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/.



Celebrating the Real Presence – Corpus Christi marked with processions

Mary Dwyer quietly wept as she took part in a Corpus Christi procession at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on June 19, 2022, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

“The power of Our Lord, and His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, brings me great comfort,” Dwyer said. “I feel so happy to be able to honor Jesus in this special way.”

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) is a celebration of the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord which is a tradition that dates back centuries and is often marked by a Eucharistic Procession. This year’s celebration fell on Father’s Day.

At Incarnation, the procession began with a flower girl, sprinkling rose petals onto the ground, then the cross bearer, altar servers and a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard ahead of Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor of Incarnation, carrying the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament while it was under a canopy, as the Parish Choir led everyone in song.

The procession made its way from the main church into the Parish courtyard and then into the parking lot, stopping at four temporary altars where Father Scanlan led everyone in prayer and readings from the Gospel. The procession concluded in the Parish Chapel where Father led the Benediction.

Participating in a procession is viewed as an opportunity to reflect on this gift of the Holy Eucharist as the faithful pause at four “stations” for a reading and prayer and then conclude with Benediction. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves how special we are that God should want to nourish us with the body and blood of His Son, and it is an opportunity to thank God for these wonderful gifts.

During the Mass, Father Scanlan reflected on the importance of approaching one’s faith by focusing on the Real Presence – the true body and blood of Christ – that is found in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

“Brothers and sisters, Our God dwells among us,” Father said during the Mass. “He comes to honor us. To strengthen and heal us… But, the Lord can only do so much, unless we open our hearts to Him. We can say Lord, help me to believe; help me to receive You with love and affection; help me to allow you to heal me and to transform me, this heart and soul of mine. He wants so much for us to encounter Him, here today, each one of us. Brothers and sisters, this Great Feast offers us the opportunity to rekindle our love and our wonder and our gratitude of the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He is here. He is here.”

The Corpus Christi celebration, and its associated Eucharistic Processions, which took place at Parishes within the Diocese, also marked the opening of the National Eucharistic Revival. This Eucharistic Revival is an effort by the U.S. Bishops to answer the call of Jesus Christ to return to the source and summit of Our Faith – the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

The Diocesan Year of the National Eucharistic Revival is from June 19, 2022, to June 11, 2023. During the Diocesan Year there will be a series of events and retreats that encourage the renewal of the Church “by rekindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” Please check the Diocese website regularly for the plans for implementing this Revival in the Diocese at  https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/eucharistic-congress-2023/.

Instituted in 1264 by Pope Urban IV, Corpus Christi is also known as the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

The Feast Day is an important affirmation of our belief that Our Lord is really and truly sacramentally present in the form of bread and wine. When Our Lord instituted the Eucharist, He said this IS My Body and this IS My Blood; not this represents or is symbolic of my body and blood. The Sacrament was defined as “an outward sign” of inward grace given to us by Jesus Christ for our sanctification and salvation.

The Feast of Corpus Christi is observed two weeks after Pentecost. The Feast of Pentecost, which was on June 5 this year, is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday, and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.