Eucharistic revival in Springfield, Oregon


By Archdiocese of Portland Staff

Fr. Mark Bentz, pastor of St. Alice in Springfield, OR, discussed the importance of Eucharistic devotion being at the heart of his parish’s spiritual and community renewal. Fr. Mark earned a Sacred Theology Bachelor at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and a Sacred Theology Licentiate at the Angelicum in Rome.

From Devotion to Miracles: A Place of Faith and Healing

As the United States Catholic Church launches a national campaign of “Eucharistic Revival”, parishes around the country have begun initiatives to reinforce faith and devotion to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

For Fr. Mark Bentz, the process has been straightforward: to practice and preach the fullness of the Catholic faith as it has been done for centuries. Fr. Mark reiterated that the heart of any parish renewal must be centered on devotion to the Eucharist as the Second Vatican Council described it as the “Source and Summit of the Christian Faith” (Lumen Gentium 11). Strong Eucharistic preaching and devotion have dramatically strengthened and renewed the faith, ministries, and every facet of community life at St. Alice’s in Springfield.

St. Alice’s Procession for the Feast of Corpus Christi in Springfield, OR (June 8, 2023).

The Beginning of a Eucharistic Revival

At St. Alice Parish in Springfield, Oregon, an inspiring spiritual renewal has been unfolding over the past eight years. The introduction and embracing of perpetual Eucharistic adoration was the catalyst, resulting in the revitalization of every parish ministry and lay group. It has helped foster unity along ethnic lines and has led to miraculous healings at the parish.

Six years ago, the decision was made to introduce perpetual adoration – continuous prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar at all hours of the day and night except during Holy Mass. Today, over 600 people have a registered account on WeAdoreHim, the scheduling tool that St. Alice uses to manage perpetual adoration.

The decision to implement perpetual adoration was not without its challenges, as St. Alice’s was devoid of any widely popular devotional practices outside of Mass for several decades.

When asked what has changed at St. Alice’s since implementing perpetual adoration, Fr Benz replied, “The real question is ‘what has stayed the same?’… because everything has changed. We’ve done Church remodeling, we’ve put Jesus in the center [in the Tabernacle], we’ve had much greater numbers and engagement in all of our various parish groups; bible study, catechesis, OCIA, and a marked increase in regular donations.”

When asked how long it took for St. Alice to truly feel like a eucharistic parish, Fr. Mark responded, “It’s miraculous. We went from monthly adoration to perpetual adoration in three months, largely due to one man taking all the nighttime hours for 40 days until they were filled. We now have 191 committed adorers and 283 committed substitutes as well as many guests who visit Jesus.”

Perpetual adoration was just one piece among others in bringing new life to the parish, but it was the central devotion that helped put things into place along with strong catechesis in homilies – unapologetic instruction in the truths of the Catholic faith, and the constant highlighting of the real presence of God in our tabernacles and on our altars at every Mass.

Bridging Communities through Prayer and Public Witness

The Anglo and Latino communities of St. Alice have been increasingly integrated through joint Holy Hours, parish feasts, healing nights, processions, praise and worship, and young adult catechetical groups. In most US parishes with Spanish and English Masses, there are essentially two parish communities operating in one church structure and it can be difficult for pastors to integrate the two communties.

The parish’s commitment to perpetual adoration facilitated the integration of its diverse constituents, Latino and Anglo, and everyone along the broad spectrum of liturgical preferences.

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and increased devotion to Him in adoration among the different linguistic and cultural communities of St. Alice’s brought them together for more prayer nights, feasts, and non-liturgical parish events.

St. Alice’s Procession for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Springfield, OR (December 12, 2023)

The change extended beyond liturgy, as initiatives like the blossoming Home School Academy helped bridge the gap between Anglo and Latino families with more occasions for the communities to spend time together beyond liturgical settings.

In its third year, the Academy has become a cross-pollination point between Anglo and Latino families, especially as the latter who are newer to homeschooling have recognized the need for a stronger Catholic formation for their children due to the surrounding culture.

Sanctuary remodeling, highlighting the blessed sacrament in the tabernacle at the center of the church, and processions are just external expressions that reflect the overall shift towards devotion and a renewed prayerful atmosphere at St. Alice’s. The increased occasions for the diverse communities at St. Alice’s to come together for parish events and prayer outside of Mass define their vibrant and prayerful identity.

Fr. Mark explained that Latino parishioners have invigorated the parish’s identity and public presence during this process, “our Latino parishioners love processions, and they do them well. I tell them, ‘let’s have more processions beyond Corpus Christi, you want to celebrate the patron saint of your home country? Great, let’s get the statue and carry it through the city’…They want to have more parish feasts with vibrant receptions like in Latin America” Fr. Mark continued, “we need to not only pray together, but also have meals together.” Some Latino parishioners affectionately call Fr. Mark “El Gritón”, the yeller – as they appreciate his directness and clarity when preaching the truths of the Gospel.

Early into his pastorship at St. Alice’s eight years ago, strong emphasis on beautiful liturgy, catechetical homilies, and strong devotion to the Eucharist inspired those genuinely seeking the Gospel. Recognizing the importance of creating a Catholic environment beyond the Mass, Fr. Bentz encourages and advises young couples on how to have regular family prayer and build a Catholic culture at home.

This shift in focus to that of a Eucharistic-centered parish solidified St. Alice’s reason for being, leading to a renewed commitment to prayer and deepening of faith. The atmosphere became charged with expectancy – knowing that every parish occasion would be one of prayer, “every act of charity we do is centered on our faith in Jesus Christ and His living presence,” stated Fr. Mark.

Nights of Hope and Healing

As the parish embraced perpetual adoration, physical healing became a more frequent experience of the faithful during prayer and Mass. Fr. Mark shared that he was encouraged by Archbishop Sample’s call to create dedicated spaces for healing outside of Mass. Thus, the monthly “Nights of Hope and Healing” were born in the summer of 2020 at St. Alice.

The nights begin with a bilingual rosary, then there’s congregational singing, followed by a short teaching from Fr. Mark. After that, the group focuses on prayers for healing. This may include a Eucharistic procession and/or prayer teams praying for individuals. Healing testimonies are shared throughout the night. At least 150 people attend regularly, and the demographic is a balanced mix of people of all ages and ethnicities. During one such night, a man with a broken kneecap touched the humeral veil while Fr. Bentz processed with the Eucharist in the monstrance. He took off his brace and began to walk on it. (You can hear his testimony from November 2022 here).

Reflecting on the evolution of the parish, Fr. Mark emphasized the need for continuous renewal, sharing that “solemn and reverent liturgy, regular parish retreats, Catholic education, and mental health care are critical needs for 21st-century parish life.”

In eight years, this otherwise average American parish has experienced a lively renewal, with deep Eucharistic reverence and adoration at its core which has permeated every facet of Parish life and the faith of its parishioners. Miraculous healings, community integration, the drastic increase in parochial ministries, and spiritual growth have become highlights of this steady and authentic Catholic revival.

The process was gradual, yet simple, it was and contibues to be living and boldly announcing the Catholic faith in an intentional way. St. Alice’s has undergone a transformation that can be emulated in parishes across the world, evolving into a place where people transformed by the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist can renew themselves, their parishes, and their surrounding community.

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