Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph N. Perry speaks to a parishioner at a reception following the parish mission at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish, Kenosha. (Photo by Karen Mahoney)

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph N. Perry has many memorable ways of reminding people about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but one grabs your attention immediately.

“I became a priest to bring Jesus to others, not to give out crackers and juice,” said Bishop Perry, who retired from the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2023 and who was ordained in Milwaukee and served as a priest for 23 years here. “None of this is make-believe, it is not theater, and it is why we are having a Eucharistic revival as coined by the bishops of the United States.”

The Eucharist was the big focus of a parish mission that Bishop Perry preached at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish, Kenosha, from March 4-7.

Bishop Perry said the Eucharist was akin to an invitation.

“Permit me to ask you: Have you met the Jesus Christ?” Bishop Perry said. “Have you heard his voice inviting you to his supper? Have you sat at his feet in church and listened to him teach about his Father and the Kingdom? Have you, with other disciples in the upper room, consumed his Body and Blood? For Catholics, the answer is ‘yes.’ We consume Jesus Christ, hear his voice, listen to him teaching us, eat his Body and drink his Blood as he instructed us. We celebrate the Mass and the Eucharistic Sacrifice.”

Throughout the four-day mission, which included Mass, confessions and daily Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, Bishop Perry chronicled the importance of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Catholic faith. He encouraged his listeners to search for God in the ordinary things of life, despite routines, the media highlighting the inhumane, societal issues, and the banality and fatigue that accompanies daily life.

“In the midst of the everyday, God is still working miracles and making straight the rough roads,” Bishop Perry said. “The hidden presence of God is no small matter. There is a great concern in this revival that so many are separated from our source of strength. It is sometimes difficult with our current lifestyles, where we rush to Mass and rush out to fulfill the demands of the house. Ask God for help. Take a moment to explore the Real Presence in the Eucharist when attending Mass together as a family or when adoring in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”

Bishop Perry also encouraged Catholics to emphasize Sunday as the Lord’s Day. American culture equates success to the accumulation of money and possessions, and often Sunday is an extension of the regular work week. Rather than rushing to and from work, a sporting activity or some other busyness, he suggested to take time to pray and join others in a Eucharistic celebration with consecrated bread and wine, and make it a priority.

“Keeping the Lord’s Day means scheduling the primacy of worship at Sunday worship and domestic prayer in the homes, such as in connection with a meal or other times like a family Rosary,” he said. “After all, at the dismissal after Mass, we are told, Ite, missa est — go, declare the Good News. That is the charge given to Catholics — inviting us to work to spread the Gospel in society with Christian values, which is a tall task in a secular wasteland.”

In addition to sharing some of God’s promises to us and ours to him, especially when renewing our baptismal vows on Easter, Bishop Perry also spoke about the great sacrifices our ancestors have made in protecting Jesus in the Eucharist.

Catholic holes were tight, secluded hiding spaces where priests and the faithful could run and hide when the Church was outlawed and forbidden from celebrating the Mass in England. Priests, teachers and Catholics could be tortured and imprisoned if found, so celebrating Mass could be met with dire consequences, said Bishop Perry.

“A story unfolded that a group of Catholics were discovered celebrating Mass, and they ran into some of the many holes peppered over the English landscape after being startled by authorities,” he said. “A boy around 10 or 12 was given the Blessed Sacrament and told to protect it. He squeezed into a crevice, suffocated and died. No one came to retrieve him or perhaps they didn’t live to do so. His mummified remains were found — his arms were crossed against his chest and under his arms was an entire ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament inside. He was found over 400 years after he died.”

Over the centuries, similar accounts emerged of Catholics being tortured or dying while protecting the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, such as St. Tarcisius, who lived in fourth century Rome. He was killed by a gang after refusing to surrender the Eucharist. The gang taunted and beat him to death, but St. Tarcisius kept the sacrament close to his heart, even in death.

Christ is a living person and invited us to be in relationship with him, said Bishop Perry. He has been alive from the very first Easter and every Easter since. Our world has never been the same since Jesus died and rose from the dead.

“How we view life, speak and all we do — All those things related to him changed course since the empty tomb was discovered by Mary Magdalene and others,” he said. “When Pope Benedict XVI spoke as a young theologian and described the Eucharist in a lecture, he said, ‘Not only does he speak to us, but he also comes with his body and soul, his flesh and his blood, his divinity and his humanity in order to unite us to himself — to make of us one single body.’”

Bishop Perry encouraged listeners to not see the Mass as a function, but rather as adoration with God.

“Padre Pio was so overwhelmed during Mass that it often took him 30 minutes to get through the consecration due to being in divine ecstasy while holding the Lord in his hands,” he said. “Our faith is not contrary to science. It is a miracle. Something miraculous takes place on the altar. What would you risk to get to what God can do on the altar?”