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 | By Father Greg Gerhart | Columnist

Without the Priest, There is No Eucharist

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus promised the apostles that he would remain with us always, even until the end of the age. (Mt 28:20) And 2,000 years later, the church throughout the world continues to cherish his presence in the Eucharist. Nourished by his Body and Blood, we are animated by his life and transformed in love. Day by day, as we grow in holiness, the Eucharist makes us increasingly able to say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

On the same evening that our Lord instituted the Eucharist, he also instituted the priesthood. With the words, “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus enabled and commanded the apostles to offer his Body and Blood. Those same apostles handed down the gift of the priesthood to their successors through the laying on of hands, which has continued from generation to generation to the priests in our parishes today. Through the hands of the priest, Jesus fulfills his promise to each one of us: “Behold, I am with you always.”

Reflecting on the gift of the Eucharist and the priesthood at this point in the year is timely. For the first time in many years, there will be no priestly ordination in the Diocese of Austin in 2023. Jesus desires to remain with us through the Eucharist, and without the priest, there is no Eucharist. His desire to remain with us is so strong that it pangs his Sacred Heart: “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.’” (Mt 9:35-38)

Because we love the Sacred Heart of our Lord, his pang becomes our pang. We, too, long for shepherds after his heart, able to offer his Body and Blood for our salvation. So, in obedience to his command, and especially as we see the number of priestly vocations decrease, we pray. We pray for more vocations to the priesthood so that we won’t have a year without a priestly ordination, so that we won’t be sheep without a shepherd.

Of course, we can pray on our own, but Jesus encourages a coordinated effort: “Amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” (Mt 18:19) 

To coordinate our vocation efforts, the Diocese of Austin will host Rhonda Gruenwald, founder of Vocations Ministry, who will offer a workshop on promoting vocations in the parish. The workshop will be held Nov. 12 at St. William Parish in Round Rock. She will be joined by Leticia Ramirez, sister of Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, California, and mother to two priests, who will offer the workshop in Spanish.

With their guidance, we will together raise a common voice of prayer to the Father and cooperate with his grace by promoting, encouraging and supporting priestly and religious vocations in the diocese. Their workshops have borne the fruit of increased priestly vocations throughout the country, and we invite you to be a part of the same fruitful effort here in Central Texas. May God be glorified to answer our prayers and grant us many shepherds after his own heart.

Father Greg Gerhart, a diocesan priest ordained in 2016, serves as the vocations director for the Diocese of Austin. He can be reached at (512) 949-2405 or Visit for more information about vocations in the Diocese of Austin.