Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

A participant prays during the closing Mass of the National Catholic Youth Conference at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Nov 18, 2023. The National Eucharistic Congress will be held July 17-21, 2024, in downtown Indianapolis. OSV NEWS PHOTO/MIKE KROKOS, THE CRITERION

National Eucharistic Congress promises ‘profound impact’ for families, says Indy family life director


INDIANAPOLIS (OSV News) – Catholics will come to Indianapolis in the tens of thousands for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21 – some as individuals, some as couples, some as groups.

And some will come as families.

“The church is a family of families,” said Gabriela Ross, director of the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s Office of Marriage and Family Life. “It just makes sense for them to be here for the congress!”

Ross serves on the NEC planning team for the congress’s family track.

“We’ve tried to think of everything to make attending the National Eucharistic Congress as easy as possible for families,” she said, including offering free admission for children ages 12 and younger traveling with their family.

Ross spoke with The Criterion, Indianapolis’ archdiocesan newspaper, about the experience families can look forward to at the congress – and how families can prepare and be involved, whether or not they attend.

Families coming together to spend time focusing on the Eucharist is important, said Ross.

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith,” she said. “And marriage as a sacrament is an icon of God’s love.

“The vocation of marriage is to baptize and evangelize the family. If marriages are going to succeed in that vocation and mission, then they need the Eucharist as the source of their love, because the Eucharist transforms and purifies the family.”

The NEC website notes the same, stating, that “fostering a love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist within our homes will have a profound impact on how we love others outside of our homes. … Eucharistic revival happens at the grassroots level, and the domestic church is an essential part of this movement.”

This message will be shared during the morning “Cultivate” family impact sessions during the congress. Speakers include Voluntas Dei Father Leo Patalinghug, founder of the Plating Grace international food and faith movement and host of EWTN’s “Savoring Our Faith” show; John Paul II Healing Center founder Bob Schuchts; and Damon and Melanie Owens, founders of the online Joyful Ever After marriage ministry.

Ennie and Cana Hickman, founders of the Del Rey Collective ministry, will serve as emcees, and popular Catholic musician Steve Angrisano will provide music at each session.

“It’s wonderful for Catholic families to encourage and support each other in their witness,” said Ross. “The family track has taken the time to anticipate a lot of those family needs – nursing, a sensory-friendly room, a family quiet room, volunteers at all entrances and exits, like a checkpoint in case little ones try to wander off.”

While the morning sessions are ticketed and have a capacity limit, all attendees are welcome to enjoy afternoon breakout talks and experiences.

“There are other family workshops beyond the talks,” Ross adds, including a “Catholic home experience that has Eucharistic adoration and activities for the whole family every day,” and an area offering “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.”

Families also can enjoy some sightseeing in the afternoons. The Indiana Convention Center and neighboring Lucas Oil Stadium – the two NEC venues – are within walking distance of several museums, the canal walk, Monument Circle and more.

Whether planning on attending the congress or not, there are ways for families to be involved and focused on the Eucharist ahead of time, said Ross.

The National Eucharistic Revival website offers resources in English and Spanish for families and children of different ages at Options include videos and activities on eucharistic saints, the Mass, small group discussions and more.

Local opportunities can help families on the Eucharist, too.

“Join in a Corpus Christi procession, and invite other families to join you,” Ross suggested. The feast is celebrated June 2 this year.

Families also might participate in one of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage events from May 17-July 16, as eucharistic processions from the northern, eastern, southern and western areas of the United States make stops for adoration in parishes throughout the U.S. before converging in Indianapolis for the congress. Information on the four routes and parish stops can be found at

The most important action families can take is to pray, said Ross.

“Pray the Sisters of Life’s Eucharistic family prayer,” she said, which can be found at “Pray as a family in adoration. Talk with your parish about offering a family adoration experience.”

Ross invited families to include the National Eucharistic Congress among their intentions.

“Pray for the success of the congress, for those in attendance, for those planning the event,” she said. “And pray for renewal, that our country will experience renewed love for the Eucharist.”

Ross encouraged families throughout the country to come to the National Eucharistic Congress.

“This is such a unique moment in the life of the church,” she said. “It really is an incredible opportunity for families that will have a ripple effect. But it takes families to come to create those ripple effects when they go back to their communities and take their lived experience and witness to the faith.”

Ross acknowledges that planning any family trip can have its challenges.

“But in this case, everything is planned out for you – all you have to do is come!”

Natalie Hoefer is a staff writer at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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