By Tonia Borsellino
Fiat. The word resonated through the halls of Bishop Kenny High School on Saturday, Nov. 21, in Jacksonville as more than 500 people attended the Fiat Festival.
Inspired by the Virgin Mary’s “yes” (fiat) to God in Luke 1:38 – “Let it be done unto me according to thy word” – the festival was held to honor priests and religious for this Year of Consecrated Life.
The day included Mass, breakout talks, Eucharistic adoration, reconciliation and a “Boys vs. Religious” basketball game.
“We were trying to think of something to do to help the youth realize that God has a plan for them and they have to be open to it, to whatever it is,” said Servant Sister Emma Maria of the Eucharist.
Sister Emma Maria, along with the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in Jacksonville, said they coordinated the festival and have been planning it since last year.
Christina Roldan, a sophomore at Jacksonville University, attended the event with her friends. “Just getting to know the brothers and sisters,” she said was her favorite part of the event. “This is a one-time experience. It’s awesome.”
Father David Ruchinski, vocations director for the Diocese of St. Augustine, recognized the Sisters of St. Joseph for their 150 years of service and thanked the more than eight orders that attended.
Religious communities from all over the country came to serve as witnesses to the high school and college students. Some of the religious in attendance included the Sisters of Life, Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, and the Dominicans of St. Cecilia.
“I’ve never met a brother,” said Roldan. “I’ve met many sisters but I’ve never actually met a brother before, and it’s been really cool to actually meet some.”
Dominican Father Charles Johnson explained, “It’s uplifting and powerful to see so many young people come here, not only to talk about religious life, but to participate in the Eucharist and to adore Jesus.”
In the evening following the Fiat Festival, families gathered for the “Ignite the Fire” event, where priests and religious shared their talents. Some recited spoken word poetry while others played instruments and others even juggled with fire.
“You have to put on events like this,” said Father Johnson, “and lo and behold, not only do you have to take the risk, but you find out there are many people who are really interested in religious life.”
Father Johnson said he initially did not think he would make it, as he was visiting various universities in the south. But the more he found out about it, he said, the more effort he made to come, and “thanks be to God,” it all worked out for the weekend.
“The event today was incredible,” Father Johnson said “I was really impressed by the number of young people who were here and the level of sincere interest in religious life.”
Sister Emma Maria said everyone was asking when they were going to do it again. Though the Fiat Festival was intended to be a one-time event, her response was, “if the Bishops asks us to do it, we will.”
Tonia Borsellino is a broadcasting media student at the University of Florida and a correspondent for the St. Augustine Catholic magazine.