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Local Real Presence group members inspired by beatification of Italian teen

102320Real presence group beatification 

Real Presence group members (from left to right) Jill McNamara, Sharon Surdy and Sue Kresich enjoy local cider before watching the beatification Mass of Carlo Acutis live on EWTN, from McNamara's home in Lakes of the Four Seasons on Oct. 10. Founded this summer, the organization focuses on the Holy Eucharist as the "source and summit" of the Catholic faith and functions as a faith sharing anfd fellowship group. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo) 



Northwest Indiana Catholic


        WINFIELD – A small faith-sharing group centered on devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus has begun to promote the core Catholic belief by being present to one another. A recent beatification has boosted their efforts to spread the word.

        Beginning this summer, the Real Presence group, as it is informally known, has brought together local women who have bonded over their various ministries and charisms. They include a writer, catechist, pro-life advocates, a Third Order Carmelite, a Boy Scout facilitator and Rosary prayer warriors.

        Founder Jill McNamara, of Lakes of the Four Seasons, said the common goal of the group is to participate in and promote the worship of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

        “The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, so when you walk in the church there should be no question as to why we are here,” McNamara said. “This is why we are here: because God told us to come to receive him and live this life so you can have eternal life with him.”

        She said the group promotes reverence of the Eucharist, the Lord’s “body, blood, soul and divinity,” at Mass and advocates the central placement of tabernacles in churches.

        As they codify their mission, members brush up on their theology. They talk about the biblical teachings of the Eucharist, such as in the Bread of Life Discourse (John chapter 6). They also speak about extraordinary events related to consecrated bread and wine, or Eucharistic miracles.  

        McNamara has gathered and presented members with resources about Eucharistic miracles from throughout the world, down through the centuries. Church-recognized miracles include consecrated hosts that have appeared with real blood or hosts that have not deteriorated, despite exposure to the elements.

        The late 20th century Jesuit Father John Hardon, Servant of God, defined a miracle as, “a sensibly perceptible effect surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or to testify to someone’s sanctity.”

        Just as the Real Presence group was coming together, members were excited to learn about “another miracle” – the Oct. 10 beautification Mass set for an Italian teen, who in his short life, dedicated great energy to cataloging Eucharistic miracles.

        Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 from leukemia at age 15, is venerated for his cheerfulness and faithfulness, and is referred to broadly as a video game playing “computer geek.” A miraculous cure of an 11-year-old Brazilian boy who endured intestinal pain due to a birth defect was attributed to Acutis’ intercession.

        “Carlo’s love for the Holy Eucharistic is undeniably a gift for the world,” McNamara said of the first Millennial to be beatified. “I believe that after all of the alienation that has been caused by the (coronavirus), another Year of the Holy Eucharist should be observed throughout the world and, actively, in each diocese.”

        McNamara gathered with her mom Joan Rieder, and Real Presence members Mary Curtin, Sue Kresich, Sharon Staley, and Sharon Surdy around the TV in her home. They tuned in to the EWTN broadcast of Acutis’ beatification Mass on Oct. 10 at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy. 

        The timing of the group’s foundation and the broadcast of the Mass of a future saint, whose claim to fame is the promotion of Eucharistic devotion, is something of God, members said.

        Curtin said Acutis may be a saint for our times.

        “The beatification is absolutely a gift … I gave Carlo Acutis prayer cards to (college students), and I told them all to pray to (Carlo Acutis),” Curtin explained. “The students are all on social media, and they tell me they are in the fight of a lifetime with this election coming up.

        Curtin added, “Carlo can help give them guidance.”

        McNamara explained that the initial motivator to call together a group like the Real Presence, was a homily preached by Bishop Robert J. McClory on the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 11.

        “The Holy Spirit talked to me during that homily, as I thought, the bishop is right, the (Eucharist) is what we need to focus on,” McNamara said. “I would like to meet with the bishop and talk to him about our group.”

        Real Presence group members may not be computer programmers like the millennial Acutis, but they continue to gather information to share from organizations such as the Illinois-based Real Presence Association. McNamara passed around a binder filled with pages of documentation about Eucharistic miracles.

        Each of the members expressed an interest in bringing a Eucharistic miracles photographic exhibit to Northwest Indiana. This could counter the fact that surveys show a minority of Catholics believe in the Real Presence.

        “You’ve got to start with the basics; it’s just like faith formation. It’s basic Baltimore Catechism,” McNamara said.

        Surdy takes comfort in the timeliness of the Acutis beatification, and the formation of a local Real Presence group.

        “With so much going on in the world, we should be looking, like Carlo did, at what Jesus left for us and what’s to come,” Surdy said.

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