Diocesan Eucharistic Congress deepens faith, brings joy

4,400 youth and adults brought closer to the Lord

During the span of two days and three unique events, the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress in Fort Myers was a massive success.

An estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated from March 24 to March 25, 2023, at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Luminary Hotel on the Fort Myers riverfront.

Over the span of two days, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated twice (one for youth, one for adults), there were three Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults), and there was a 1,600-person strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers.

Additional high points included inspirational talks in both Spanish and English, live music, and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of our Catholic Faith, and its Sacraments, together.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane called for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress as part of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S Bishops want the National Eucharistic Revival to serve as a reminder that Catholics around the world are raised to be aware of the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Faith.

“What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the main conference on Saturday morning, addressing both the English and Spanish language groups. “Let the Blessed Sacrament guide you, may you go forth in a deeper relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The Eucharistic Congress, with a theme “The Word Became Flesh,” encompassed several parts, including three unique sessions. The first was for 1,300 Diocesan Catholic middle school students; the second was a Youth Rally for 1,500 high-school aged teens (both on March 24); and the showcase event on March 25 was for 1,600 adults which featured special breakout sessions for men and women, and offerings in both English and Spanish.

The response to the Eucharistic Congress was enthusiastic with calls for this type of gathering to become an annual event.

“It was so glorious to be together for Christ,” said Amy Trask of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers. “I can’t stop smiling. Everything was so wonderful!”

The public Eucharistic Procession circled the Luminary Hotel and stretched around the block as people prayed and sang while curious onlookers took photos, videos and asked questions about what was taking place.

“It was so great to be a part of such a public display of our faith,” said Joanne Collins of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. “It gave me goosebumps to be with everyone, accompanied by Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Rosalia Hernandez of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia loved the entire day, from the message of the speakers to the procession and closing Mass.

“Beautiful,” Hernandez said. “I was brought to tears during adoration with everyone silently together in the room coming from the procession and properly honoring Our Lord as He was displayed before us in that beautiful monstrance. I will never forget this day.”

The inspirational talks throughout the Eucharistic Congress were presented by several well-known Catholic speakers with offerings in English and Spanish.

First up on the English track was Father Donald Calloway, MIC, who was a keynote, spoke on “Conversion and the Holy Eucharist,” and then on “St. Joseph and the Eucharist.” Teresa Tomeo focused her talks on “Rediscovering the Eucharist on my Journey,” and on “Becoming a True Daughter of the King by Way of the Eucharist.” Mallory Smith spoke about a “Eucharistic Faith in a Broken World,”

Speaking to both the English and Spanish participants was Hector Molina who focused on “The Eucharist as a Sacrifice, Real Presence, and Holy Communion,” and then “Men of the Eucharist: Taken, Blessed, Broken & Given.”

Also speaking to the Spanish track, was Joel de Loera, who focused on “The Eucharist: Strength and Joy of the Family,” and then “Men as Spiritual Leaders and Defenders of the Faith.” Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig spoke on the topic, “This is My Body Given Up for You,” and then on “Drawing Close to Jesus in the Eucharist: Meditations on Sacred Art.” Meanwhile, Martha Fernandez-Sardina talked about “The Eucharist and the Feminine Genius.”

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially the Most Holy Eucharist.

For additional photos from the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.