By Elena Castello

The No Greater Love Festival was held in St. Augustine, at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios, March 4. The arts and music festival honored the martyrs of La Florida, Antonio Cuipa and companions, and benefitted the Knights of Columbus’ “Christians at Risk” initiative.

Festival coordinator, Mary Catherine Damon, poses with Bishop Felipe Estévez inside the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. (Photo: Royce Abela)

The family-friendly event included activities for children, including a treasure hunt, food trucks and other vendors. More than 400 people attended.

“It was such a great opportunity to volunteer at the festival,” said Katie Mullaney, a junior high school student. “God’s love radiates through us all, and being able to share that with others is the greatest gift we can give,” she said.

There were more than 50 volunteers who checked in guests, helped guide attendees and participated in the Living History. It recounted the story of the martyrs, and the different stations showed an actor or actress giving a perspective of the Servants of God.

Blake Britton, who served as emcee for the festival, said the event was especially close to his heart, as he is a native Floridian – from the same area where the martyrs shed their blood.

“I realized that their story is the key and the inspiration for the new springtime in our province of Florida,” he said.

There was adoration, reconciliation, and the showing of a documentary, “Our Last Stand,” for those who wanted to delve deeper into the weekend. The Comunita Cenacolo performed The Mask Dance, a tribute to woman’s struggles and the strength to overcome them – with Mary as their model.

Later that evening, people gathered in front of the stage to listen to presentations by Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of the National Review Online; Andrew Walther, vice president of Communications and Strategic Planning of the Knights of Columbus; and Dr. Mary Soha, vice-postulator of the cause for canonization for the Servants of God of La Florida.

Then, Colleen Nixon took the stage and performed, followed by Audrey Assad. Florida weather caused a break in the show, and it was moved inside the new chapel, where Assad finished her beautiful performance.

Mary Catherine Damon, director of the festival, said hearing of the persecuted Christians moved her heart with empathy for them. At the same time, the canonization movement picked up for the martyrs in Florida, and through the GIVEN forum, Damon was able to put it all together.

“Our ultimate goal,” she said, “was to introduce people to the Servants of God of La Florida and educate them about the persecuted Church in the Middle East. I think we’ve begun to accomplish those goals.”