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Bishop talks food insecurity as National Eucharistic Pilgrimage stops in Beaumont

Bishop David Toups highlighted the social issue while emphasizing spiritual nourishment and Christian unity ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress.

Bishop David L. Toups, center right, during Adoration at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica in Beaumont, Texas, on June 3, 2024, during a stop of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on its way to Indianapolis. (Briana Jansky)

BEAUMONT, Texas — Catholic young adult pilgrims traveling the Southern arm of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, officially known as the St. Juan Diego Route, recently proceeded through Galveston, Houston, and Corpus Cristi, Texas, before stopping in Beaumont, Texas, on Monday, June 3. It was the last city in Texas to participate in the route, which started in Brownsville and will travel to Louisiana this week. 

The route is one of four paths of the Eucharistic Pilgrimage, featuring pilgrims traveling hundreds of miles to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, which takes place July 17-21. They are joined by local Catholics at several stops along the way.

In Beaumont, the pilgrims took part in several Eucharistic processions, the first starting at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church and ending with Adoration at Cristo Rey Church. Local clergy then led a major procession to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Anthony. As the pilgrims marched through downtown, they prayed the Rosary as onlookers in traffic looked on curiously. 

Hundreds of participants, both pilgrims and local parishioners, poured into the basilica to participate in a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop David Toups of Beaumont—who has recently received honors for his work in growing the Catholic Church in his diocese.

During the livestreamed Mass, Toups spoke on the unifying nature of the Eucharist for the body of Christ, evoking a positive response from Catholics in the pews. The homily was in line with the latest national synthesis report for the Synod on Synodality, which notes that an overwhelming majority of Catholic laity desire greater unity among the clergy and the Church at large. Toups encouraged lay Catholics to be of one mind, and evoked the Eucharistic theology of an African saint who emphasized the theological and ontological unity of the body of Christ under the Lord. 

“At the seminary in Florida where a number of our men study, St. Vincent de Paul, etched in the marble wall above the tabernacle are the words of a sermon of St. Augustine on the Eucharist: Sacramentum pietatis. Signum unitatis. Vinculum caritatis. Oh, Sacrament of devotion. Oh, sign of unity. Oh, bond of charity,” Toups said.

“These words summarize the gift of the Eucharist for each and every one of us.”

Toups also touched on the troubling statistics of earthly sustenance in the region. Food insecurity in Texas is higher than the national average, and African Americans make up nearly half the population in Beaumont. One in five Black people in the U.S. go without enough to eat, and one in three children in Southeast Texas.

“The second worst in the nation is in our backyard! I have just learned this, and it scandalizes and scares me. It happens in our rural counties. It happens in a very particular way in our ethnic communities,” Toups said, closing his homily with a call to action.

“The Lord calls us to feed because we have been fed.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is part of the larger three-year Eucharistic Revival that began in 2022. Its goal is to renew the life of the U.S. Church during a time when statistical reports say a large portion of American Catholics do not believe that Christ is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Year one of the revival focused on revival at the diocesan level. The current year hones in on revival at the parish level. Year three, starting with the National Eucharistic Congress, will be mission-centered and focus on evangelization. 

The National Eucharistic Congress, to take place at Lucas Oil Stadium next month, will have dozens of speakers, including clergy, laity, and other ministers, who will speak on topics including apologetics, marriage, ethics, vocations, and Catholic moral theology.

Briana Jansky is a freelance writer, author, blogger, and host of the Geeks For Jesus podcast.

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