HEWITT This Lent, 100 parishioners of Our Lady of Queen of Peace (OLQP) here have been getting ready for Easter by looking back at the spiritual and historical roots of the Eucharist and the Mass in the ancient traditions of the Jewish faith and in the early Christian Church.
These parishioners have been “growing in faith and understanding of Christ’s saving work in the Eucharist, so they can participate in it more fully and live it out in daily life,” as part of a six-part Bible study, “The Eucharist: a Bible Study Guide for Catholics.” They have been meeting on various days, at various times and in various locations for 90-minute sessions, filled with discussion and reflection, said Mary Beth Osiecki, one of the session facilitators and pastoral associate of ministries, outreach and evangelization at OLQP.
“Although not specifically designed for Lent, this series fits well with Lent because it connects the Eucharist with Passover and the Jewish faith. The Eucharist is the core and center of our faith. The more we learn about the Eucharist, the more meaningful it is, when we celebrate Mass. This is new material for most of our participants,” said Osiecki, who noted that OLQP based its series on a book of the same title, written by Father Mitch Pacwa and published by Our Sunday Visitor, which participants are reading. “We have been having discussions that have been enriching people. I have been pleased with their insights,” she said.
By participating, these Catholics are answering God’s call “to do something different this year that will really make a difference in their lives” or learning among many things, why Jesus chose the Jewish feast of Passover to celebrate the first Eucharist, where he got the inspiration for the words that he prayed at the Last Supper or better ways to “live their lives in response to their faith in the Eucharist, to their belief in Jesus’ love for them and to the hope that they have in Jesus Christ,” Osiecki said.
The Bible study began during the week of Ash Wednesday with an enrollment of 100 people — about 25 more than the attendance at the rural Passaic County parish’s previous Bible studies. The six sessions are held in various locations, including at the parish facilities, located here in the Hewitt section of West Milford; at parishioners’ houses; and at Bald Eagle Commons, a local senior retirement community, Osiecki said.
Participants read the chapters and corresponding Bible passages in preparation for each meeting, which allows more time to cover the material and engage in discussion. Guiding the dialogue are facilitators, including Osiecki and Father Jan Wodziak, OLQP’s parochial vicar. Those unable to attend any of the sessions can privately follow along in the book and visit the blog, olqpnj.eucharist.blogspot.com, where Osiecki lists citations for the week’s Bible passages and posts discussion questions to spark online conversation and helpful videos, she said.
They recently discussed and reflected on the fifth chapter of the book that explores the parts of the Mass, which is connected to the Passover Seder. Prayers before Communion call on Christ the Lamb of God, citing John the Baptist in John 1:29: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” Father Pacwa writes in “The Eucharist: a Bible Study Guide for Catholics.”
“This links Isaiah’s Servant, who suffers like a lamb to the triumph of the Lamb over Satan at the wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19:9,” Father Pacwa writes. “Just as the Passover entailed a sacrifice of the lamb before the people could eat their supper, so also is the Mass a re-presentation of Christ’s one sacrifice on the Cross, at the Consecration, that makes possible the Supper of the Lamb in Holy Communion.”
A member a Bible study group at Bald Eagle Commons, Carol Johansson, occasionally facilitates in the absence of its usual facilitator, Marleen Agnish. Johansson said that she has been participating in Bible study at OLQP over the past 24 years.
“The sharing [during sessions about the Eucharist] has been beautiful. I have learned lot. This has been perfect for Lent in preparation for Good Friday. We get to see what Jesus went through [in instituting the Eucharist, suffering on the Cross and his Resurrection],” Johansson said. “I have gotten a greater appreciation of the Eucharist and the Precious Blood of Jesus.”
Also pleased, Father Michael Rodak, OLQP’s pastor, noted that the Bible study on the Eucharist has drawn a positive response, not only in the increased number of participants, but also in their reaction to what they have been learning in these sessions.
“They have enjoyed the material, discussions and the book. They have a positive attitude. They have a greater understanding of the Eucharist and Lent,” Father Rodak said. “We, at Queen of Peace, have a strong commitment to ministries and evangelization — to reach those who come to church and those who are not as involved. Interesting programs like this Bible study ignite interest in both the newcomers and those who always participate,” he said.