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OSV’s Jason Shanks named new CEO of National Eucharistic Congress, Inc.

Jason Shanks, newly named CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., is pictured at his Indiana home June 5, 2024. (OSV News photo/Gretchen R. Crowe)

(OSV News) — Jason Shanks, president of the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation, has been named the next CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., the organization implementing key components of the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival.

Shanks has served as the NEC’s president since August 2023 to help the organization prepare for the upcoming five-day National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17-21, as well as the eight-week National Eucharistic Pilgrimage leading up to it, now underway. Prior to that, he served on the NEC board of directors as treasurer.

For Shanks, 48, the position merges professional expertise with a personal passion, and a desire to see the revival’s work continue well beyond the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2022-2025 National Eucharistic Revival initiative.

“I took the role because I feel like God is doing work within me that I need to see through,” he said. “Until 100% of Catholics have a devotion and belief in Jesus in the Eucharist, until parishes are centered on the Eucharistic heart of Jesus, there is work to be done, and I want to be part of it.”

The USCCB launched the National Eucharistic Revival in 2022, prompted in part by a 2019 Pew Research Center survey reporting that only one-third of Catholics believe the church’s teaching that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. In 2022, Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate revisited the topic with a more nuanced survey, and found almost two-thirds of Catholics believe in the Real Presence, but only 17% of Catholic adults attend Mass at least weekly.

For the bishops, the data pointed to a need for both catechesis and conversion among American Catholics. The revival was the brainchild of Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, who was then chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, and the idea took shape with a national congress and pilgrimage under his successor on that committee, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, now chairman of the NEC board.

Shanks grew up an evangelical Christian, and the Eucharist played a pivotal role in his conversion to the Catholic faith while in college. However, his relationship to the Eucharist was significantly deepened in 2021, as he recovered from a life-threatening case of COVID-19. In November 2020, the virus swept through his household, but as the health of his wife and five children improved, his condition worsened, and he struggled to breathe deeply. He ultimately was admitted to a hospital’s ICU, intubated and sedated for 45 days. He experienced significant complications and doctors expected him to die. His family considers his recovery miraculous.

“When I woke up from my COVID sedation, I had a greater understanding of Jesus in the Eucharist and Jesus in the tabernacle, and the self-emptying and nature of Christ in the sacramental nature of bread and wine,” he said. “That’s what moved me to the revival, and I feel this so personally. I feel really connected to what I think is emerging as a movement.”

Since 2017, Shanks has been helping to drive Catholic innovation through the OSV Institute, the philanthropic arm of OSV, an Indiana-based publishing and parish solutions company that seeks to champion the Catholic Church through its service of individuals, parishes and dioceses. OSV is the parent company of OSV News and the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. It is also a primary sponsor of the National Eucharistic Revival.

In 2021, the OSV Institute rebranded as the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation “to cultivate thought leadership, strategic doing, and design thinking to ultimately energize and renew the 21st century Church,” according to a media release announcing the change. The year before, the institute had launched its first-ever OSV Innovation Challenge, a yearlong, grant-based challenge that aimed to recur annually.

Shanks’ work with the institute laid the groundwork for his NEC leadership, he said.

“I’ve spent the last five to six years trying to find new ideas — new, innovative, interesting methods to meet this generation and where they’re at,” Shanks said. “I’ve studied a lot of trends, and I’ve studied a lot of where the church is going. I really think this revival, pilgrimage, (and) congress is sorely needed, and it needs to move forward. That revival doesn’t happen in a three-year timeframe.”

Shanks holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Miami University in Ohio; a certificate in fundraising management from Indiana University in Indianapolis; a master’s degree in theology from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio; and a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Prior to joining OSV, he was founding CEO of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan for the Archdiocese of Detroit from 2012-2017, and the secretariat leader for evangelization and parish life for the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, from 2010-2012. His work experience also includes parish administration, youth ministry, education and camp leadership, as a co-founder and board member of Catholic Youth Summer Camp, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, in 2001.

The NEC has a 13-member staff, and its board of directors includes six bishops: Bishop Cozzens; Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Bishop Gerardo J. Colacicco, auxiliary bishop of New York; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. Nineteen bishops, including five board members, also serve on its bishops advisory group.

Shanks expects the NEC to continue to organize national Eucharistic congresses and pilgrimages beyond 2024.

“This congress is just the beginning,” Shanks said of the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress, the 10th national Eucharistic congress in U.S. history. “This pilgrimage is just a start. Will we have more pilgrimages? Probably yes. Are we already looking to the 11th Eucharistic congress? The answer’s yes. Are we thinking about how do we form Eucharistic missionaries? It seems to me that God is on the move and that revival is upon us, in a certain sense, and this is just the beginning of something interesting and amazing.”

Tim Glemkowski, the NEC’s founding executive director and later CEO, who joined the organization in 2022, announced in March he planned to leave the NEC after the July congress to become the executive director of Amazing Parish, a Catholic nonprofit that supports “healthy leadership teams and organizational health in parish life.”

The NEC board approved Shanks taking the role June 4. In a statement to OSV News, Bishop Cozzens praised Shanks’ new role within the NEC’s leadership.

“The National Eucharistic Congress board is excited to have Jason Shanks as our next CEO,” Bishop Cozzens said June 5. “The experience of Eucharistic revival, the Eucharistic pilgrimages and planning the congress has led our board to believe that the Eucharistic renewal of the church is a movement that has a strong future. We are convinced that Jason Shanks has the leadership skills to bring this movement forward in the church.

“All this is possible because of the dedication and outstanding leadership of Timothy Glemkowski,” Bishop Cozzens continued. He said Glemkowski “helped to build an incredible movement against great odds” to bring about the upcoming 10th National Eucharistic Congress. “It promises to be a moment of great renewal for the church, and we hope to make sure that the 10th congress is not the last.”

Shanks also praised Glemkowski’s leadership of the NEC over the past two years.

“He’s amazing — his sacrifice, his vision, his persistence,” Shanks said. “Talk about a guy who just dropped his nets and said, ‘Let’s go do this,’ when there was nothing there and this was just an idea at the time. He is an entrepreneurs’ entrepreneur, and he has been amazing to steward this.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage has also shown Catholics are eager for large, public expressions of faith, Shanks said.

“What I’m seeing is something that’s very unitive, (and) positive. People from all areas and camps are getting involved, and it almost seems like a new authentic way of how we evangelize is emerging,” he said. “There are a lot of things happening that really excite me about the next level, the next steps — and I have a great team to take it forward.”

Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.

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