistic lives.

“It unites us as one body in communion. And it strengthens us for mission. Those are two integral parts of synodality.

Q. Do you think that it’s providential that the Church in the U.S. is inviting the faithful to participate in this revival and have their relationship with Christ in the Eucharist re-enlivened by God at the same time that the universal Church is exploring synodality?

A. “I think it is providential. But I would add one thing.

“I would like to see more eucharistic emphasis in the synodal documents moving forward. There is a huge amount of attention on baptism. We become Christians united to Christ when we are baptized.

“But I think there needs to be greater emphasis on how the Eucharist is the greatest of the sacraments. That would also help us understand the relationship, for example, within the Church, of the ministerial and the common priesthood, the distinctiveness of the sacrament of holy orders and its relationship to all the baptized.

“There is this sacrament of holy orders that shouldn’t be diminished. We want to recognize all of us, our brothers and sisters in Christ, in baptism. At the same time, there needs to be an appreciation of the role of those who have received the vocation of the ministerial priesthood in particular.

“And then the role of the magisterium and the bishops, for example, in discernment in the life of the Church.

“This is where some controversial issues came up, in matters of doctrine that came up. I think we have to recognize the charism received by those who have received holy orders, particularly the bishops in union with the pope, in discerning, for example, matters of doctrine, faith and morals. I think that needs greater emphasis.

“It was there at the synod. And you can see it in the synthesis document. But I think some don’t recognize the importance of that.

“The second chapter of ‘Lumen Gentium’ [the Second Vatican Council’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”] on the people of God is very prominent [in the synthesis document] because of the whole idea of all of us equal in dignity walking together. But remember that the third chapter of ‘Lumen Gentium’ was on the hierarchical Church.

“And though we must avoid all clericalism or authoritarianism in the Church, that doesn’t mean that we become egalitarian as if there isn’t a special charism given by the Holy Spirit to those who are the successors of Peter and the Apostles.”

Q. In about eight months, the eucharistic revival will culminate in the National Eucharistic Congress here in Indianapolis where tens of thousands of Catholics from across the country will gather as one in their love for Christ in the Eucharist. How might you hope that the congress could contribute to Catholics in the U.S.’s experience of a synodal Church?

A. “I think it’s going to be an experience of part of what synodality is, and that’s the communion aspect, the communion of the Church.

“They’ll be gathered with fellow Catholics from all over the country in worship of God. It will be a diverse group, racially, ethnically and in language. That’s all part of synodality and the communion of the Church, the unity in diversity.

“That’s an essential element of synodality. I certainly experienced that very much at the synod in bishops and other delegates from all over the world.

“It is very connected to mission, because when we gather, I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot about how every person is called to be a missionary disciple. That’s an aspect of synodality. It’s the aspect of co-responsibility in mission.

“That’s part of the congress and the eucharistic revival. We definitely need more people who will be engaged in that, so that we’ll really bring about the new evangelization and a reinvigoration of the Church in the United States.

“But it’s not just our work alone. It’s by the grace of God and by the grace of the holy Eucharist. That’s where we get strengthened and nourished to live the Gospel in our words and deeds.

“That’s why prayer was so important in the synod. This isn’t just getting together like the U.S. Congress or Parliament. This is about gathering in the Spirit, gathering with Christ as our head and discerning his will for the Church, how we move forward in mission.”

Q. A year from now, the Synod of Bishops’ consideration of synodality will be over. The Church in the U.S. will have experienced its eucharistic congress. How do you hope that both will enliven the efforts of Catholics across the U.S. to be active missionary disciples, sharing the Gospel in their everyday lives?

A. “The word that comes to mind is conversion. There’s a need for conversion here.

“We have problems. One of the problems is division and polarization. This whole synodal process is aimed at building communion and trying to overcome some of that division that’s there, because we’re not going to be effective if we’re not together in communion.

“So, I think that both the congress and the synod hopefully will build unity within the members of the body of Christ. Our unity of faith is so important. And our love for one another is so essential. That’s the spiritual part that I’m really hoping that [will take root] through the exercise of the synodal process, but even more by the grace of God, especially the grace of the Eucharist.

“It really has to do with interior conversion. It’s by growing in our own Christian lives, and only through that, that we’re going to be true missionary disciples. So, our own growth in Christ and our own growth in holiness that we’re all called to is part of synodality, too.”

(To read “A Synodal Church in Mission: Synthesis Report,” the document issued by the Synod of Bishops at the conclusion of its meeting in October, visit To read the first part of The Criterion’s interview with Bishop Rhoades, click here.)

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