Parishes in Havana, Lewistown, and Manito end special ‘Year of the Eucharist’

Father David Whiteside offers a blessing at a Holy Hour at St. Patrick Church in Havana on June 23 as the Year of the Eucharist came to an end for the faith communities of Havana, Lewistown and Manito. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

HAVANA — Human beings are creatures of habit and many things tend to become routine, including Mass.

That isn’t the case at St. Patrick in Havana, St. Mary in Lewistown, and Immaculate Conception in Manito, however, after parishioners spent a year focusing on the Eucharist. Led by Father David Whiteside, pastor, they engaged in a Bible study; explored Christopher Carstens’ book, “A Devotional Journey into the Mass”; participated in 24-hours of adoration in each parish; and were encouraged to make a Holy Hour at the Havana church every Sunday at 3 p.m.

Their journey through the Year of the Eucharist, which began with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ last June, concluded with a eucharistic pilgrimage to Italy in the days before this year’s Corpus Christi observance on June 22-23.

“I’m just hoping there will be an organic growth from this year that will carry on in people’s hearts,” said Father Whiteside. “It’s not like I’m never going to speak about the Eucharist again. Of course I’m going to. But it will be a beautiful reference point for people to harken back to when I bring it up in homilies in the future or future adoration or devotions. I think a foundation has been laid.”


The idea for the Year of the Eucharist grew out of a parish council meeting as members talked about ways to deepen the life of the parish, Father Whiteside said. “We thought the best way to do that was to get people praying more and then out of that prayer would come more works of charity and more participation.”

Father David Whiteside leads a Holy Hour at St. Patrick Church in Havana on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, modeling what prayer looks and sounds like for his parishioners in Havana, Lewistown and Manito. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

He set the tone at weekend Masses by preaching about the Eucharist as often as possible.

“I didn’t know I could preach about the Eucharist so much, but I did,” he said with a smile. “The Lord just kept leading.”

When people shied away from signing up for an hour of eucharistic adoration, he discovered that many didn’t feel comfortable doing it because they didn’t know how. So he developed a handout with suggestions for four different types of prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and petition. Then he modeled it by praying out loud during the weekly Holy Hours.

“So he’s teaching, step by step, what it is, why you’re doing it, how to fill that hour with prayer and what kind of prayer, and what it’s going to do for you,” said Elizabeth Forrest, the secretary for the combined parish office.

“People who have never done this before have come to me and said they’ve had a transformation,” she told The Catholic Post. “The grace just happened around them, through them, in them, and Father David made it possible by just having it available.”


“How to go beyond the routine of weekly Mass — that was part of the challenge, but also the opportunity for us to silently go deeper into that relationship with the heart of Christ,” said Deacon Bob Sondag, who serves at the Manito parish. “That ends up being a lifelong journey. It isn’t just a Saturday or a Sunday, an hour.”

Going beyond our routines to reflect on who Christ is in our lives and who we are in Christ’s life will give us a better understanding of our relationship with him, Deacon Sondag said.

“When we step closer to Christ in that time of prayer, we step out of the ordinary into the extraordinary in order that the ordinary may become extraordinary at some point,” he explained.

This isn’t magic, Deacon Sondag emphasized.

“The Eucharist has a transforming effect on our lives and once we understand that and take it out of the obligation or perfunctory process, then God’s grace is abundant,” he said.

In addition to Deacon Sondag, the pilgrims included Susan Strauman, who belongs to St. Patrick in Havana and serves on the parish council. She said what happened during the Year of the Eucharist culminated in an unexpected way for her in Rome, at the pilgrimage’s last Mass.

“It hit me in a very powerful way that I get to do this,” she said of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. “It brings me to tears thinking I get to do this every time I go to Mass.”

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