By Detroit Catholic | OSV News
DETROIT (OSV News) — For the past 10 months, hundreds of Catholics across the Archdiocese of Detroit and beyond have shared their stories of Eucharistic fervor, inspiration and transformation as part of the archdiocese’s I AM HERE campaign to encourage devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The campaign, launched in June 2022 as part of the U.S. bishops’ three-year National Eucharistic Revival, aims to inspire Catholics and others to share their testimonials as a way of inspiring others to consider spending an hour with Christ in adoration, meditating on his presence and inviting others to do the same.
On April 10, Easter Monday, a new voice was added to the campaign’s trove of testimonials: Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s.
The archbishop shared his early memories of encountering Jesus’ presence as a child, how insights gained during adoration saved his vocation as a seminarian, and how, even today, Jesus continues to sustain his ministry as chief shepherd of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
“I went to a small Catholic school and we had, as our teachers, the Sisters of Saint Joseph from Nazareth, and they were very attentive to share with us their own Eucharistic faith, their own Eucharistic devotion,” the archbishop said.
From a young age, Archbishop Vigneron said he shared his parents’ belief in the Real Presence, learning “to be reverent in church and to know that God is present and really important.”
As a student at Immaculate Conception Grade School in Anchorville, the archbishop recalled the example of Sr. Magdalena, his first- and second-grade teacher, and Sr. Jane Frances, who was in charge of the altar servers, with instilling in him “what a privilege it is to serve at Mass” and to receive holy Communion.
“When I was 6 years old, in the lectionary for Holy Week, there was the reading of the Passion. I remember Sister telling us that if we didn’t move during the whole reading, we would have special graces. (I’m sure she was concerned about how fidgety 25 6-year-olds might get!),” Archbishop Vigneron said. “I remember striving very hard to remain very still for the seemingly infinite amount of time that it took for Father to read the Passion in Latin. That was one way I was taught reverence for the sacred liturgy and made aware of God’s presence in it.”
That reverence for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist served the future archbishop well later in his life, especially during his crucial priestly formation years at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, when doubts about his vocation began to creep in.
As a 20-year-old sophomore, Archbishop Vigneron recalled praying one night in the seminary’s chapel, worried he might not be called to the priesthood after all.
“I was coming very close to leaving the seminary. I was thinking that perhaps I wasn’t called. I was also perhaps a bit afraid about what the future would hold,” the archbishop said. “I remember being in that chapel and receiving an insight that I was being a coward by thinking of leaving — that it wasn’t about being called somewhere else, but it was about escaping what I really understood would be the challenges that the church would face.
“I realized that that’s not the kind of disciple, that’s not the man I wanted to be. And so I made a commitment to stay,” the archbishop continued. “That’s one of the most powerful prayer experiences I’ve had in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s something I often return to in prayer, to ask to be renewed in that commitment, to try and be generous, and to try and have fortitude as a disciple.”
Even now, as chief shepherd of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Vigneron, 74, said it’s the Eucharist that continues to sustain, strengthen and embolden him to preach the good news to the flock he’s entrusted to serve.
“It is when I celebrate the Eucharist that I am very mindful that my ministry doesn’t depend on me. The Eucharist is a reminder that I don’t offer myself to the people that I serve, and that Christ is always there through my ministry,” he said.
During the preface of the Eucharistic prayer during Mass, Archbishop Vigneron said it’s struck him lately that the church’s prayer “It is right and just, always and everywhere, to give God thanks” is a reminder that there is no one, no place, and no time that Christ can’t reach.
“And so that means that every time, every place in the world can be sacred, can be taken away from the realm of the Devil, from the realm of sin and be transformed,” he said.
Archbishop Vigneron said he prays that those who consider themselves disciples of Christ would find a new appreciation for Eucharistic adoration — even if that means just sitting in silence, face to face with the Lord.
“For me, one of the most important ways to be engaged in Eucharistic adoration is to sit down and be quiet. I don’t have to say a lot. In fact, the less I say, the better. And to recognize that I am loved,” the archbishop said. “The Blessed Sacrament is the sacrament of Christ’s unconditional love for us. And I’m invited to love him in return.”
NOTES: In addition to written testimonials shared weekly on the I AM HERE website, https://www.iamhere.org, and Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/iamhere.campaign, the campaign also features a podcast, reflections and prayer guides through a partnership with the Hallow app, and original testimonials and resources in Spanish. Catholics from the Archdiocese of Detroit and other dioceses are invited to share their own testimonials, which are published regularly. The campaign has partnered with parishes during Advent and Lent to promote special I AM HERE Holy Hours, and encourages parishes to host their own Holy Hours.