After the cancelation of last year’s congress due to COVID-19 safety concerns, more than a thousand Catholics flocked to the 2021 Florida Eucharistic Congress on Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5. This year, the event was made more accessible to people on the western side of the diocese, with the first night kicking off at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Gainesville, followed by a packed schedule on Saturday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jacksonville. The theme for this year was “This is My Body” from Luke 22:19.
On Friday and Saturday, Father John Riccardo, podcast and radio host and founder of ACTS XXIX, gave a stirring keynote talk on Jesus’ mission for us.
“What does Jesus send us out to do when we leave Mass?” he asked. The answer was simple, yet powerful.
“You are not alive by chance. God chose us to be alive right now with everything happening around us in the church, in our country, in the world. And he wants to use us,” said Father John. “You were born for this moment in God’s mysterious providence, and he’s blessed you with gifts, natural and supernatural, to accomplish his desire to get his world back, to get his children back, to be a means to rescue other people. We can either build walls around ourselves… or we can engage.”
Bishop Emeritus Robert Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham was the principal celebrant for both days of the congress, with Bishop Felipe Estévez delivering the homily on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist is all about charity,” he said. “All have a right to partake in the Body of Christ.”
Sister María Teresa Redó Matamoros, novice mistress of the Continental Novitiate for Latin America of the Society of St. Teresa of Jesus, spoke at the Spanish track on both days of the Eucharistic Congress, focusing on the passage, “Do this in memory of me,” from 1 Corinthians 11:24 and how it relates to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
On Saturday, Catholic convert Steve Ray, author, producer, founder of Defenders of the Catholic Faith kicked off the English track with a talk that dove deep into the oft-neglected Old Testament and how it is essential to our Catholic faith. Lisa Brenninkmeyer, St. Augustine local and founder of Walking with Purpose, encouraged Catholics in America to “wake up” to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist during these times of uncertainty, despair and injustice. Meanwhile, Mike Buckler, associate director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, inspired young people at the youth track with icebreakers and a talk that unpacked the significance of the various parts of the Mass.
To conclude festivities, Bishop Estévez announced the theme for the 2022 Florida Eucharistic Congress – “So That They May All Be One” – for which the date will be announced at a later time. Stay tuned on our social media channels and diocesan website for more details on next year’s congress.