Fr. Luke Spannagel is one of 58 National Eucharistic Preachers for 3-year revival

Father Luke Spannagel elevates the Host during a recent Mass. The priest of the Diocese of Peoria is among 58 National Eucharistic Preachers commissioned "to enkindle the flame of eucharistic faith and devotion in the United States" as part of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival. (Provided photo)

Father Luke Spannagel would have been very content to remain at St. Mary and Sacred Heart parishes in Rock Island, but he got an offer he couldn’t refuse — and neither could Bishop Louis Tylka.

Father Spannagel was invited to join the team of 58 National Eucharistic Preachers who have been commissioned “to enkindle the flame of eucharistic faith and devotion in the United States” as part of the National Eucharistic Revival. The three-year revival starts this Sunday, which is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi.

Among the National Eucharistic Preachers is Father Doug Grandon, who was ordained for the Diocese of Peoria in 2008 and now serves in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Father Spannagel was nominated by Sister Stephanie Baliga of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, who was a student at the University of Illinois when he was the chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center.

“She was thinking about who loved the Eucharist and who could speak well about the Eucharist and she thought of me,” Father Spannagel shared. “I was really humbled.”

“I was pretty excited about this in a way that I haven’t been about something in a while.” — Father Luke Spannagel

When he approached Bishop Tylka and Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general, they talked about what would be involved and ways he might be able to say “yes” to this mission. Then the bishop asked how he felt about it.

Father Spannagel had to admit, “I was pretty excited about this in a way that I haven’t been about something in a while.”

“I didn’t expect to hear from him right away, but he got back to me the next day,” Father Spannagel said. “He told me he wanted me to say ‘yes’ and that we would work out the details.”

Those details included reassigning Father Spannagel to St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sacred Heart, St. Bernard and St. Joseph in Peoria, with residence at St. Philomena Parish.

PEACEFUL CONVICTION

His ministry with the preaching team will take Father Spannagel away from the diocese from time to time to speak at conferences and give weekend retreats and talks to clergy, diocesan staff, and young people. “Each place can tailor what would be best for them or helpful for them,” he said.

Father Spannagel preaches at a recent Mass. He calls the Eucharist “the perfect worship of God. It’s our foretaste of heaven.” (Provided photo)

“I’m hopeful that by Bishop Tylka giving me that extra time, that opportunity, that we’re going to have fruit, not only in the larger church of the U.S., but especially in our diocese,” Father Spannagel told The Catholic Post.

He looks forward to sharing his love for the Eucharist.

“For me, being with Jesus in the Eucharist is where I feel most at peace, where I feel most myself. I never wonder if I should be doing something else. I always feel a peaceful conviction that there’s no better place I can be at that moment,” he said.

“Being in his presence helps me see clearly that I am loved, that he has given everything for me. It’s where I’m renewed in strength when I falter and where I receive the strength to do whatever he asks me each day,” Father Luke explained. “So my time with Jesus in Mass and in adoration is always the best part of my day.”

He called the Eucharist “the true sacrifice of Christ that we are invited into.”

“It’s the perfect worship of God. It’s our foretaste of heaven. It’s a sacrament of healing. It’s a sacrament of unity and communion,” Father Spannagel said, adding “it’s the most nourishing thing that we can experience.”

GREW UP IN PESOTUM

Father Spannagel grew up in Pesotum, where he and his family lived in the former rectory of St. Mary Church. “I can tease that I’ve spent more years in rectories than not,” he said.

His father, John, attended to the buildings and Father Spannagel mowed the grass around the church and the cemetery. He said he’s sure that being able to go into the church anytime he wanted played a role in his vocation.

Click here for a story on plans for eucharistic revival in the Diocese of Peoria.

He attended the University of Illinois and received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture in 1998. He went on to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he earned a master of divinity and a master of arts in sacred theology.

He was ordained on May 24, 2003, at St. Mary’s Cathedral by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

In addition to ministering as chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois and St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Father Spannagel has served as parochial vicar, administrator or pastor of faith communities in Hancock County, Raritan, Bloomington and Downs, and Urbana, and was pastor of his Rock Island parishes for three years.

He has also been episcopal vicar for rural life and wrote a column on rural life issues for The Catholic Post for a time.

For more information about the National Eucharistic Preachers or the National Eucharistic Revival, visit eucharisticrevival.org.

Father Spannagel is seen in the back row of a group of priests and bishops at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago for a retreat April 3-6. The priests will be part of a team of eucharistic preachers who will speak around the country about the Eucharist and the National Eucharistic Revival. (CNS/courtesy National Eucharistic Revival, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

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