WASHINGTON (OSV News) -- A songwriting competition aims to inspire new Catholic music as a part of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Eucharistic Revival initiative.
The Eucharistic Revival Musical Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis, seeks entries from Catholic composers, poets and songwriters for Catholic music, with a particular emphasis on texts that focus on the Eucharist or the church's unity as the body of Christ, according to a Jan. 17 announcement from the USCCB.
"Music has this really unique ability to really capture the heart of the mystery of the Eucharist," Marilyn Santos, associate director of the USCCB's Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, told OSV News.
Throughout the ages, music has been a beautiful way of "expressing our faith," she said.
The people of God have always sung, she said. "If you think back in the Old Testament, David danced and the Israelites sang their praises."
Launched last year, the National Eucharistic Revival is a three-year campaign by the U.S. bishops to increase the Catholic understanding of and devotion to Jesus' real presence in Eucharist. It was prompted by studies showing that only 30-40% of Catholics profess that belief, and that only 15% of Catholics go to Mass every Sunday.
Santos said music can help the faithful carry the mystery of the Eucharist "with us in our hearts and in our heads."
In announcing the contest Jan. 17, the U.S. bishops said they are seeking submissions for hymns and a theme song. A winning submission in each category is expected to be featured at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, as well as at diocesan Eucharistic Revival events. Winning composers will receive a $2,500 cash prize. A $25 entry fee per submission will offset some logistics-related expenses, such as travel costs for volunteer judges, Santos said.
Submissions will be judged on "poetry, musicality, creativity, theological and doctrinal soundness, beauty, appropriateness for liturgical use, and expression of the mission of the Eucharistic Revival (as applicable)," the announcement stated.
They will be considered by a panel of judges, including representatives from Oregon Catholic Press, the Society for Catholic Liturgy, Source and Summit, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, and GIA Publications/World Library Publications.
Tim Glemkowski, executive director of the National Eucharistic Congress, said in a statement that the contest "is just the beginning of a number of initiatives on the horizon for the Revival in 2023 that celebrate the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist."
“Beauty is the mark of a loving God, and we are excited to see creative expressions from talented Catholic artists that embrace the beauty of Christ and give new light, color, and voice to the truths of our faith,” he said.
Submissions are being accepted through April 21, with winners announced June 9. More information, including guidelines and submission instructions, is available at eucharisticcongress.org/musicalcompetition.
Santos told OSV News she hopes the contest might help open doors to Catholics who want to pursue music as a vocation.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful," she said, "to discover these new evangelists who use music as their medium of conveying the message?"