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A woman held her daughter during Mass Jan. 19, 2023, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Organizers of this summer’s National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis said that in addition to accommodations for families with young children, there will also be specific programming to engage families and children together.
A woman held her daughter during Mass Jan. 19, 2023, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Organizers of this summer’s National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis said that in addition to accommodations for families with young children, there will also be specific programming to engage families and children together.
Photo Credit: Bob Roller | OSV News

How families can participate in the National Eucharistic Congress

Organizers said that congress this July will include programming to engage families and children together

This summer’s National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis will provide a “Steubenville conference” experience for teenagers, while parents with children can expect full-family formation in a track designed to engage adults and kids together, according to congress leaders.

Planned for July 17-21 at Lucas Oil Stadium and the adjacent Indiana Convention Center, the 10th National Eucharistic Congress is expected to draw tens of thousands of Catholics of all ages from across the country for worship, prayer, formation and community.

Steubenville Conferences, which organizes well-known youth conferences at Franciscian University of Steubenville in Ohio and elsewhere around the U.S., is hosting a morning impact session for teenagers and their chaperones under the congress’s “Awaken” track. Those sessions will include keynote speakers, worship music and prayer.

Joel Stepanek, the congress’s vice president of programming and administration, told media recently that teenagers can expect to “have that youth conference experience” within the congress context.

Families with children through age 12 or 13 at the conference are encouraged to attend morning sessions together in the congress’s “Cultivate” experience.

“The idea is that families with children oftentimes find themselves stuck, where you go to a conference or congress and perhaps there’s child care, and mom and dad go to some sessions that are catered to them … or, on the flip side, there’s an experience where mom and dad go to with their kids, but it’s really tailored for their children,” Stepanek said. “Our goal for this particular experience is to do something unique.”

The “Cultivate” track focuses on ministry for the full family. So, parents and their children “will be able to be present to each other to hear a talk together, to pray together and have an opportunity to interact with one another,” Stepanek said. “It’s full-family formation.”

While afternoon breakout sessions are open to all congress participants, families and youth also can expect sessions designed for them. Youth sessions are organized by different youth-focused apostolates, such as Life Teen, National Evangelization Teams (NET) and the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement.

Meanwhile, CatholicHOM and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd also will provide prayer, formation and programming for families. There also will be a kid-friendly area in the exhibit hall, as well as organized family and youth games at White River State Park, which is within walking distance from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Family programming makes it possible for them “to not just experience the congress together, but be formed through the congress together,” Stepanek said.

Each evening, all congress participants will gather in Lucas Oil Stadium for music and worship, the Family Rosary Across America and eucharistic adoration. On Saturday evening, musician Matt Maher will lead praise and worship. The evenings also include some of the congress’s most well-known speakers, including Bishop Robert E. Barron, Father Mike Schmitz, Sister Josephine Garrett and Gloria Purvis.

“We’ll have a talk for a means to an end, which is prayer,” Stepanek said. “We’ll have an opportunity where teens will pray with the larger body of Christ, where families will pray with the body of Christ, where children will get to see 60,000 Catholics in prayer and worship. This is an impactful moment for these two groups of people.”

The National Eucharistic Congress is part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative launched by the U.S. bishops in 2022 to deepen Catholics’ relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.

The cost for the five-day conference pass is $299 per adult and $250 per teen, with kids 12 and under free. By comparison, conference organizers said, a five-day pass for a teen at Disneyland is $480. Day passes also are available.

The congress will differ from other adult, youth and family conferences in the United States, said Stepanek, who worked as a parish youth minister and with Life Teen. By placing the youth experience and families within the larger context of the congress, teenagers and children will see their connection to the wider Church, he said.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for teenagers,” he said. “The next time we have a eucharistic congress, they will be out of high school. … They’re going to be part of something historic, something that has not happened not only in their lifetime but their parents’ lifetime. … They are a vital part of what we’re doing.”

The congress is being planned with family safety in mind, including security and volunteers to help keep younger children safe and reconnect parents and children in case of separation, a family-specific First-Aid station and space for nursing and napping children.

“We want to make sure that this experience is open to families is accommodating to families, and provides an opportunity for families to take what is planted here and to grow it when they go back to their home,” Stepanek said.

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