Levi León considers the Eucharist the reason he became a Catholic in the first place.

He grew up Protestant, but as a student at Whittier College, he remarked to a Catholic classmate that the Eucharist seemed to mean a lot.

“She responded, ‘Maybe one day you’ll experience it as well,’ ” León said.

That led him down a path of faith discovery that made him realize that Catholicism was the true way.

“I fell in love with Jesus in the Eucharist,” said León, today a parishioner at St. Mary of the Assumption in Whittier, and a member of its Eucharistic Revival committee.

León will be among the hundreds of LA-area priests, religious sisters, and parishioners from the archdiocese traveling to Indianapolis for the 2024 Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17-21, which organizers expect will draw more than 40,000 pilgrims. There hasn’t been a national Eucharistic Congress in 83 years, the last one being in Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1941 a few months before the Pearl Harbor attack and the U.S. entering World War II.

Parishioners from St. Barnabas, St. Lucy, St. Cyprian, and St. Cornelius churches gathered for a showing of the film “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist” at Regal Edwards theater in Long Beach on June 4. (Image via Facebook @StBarnabasLB)

Indianapolis is also the final destination for the four national pilgrimage routes established as part of the event. Since mid-May, pilgrims have participated in Eucharistic processions along the routes, which began in Texas, Connecticut, Minnesota, and California and are all scheduled to reach Indiana the week of the big event. 

The congress itself will feature exhibits, special liturgies, and sessions led by Catholic speakers including Father Mike Schmitz, Bishop Robert Barron, and “Chosen” actor Jonathan Roumie. “Revival sessions” will end each day at Lucas Oil Stadium, which seats up to 70,000, while other experiences will take place at the nearby Indiana Convention Center. The event will also feature a two-mile Eucharistic procession through the streets of downtown Indianapolis.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has organized a special Mass for local pilgrims at the Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis with Archbishop José H. Gomez. The archbishop will also be leading a Spanish-language Mass at Lucas Oil Stadium July 20.

Vice Chancellor and Senior Director of Ministerial Services for the archdiocese, Father Parker Sandoval, said expectations for what the congress can do for participants — and the country — are high. 

“Revival is something only the Holy Spirit can do,” Sandoval said. “Only God can bring the dead to life, which is what revival literally means. … Jesus wants so much more for his Church here. If we can tap into that more through our participation at that event and be instruments of the Spirit when we return, there’s the reason we’re going.”

Like many other parishes, the three-year Eucharistic Revival that the U.S. bishops launched in 2022 has helped spark a passion at St. Barnabas Church in Long Beach to know Jesus more intimately, said Father Antony Gaspar, the church’s pastor who’s leading a contingent clad in customized T-shirts to Indianapolis.

St. Barnabas has initiated several activities both grand (Eucharistic processions and adoration) and unique (giving free copies of Bishop Barron’s book on the Eucharist during Christmas).

“For me personally it’s important in the lives of the parishioners that the more they connect to the Eucharist, the more joyful they will be and the more they will participate here in the parish,” Gaspar said.

“We’re trying to get our parishioners more activated, inviting people back and being more evangelistic in their faith,” said Brian Sapsky, who’s St. Barnabas’ point person for the Eucharistic Revival. “That’s the important part is trying to get our parishioners back and believe in the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Eucharist.”

Parishioners from Our Lady of Grace Church created an alfombra (carpet) dedicated to the Eucharistic Revival. (Sister Sophia Farkas, SDSH)

The same can be said for St. Mary of the Assumption in Whittier, where things like Eucharistic processions have been having an impact, said its pastor, Father Raymont Medina.

“People nowadays think when they see a bunch of people walking down the streets they must be protesting,” said Medina, who’s traveling to Indiana with a group from his parish. “No, we’re just sharing the love of Christ.

“They’ll ask what are you guys doing? What’s this all about? And there will be people who say, ‘You know what? I need to go back to church. I need to go back to Jesus.’ ”

The archdiocese’s Director of Vocations, Father Peter Saucedo, will be leading a group of more than 20 men — a couple of priests, seminarians, and those who are discerning — on a road trip to Indianapolis starting July 13.

Along the way, they’ll stop at some sites based on historical figures they’ve been learning about, including Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Blessed Father Stanley Rother.

“We thought it would be a good way for the guys to grow in fraternity, in community,” Saucedo said. “Having a familial aspect of the trip and then adding a spiritual dimension to the Eucharistic Congress. We’re kind of on a journey.”

Whatever happens at the Eucharistic Congress, many of those attending hoped to see the fruits of their experience going forward, especially as the Eucharistic Revival enters its Year of Mission where Catholics are invited to share their Eucharistic zeal with the world.

“Be open to the beautiful surprises God has planned,” Sandoval said. “This is not an ordinary trip. Not even a vacation. This is a pilgrimage — or a vacation, if you will, with the Lord. … When you put that many people together for a onetime event, there’s bound to be hiccups, but bound to be even more blessings.”