About the Task Force for Eucharistic Education

Only about one in eight (12%) young adults today identifies as Catholic—even though Catholics comprise about 22% of all U.S. adults. That’s a drastic and tragic decline.

And no wonder! Most young Catholics don’t believe in the Eucharist, “source and summit of the Christian life.” A poll in 2021 found that 18-21 year-olds who were raised Catholic couldn’t agree with the statement, “I believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ”(see chart at left). And a 2019 survey found that only 26% of Catholics age 18-40 believe “bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.”[1]

While this may seem a crisis of dissent, it is more a crisis of education. About two-thirds (64%) of the unbelieving young adults admitted to being unsure or unaware of the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence. And 62% thought the Church teaches that Communion wine and bread are just symbols.

Gregory A. Smith, “Just One-Third of U.S. Catholics Agree with Their Church that Eucharist is Body, Blood of Christ” (August 5, 2019) at Pew Research Center, One-third of U.S. Catholics believe in transubstantiation

Renewal of Eucharistic Education

Photo provided courtesy of Regina Pacis Academy, Norwalk, Conn

At a Cardinal Newman Society meeting of Catholic educators, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ three-year Eucharistic Revival urged them to help renew understanding and love of the Eucharist. We are taking up this charge by collaborating with faithful Catholic educators to advance the following objectives:

  • a revival of Eucharistic literacy, by teaching young people the truth of the Real Presence in the Eucharist;
  • a revival of Eucharistic liturgy, by improving music, prayer, and reverence in school and college liturgies;
  • a revival of Eucharistic devotion, by increasing prayer and adoration among young people; and
  • a revival of Eucharistic living, by helping students live according to the reality of Christ within them.

Task Force for Eucharistic Education

The Cardinal Newman Society is working to identify, solicit, and promote inspiring efforts by Catholic schools, colleges, homeschool programs, and individual educators and students that advance a revival of Eucharistic literacy, Eucharistic liturgy, Eucharistic devotion, and Eucharistic living among young people.

By use of an online application, we invite institutions and individuals to sign a statement of fidelity and provide detailed descriptions of projects that clearly and faithfully fulfill the objectives of the Task Force. Participants and their projects will be promoted to media and on a dedicated website. We hope for a wide variety of projects, including academic conferences, research, publications, formative student programs, liturgies, prayer, and more.

