CHICAGO (CNS) — A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that a majority of Catholics in the United States do not believe that the bread and wine used at Mass become the body and blood of Christ.

Joe Boland, Catholic Extension’s vice president of mission, who travels weekly for the Chicago-based fundraising organization, found the study to be troubling, given that the Catholic tradition describes the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life,” he said.

In a reflection written in response to the study and posted on the Extension website, Boland noted that the story of St. Thomas the Apostle, who disbelieved the resurrection until he could physically examine the wounds of Christ, “is a timeless reminder that doubt is a common precursor to faith.”


Boland described what he has seen on the peripheries of society, where he travels to visit poor faith communities being supported by Catholic Extension. He called them “modern-day eucharistic miracles where doubt can often lead to new faith.”

One example involved a recent visit to rural Mississippi to meet with Guatemalan immigrant families, all of whom had been impacted by the largest statewide raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in U.S. history in August.

He described meeting a breastfeeding mother who was separated from her children for more than a month after being swept up by ICE in the chicken processing plant where she worked. Every day while in detention, she gathered together with her cellmates and asked God that, if it be his will, he may allow her to see her children again, including her infant, struggling to eat in her absence.

This and other examples illustrate the gratitude of the faithful during times of unimaginable hardship, Boland wrote.

He said it was worth noting that the Greek root for the word Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” saying, “I’ve also heard it said that the Eucharist is the Catholic equivalent of our ‘Thanksgiving dinner,’ where we come to the table with hearts of gratitude.”


Boland planned to return to Mississippi Dec. 20 for a pastoral visit by newly elevated Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri, the bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. His visit will be sponsored by Catholic Extension. The cardinal will travel to parishes hit hardest by the raids to comfort impacted families.

Boland concluded that what he has witnessed represents the “potency of the Eucharist” and its ability to strengthen the faithful as a sacrament of thanksgiving.

The full text of his reflection can be found online at

Catholic Extension raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. It has been supporting the work and ministries of these mission dioceses since its founding in 1905.