Visitors to iamhere.org encouraged to sign up for Advent Challenge, 'a simple and practical way to prepare for Christmas'
DETROIT — Drivers and pedestrians traveling down Fort Street toward Cass Avenue in downtown Detroit this December are being given a timely message: "You are not alone."
It’s a busy intersection, so that’s usually true in a literal sense.
But this Advent, the Archdiocese of Detroit also wants people know they aren’t spiritually alone, no matter how isolating post-pandemic, 21st century life might seem.
As part of the archdiocese’s I AM HERE campaign, an immersive initiative designed to encourage Catholics and others to discover Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, a new billboard towers over the downtown intersection near the Detroit People Mover to remind passersby of this simple, comforting fact.
The billboard features black-and-white photos of three individuals highlighted in the campaign, but doesn’t give away that its central message is about Jesus. That’s what visitors to the website, iamhere.org, will discover, said Leah Butalid, project coordinator for the I AM HERE campaign in the Archdiocese of Detroit’s communications department.
“We wanted something that doesn’t necessarily give away too much, but hopefully creates enough intrigue to get someone to visit the website,” Butalid told Detroit Catholic. “We were excited to get a billboard downtown during the holidays, knowing so many people will be coming in and out of town who wouldn’t ordinarily be downtown.”
The billboard went up Nov. 14 and will remain until mid-December, Butalid said.
The I AM HERE campaign, which began in June 2022, is a response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which seeks to spark devotion to the Blessed Sacrament amid reports of waning belief among Catholics. The I AM HERE campaign features hundreds of testimonials about the power of the Eucharist in people’s lives through written stories, photos, videos and podcasts, as well as guided reflections and meditations in partnership with the Hallow app.
The website also includes opportunities for Eucharistic adoration in the Detroit area.
During the holidays, visitors are encouraged to sign up for the I AM HERE Advent Challenge, during which participants will receive daily text messages with inspirational articles, videos and quotes about the Eucharist, as well as a short daily prayer challenge.
“(The challenge) is a really simple and practical way to prepare for Christmas,” Butalid said. “Throughout the season, we will focus on reflecting and praying with the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and how spending time with him prepares us to celebrate his incarnation at Christmas.”
The messages will include Scripture passages to pray with, wise words from the saints, videos and articles that “highlight what it means that we have a God who would come and be with us,” Butalid said.
More than a dozen parishes will host special I AM HERE holy hours throughout Advent, offering special opportunities to sit with Jesus in worship and silence, Butalid added.
“Hopefully, when we show up to Christmas Mass, we will have a renewed sense of what it means to be with Jesus, who came to be with us at his birth,” she said.
The I AM HERE campaign has been wildly successful in its first year, with “dozens and dozens of incredible stories” of people’s “lives being changed because of Jesus in the Eucharist,” Butalid said. Stories have come from all over the Archdiocese of Detroit and beyond.
Anyone with a devotion to the Eucharist should consider sharing their story via iamhere.org/submit, Butalid said, in order to encourage others to discover what a treasure the Blessed Sacrament truly is.
“People might think, ‘I have a devotion, but I don’t have a story,’ but I would beg to differ,” Butalid said. “If you are making time to go and spend time with Jesus in adoration or making it a priority to attend daily Mass, there’s a reason for that. Your life is being impacted by the Eucharist, so tell us about it for the sake of leading others into that same experience.”
The goal of this year’s Advent challenge is ultimately to encourage people — Catholic or not — to discover God’s peace and presence amidst the bustle of the season, Butalid said.
“That’s why these stories are here,” Butalid said. “They’re not just for fun or because we like them. It’s because when we hear other people’s stories of true encounter and transformation, it affects us. So I would encourage anyone, even if they don’t think they have a story, to consider that a little more deeply and to share it.”
Sign up for the I AM HERE Advent Challenge
To sign up for the I AM HERE Advent Challenge and receive daily text messages with Scripture verses, inspirational wisdom from the saints, articles and videos about Jesus' presence in the Eucharist, visit iamhere.org/advent.
Liturgy and devotions Christmas