The Cardinal Newman Society has selected three research fellows for its Eucharistic Education Task Force, which is expanding substantially in 2023-2024 during this crucial year of the U.S. bishops’ Eucharistic Revival effort.
The fellows will develop guidance and resources for Catholic school, homeschool, and college educators on teaching the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist across the curriculum and increasing reverence and beauty in student Masses, Eucharistic adoration, Eucharistic processions, and prayer. The Cardinal Newman Society will then get these materials into the hands of school and college chaplains, teachers, professors, principals, presidents, superintendents, and others who have the ability to strengthen Catholic education.
“For many decades, families have seen diminished reverence in Mass, weak catechesis, and infrequent Adoration in many Catholic schools and colleges,” said Bob Laird, senior counselor to the president and director of the Eucharistic Education Task Force at The Cardinal Newman Society. “But the evidence at faithful Newman Guide schools and colleges shows that young Catholics today are eager for traditional practices that lift the soul to God and evidence the Real Presence of Christ at Mass.”
David Bonagura, Jr., is the 2023-2024 Cardinal Newman Society Fellow for Eucharistic Education. He is an adjunct professor of theology at Catholic Distance University, which is recognized in the Society’s Newman Guide for faithful Catholic education; adjunct professor of classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.; and Latin teacher at Regis High School in New York City. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith (Cluny Media, LLC, 2019) and Staying with the Catholic Church (Sceptor Press, 2021), and he is the translator of Jerome’s Tears: Letters to Friends in Mourning (Sophia Institute Press, 2023). He also serves as religion editor of The University Bookman. He has three master’s degrees in religious studies, adolescence education, and the classics. He is a regular contributor to The Catholic Thing.
Professor Bonagura’s fellowship will focus on the importance of teaching the Eucharist within all levels of Catholic education and integrating that teaching across the curriculum. He will also work with other educators to identify the best publishers, textbooks, literature, video, materials, supplies, lesson plans, etc., to teach students the Real Presence, reverence for the Eucharist, the importance of the Mass, and more.
Father Jonathan Duncan is the 2023-2024 Cardinal Newman Society Fellow for Eucharistic Devotion. He is the chaplain of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, S.C., one of the first high schools recognized in the Society’s Newman Guide for faithful Catholic education, and chaplain of the Furman University Catholic Campus Ministry in Greenville. Father Duncan served several years in ordained ministry within the Anglican tradition before he and his family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2013.
With degrees in both medieval studies and theology and graduate studies in liturgy and church music, Father Duncan has a unique perspective on faithful Catholic education rooted in a passion for the gospel. With an emphasis on the Mass but also Catholic retreats, Eucharistic preaching, and Liturgy of the Hours, Father Duncan will explore how Eucharistic liturgy and theology can be better integrated in the life of Catholic schools, homeschools, and colleges. Anticipated projects include devotional aids for students and educators, homily tools for chaplains, and resources explaining the essential role of Eucharistic liturgy and prayer in Catholic education at all levels.
Dr. Randall Smith is the 2023-2024 Cardinal Newman Society Fellow for Eucharistic Liturgy. He is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Tex., which is recognized in the Society’s Newman Guide for faithful Catholic education. He holds a Ph.D. in medieval studies and philosophy and an M.M.S. from the University of Notre Dame, as well as an M.A. in theology from the University of Dallas (also a Newman Guide college). He serves on the board of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and is president of the International Catholic University (now CatholicThinkers.com).
Dr. Smith brings a vast array of experience in the intersection of the Catholic faith and culture, and his fellowship will focus on reverence and beauty in student liturgy. His books include From Here to Eternity: Reflections on Death, Immortality, and the Resurrection of the Body (Emmaus Press, 2022), Aquinas, Bonaventure, and the Scholastic Culture of Medieval Paris: Preaching, Prologues, and Biblical Commentary (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Why Believe? Answers to Life’s Questions, vol. 2 (Augustine Institute, 2018) (chapters 2 through 9 on moral theology), and Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide (Emmaus Press, 2016). He writes regularly for The Catholic Thing
people standing in front of a cross

Steering Committee of the
Task Force for Eucharistic Education

The following leaders comprise the Steering Committee of the Task Force for Eucharistic Education:

  • Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director, USCCB Secretariat for Catholic Education

  • Deacon Keith Fournier, Dean, Catholic Online School

  • Charlie McKinney, President, Sophia Institute Press

  • Father David Pivonka, T.O.R., President, Franciscan University of Steubenville

  • Dr. Robert Royal, President, Faith and Reason Institute

  • Dr. Michael St. Pierre, Executive Director, Catholic Campus Ministry Association
  • Patrick Reilly, President, The Cardinal Newman Society

  • Monsignor James Shea, President, University of Mary

  • Lincoln Snyder, President, National Catholic Educational Association

  • Father Peter Stravinskas, President, Catholic Education Foundation

  • Sister Cecilia Anne Wanner, O.P., President, Aquinas College (Nashville)

Inaugural Institutional Members of the
Task Force for Eucharistic Education

Aquinas College (Nashville, Tenn.)

Ave Maria University (Ave Maria, Fla.)

Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)

Benedictine College (Atchison, Kan.)

Christendom College (Front Royal, Va.)

Franciscan University of Steubenville (Steubenville, Ohio)

Holy Apostles College and Seminary (Cromwell, Conn.)

John Paul the Great Catholic University (Escondido, Calif.)

Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts (Warner, N.H.)

Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, N.H.)

University of Dallas (Irving, Tex.)

University of Mary (Bismarck, N.Dak.)

University of St. Thomas (Houston, Tex.)

Walsh University (North Canton, Ohio)

Wyoming Catholic College (Lander, Wyo.)

Academy of Our Lady (Marrero, La.)

Beckman Catholic High School (Dyersville, Iowa)

Father Gabriel Richard High School (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Holy Child Catholic School (Tijeras, N.M.)

Holy Rosary Academy (Anchorage, Alaska)

Maur Hill-Mount Academy (Atchison, Kan.)

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School (Coraopolis, Pa.)

Regina Pacis Academy (Norwalk, Conn.)

Rhodora Donahue Academy of Ave Maria (Ave Maria, Fla.)

Seton School (Manassas, Va.)

St. John Vianney High School (St. Louis, Mo.)

St. Theresa Catholic School (Sugar Land, Tex.)