| By Carla Smith | Correspondent

Grant helps Waco Catholic school focus on Eucharistic devotion

It’s estimated 85% of young adult Catholics fall away from the faith in college. That’s an alarming and troubling rate that set Waco’s Bishop Louis Reicher Catholic School into action. Upon hearing this, the school administration and faculty implemented a new schedule that included opportunities for liturgical formation. Not only did the program affect the students, but it also inadvertently led to the awarding of a national grant.

The school was recently named the winner of a $100,000 Eucharistic Revival Grant from The Scanlan Foundation of Houston. Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist Maximillian Marie Garretson, who spearheaded the process for the school, said the school is honored to have been chosen in the national competition.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to The Scanlan Foundation for this remarkable generosity, enabling us to create meaningful and transformative experiences for our students,” she said. “I truly believe this opportunity will breathe life into existing initiatives and curriculum and provide increased opportunities to encounter Christ’s presence.”

The purpose of the grant is to support educational efforts to deepen the appreciation of the Eucharist among high schoolers. It’s something Sister Maximillian Marie has been focused on since her arrival in 2021 as the theology teacher and director of Culture and Mission when she began presenting “Virtual Pilgrimages” to the students to help make their world a little bigger and their faith more real.

“Combining my four years in Rome with Google Earth, the students and I have virtually walked in the footsteps of many saints, visited Eucharistic miracle sites, explored several martyrdom places, and prayed at the tombs of the apostles,” she said. “More than once our ‘pilgrimages’ ended with students longing to see the real things in person.”

In March 2023, Sister Maximillian Marie decided to see if their hopes could become reality. After a few days of prayer, however, she concluded it wasn’t a prudent time for a pilgrimage. But soon after that she received a note with the grant application from the school’s Head of Operations Shirley Jansing.

“The Holy Spirit had other plans,” she said. “Days after packing up my hopes for a pilgrimage, Ms. Jansing and I got to work filling out the paperwork, creating a budget, and crafting a script for the required video. We prayed, wrote, recorded and prayed some more.”

The proposal was submitted, and Sister Maximillian Marie enlisted current sophomores and juniors to pray that it be God’s will that they receive the grant. Even if it wasn’t, sister’s prayer was that the efforts would communicate the importance of the Eucharist and inspire students. Prayers were answered and everyone gave thanks.

Now, through the grant, the school is poised to embark on pilgrimages starting with the entire student body visiting St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station followed by the awarding of six scholarships to attend the National Eucharistic Congress this July in Indiana. Lastly, in January 2025, the classes of 2025 and 2026 will travel to Italy for a Eucharistic Miracles and Saints Pilgrimage. As a result, when the majority of current students graduate, their entire high school experience will have been shaped by the Eucharistic Revival.

“It is truly the work of the Holy Spirit and a true testament to our shared commitment to enhancing the Eucharistic devotion among our students,” Sister Maximillian Marie said. “Perhaps we will begin to see more young people faithfully attending Mass, making chapel visits, and an increased Marian devotion.”

Originally opened in 1954 as Reicher Catholic High School, the school has provided Catholic education for nearly 70 years. In 2019, Reicher merged with St. Louis Catholic School and currently serves nearly 300 students in grades pre-K through 12. The school seeks to provide an exceptional educational experience that encompasses both spiritual growth and academic excellence. It also remains poised to inspire, educate and empower future generations of faith-driven leaders.

“This collaboration signifies more than just financial support,” Sister Maximillian Marie said. “It symbolizes a joint commitment to shaping and nurturing our students’ spiritual and educational journey, all while forming future leaders of faith and integrity.”

Carla Smith has written for the Catholic Spirit since 2016. A long-time Austinite, she and her husband are members of Santa Rosa Parish in Andice. They enjoy spending time with their daughter and their three dogs, as well as fellowship, golf and football.