Special to The Hays Daily News

Rick Binder always knew attending Mass on Sunday was important. His faith told him that. However, it wasn't until he took three youth to a One Bread, One Cup Conference at St. Meinrad Seminary in the summer of 2004 did he fully understand what was taking place at the Catholic Mass.

Now, the Catholic Youth Organization director of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, can't keep the good news to himself. He shares what he has learned with anyone who will listen. This includes giving presentations to his larger CYO group, youth retreats throughout the diocese, presenting classes to catechumens and candidates of the Rite of Christian Initiation, teaching a four-week adult class on the Eucharist, and returning to the same conference each summer at St. Meinrad with a new group of teens.

This is the enthusiasm Bishop Paul Coakley of the Diocese of Salina is hoping for in implementing Stewards of Hope: A Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Salina. This plan will be proclaimed with a Diocesan Assembly in Hays on June 6 as Catholics celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi -- a feast in which Catholics celebrate the importance of the Eucharist which Catholics believe is the sacrament of  the Body and Blood of Christ that Jesus established and entrusted to the Church through his apostles at  the Last Supper. Bishop Coakley wants the faithful to be excited in keeping Sunday holy with the Eucharistic celebration of Mass as the center of their day.

In the fourth century, Christians died because of their desire to celebrate the Eucharist at Mass, something that was considered a capital offense.

"When a group of Christians were arrested and brought before a judge for disregarding this unjust law, these heroic Christians replied, 'Sine dominico non possumus,'" Bishop Coakley said. "This Latin expression has rich meaning: Without the gift of the Lord, we cannot live! Without the Sunday Eucharist, we are powerless! This is the realization that we need to rekindle in our time."

Binder agreed, saying the Eucharist is "the summit of my life."

"I always knew the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ. My faith told me that. But I was blind to seeing Christ in the flesh as I fully should," he said.

Binder said one of his CYO teens, Audrey Polifka, who attended the first conference, said it best as the group was discussing the personal benefits each received on the drive home.

"Each time I receive the Eucharist, I thanked Jesus for my life and the blessings -- both good and difficult in my life. But now I realize that by not going to Mass on Sunday, I deny God of his greatest desire of completing the kingdom of heaven," Binder recalled Polifka saying.

"Her sentence summed up what I was feeling but couldn't say," he said. "Mass on Sunday means that I will have the most intimate encounter with Jesus I can have on earth, and I get a glimpse of what heaven will be like. I'm also nourished to be more Christ-like."

Coakley is hoping section three in part one of the diocesan plan will encourage a greater participation in the Lord's day and Sunday Eucharist.

"Keeping the Lord's day holy expresses our gratitude to the Lord for the gifts he has given us," Coakley said. "Celebrating the Sunday Eucharist at Mass renews our faith by worshiping together, and being fed by the word of God and the Holy Eucharist. It strengthens us for our mission as we return to our daily lives in order to be a light for the world and salt for the earth."

The word and the Eucharist together increase understanding, Binder said.

"It's like walking along the Road to Emmaus. Jesus' followers understood the word as Jesus spoke, but it was only in the breaking of the bread that Jesus fully revealed himself to them.

"For me, that one hour of Mass, well, I just lose a sense of time. It's not long enough."

Binder hopes more people come to realize this unique gift Jesus gives at Mass, and also how people can, in turn, bring their gifts and their struggles to Jesus.

Bishop Coakley agrees.

"If we really understand what the Sunday celebration of Mass means, we too will cry out with those ancient Christian heroes, 'Sine dominico, non possumus!' "