by Tonia Borsellino
Catholic Rock Stars, as Chris Stefanick would say, roamed the Prime F. Osborne III Convention Center in Jacksonville, the night of March 11.
The International Catholic Speaker joined Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, host of EWTN Live; Mother Maria de Fatima, a Servant of the Blessed Sacrament; and Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, to speak at the Young Adult session for the 2016 Eucharistic Congress.
“I love Jesus,” Stefanick said, “and I want to make him loved.”
As part of Stefanick’s personal mission to share God’s love with others, he told the room full of young adults that there is, “no better news than what we have here as Catholics.”
The Catholic Gators Music Ministry filled the room with praise and worship music. Bishop Estévez led the young adults in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and with Easter around the corner, he said, “evangelization is for proclaiming the paschal mystery.”
Due to flight complications, Leah Darrow, a Catholic Speaker and former America’s Next Top Model Contestant, was unable to make her Friday night talk.
Father Richard Pagano, parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Palm Coast and emcee of the Young Adult session, instead introduced Mother Maria de Fatima and Father Mitch Pacwa. The two approached God’s paschal mystery and renewal of hearts in an intellectual and personal way.
After Father Pacwa joked and apologized for not being a “Ferrari” like Leah Darrow, he dove into how Easter is the most important feast of the year with a deep, historical analysis. Father Pacwa brought out aspects that connected what Christ did in the Old Testament.
The Jesuit priest said, “The most important day for the Jews was Yom Kippur. It was the day of being covered. When they offered a series of sacrifices, on the Day of Atonement, your sins were covered by the blood of the sacrifices.”
We can think about how they prepared for the celebration and think about Holy Week in the same light, he said.
Mother Fatima then stood before the young adults and spoke on the theme of the congress: “Renew Your Heart.”
“Love is what renews our hearts,” she said.
According to Mother Fatima, people must spend time with him in order for this to occur.
“You have to let Jesus do his want,” she said. “You have to approach him, you have to spend time with him, you decide.”
Then, Chris Stefanick came to the stage, changed up his plans and asked the young adults to choose whether they wanted a question and answer session or another talk.
The young adults lit up, excited to have their answers questioned by the joyful and comedic, guitar-playing speaker.
In the course of an hour, Stefanick answered questions about topics like moral relativism; the view that truth is relative to what each person believes, and what to make of the upcoming presidential election.
“I vote for Jesus,” he said, “I think God is shaking us free from allegiance to political parties.”
Catholics, Stefanick said, don’t fit in a political party because, “our center is Jesus.”
He also told the young adults that the number one way to be a witness to God is, “to be authentic to your core.”
Using words, sharing joy and “sometimes saying the awkward,” or the truth that makes others uncomfortable, helps with being a witness, he said.
Stefanick suggested that the difficulties one finds in discussing the faith with others are because God, “wants us to grapple with the hard question, to pray for the person.”
Gabriela Hernandez, a parishioner at Our Lady Star of the Sea, in Ponte Vedra Beach was chosen by Stefanick to ask her question.
“It was a blessing to be listened to,” Hernandez said. “Most of the time you think about asking out loud and this, I just raised my hand and he called on me.”
Stefanick led the entire room in a Hail Mary prayer for Hernandez’s friend and made everyone laugh as he said, “that’s like two rosaries instantly.”
Like many other young adults who attended the talks, Hernandez said she felt renewed.
“All the talks were great,” she said, “God always seems to give me what I need.”
The following day, the speakers gave keynote talks for the general and teen sessions of the two-day Eucharistic Congress that more than 5,500 people attended.