Catholics Called to Love, Unity and Active Service at the 2018 Eucharistic Congress

By Jeff Brumley

Catholics are responsible for sharing Christ in an age and culture both ignorant of and hostile to the values of the gospel. That was the consistent message presented to the 5,000 or more Catholic faithful during the 2018 Eucharistic Congress held March 16-17 at the Prime F. Osborn III Center in Jacksonville.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl delivering homily as part of the 2018 Florida Eucharistic Congress opening Mass at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

Speakers such as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Father Larry Richards, and Peter Herbeck impressed Catholics not to take their religion, and more specifically the Eucharist, for granted. They also reinforced, directly or indirectly, the concept of missionary discipleship championed by Pope Francis.

Christians firmly rooted in the Eucharist cannot help but be transformed and inspired to be positive messengers of the faith, said Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington.

The Mass and Communion are more than a commemoration of a historic figure, the cardinal said. Rather, communicants become participants of the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It’s an experience desperately needed by the “spiritual but not religious,” those who are completely unaware of Catholicism and by those who have had negative experiences in the Church.

A crowd of 5,000 or more faithful from the Diocese of St. Augustine and Orlando gather for the opening Mass with Cardinal Wuerl from Washington. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Don Burk)

Those in relationship with God are called to invite others into God’s family, Cardinal Wuerl said.

“Here Pope Paul tells us, ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses,’” he said. Catholics don’t have far to go to live their Eucharistic faith in this way, he added.

“You don’t have to cross the ocean. They are right next door,” the cardinal said. “So, take that sacred faith and simply share it.”

The Eucharistic Congress was the sixth hosted by the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine. Between speakers, lines swelled outside a room where priests heard confessions. The Adoration chapel was often full.

Friday night featured the live reenactment of the Stations of the Cross presented by Comunita Cenacolo. Mass was held Saturday morning. It was standing-room only in the 5,000-seat auditorium that hosted both events.

Comunita Cenacolo perform the Live Stations of the Cross as part of Friday evening’s opening events. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

The scene itself was an illustration of the theme of the Congress.

“‘Live in My Love’ is a perfect theme because the love of Christ is the core meaning of the Eucharistic mystery,” Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of St. Augustine said in his welcoming remarks.

Out of that love comes redemption through the presence of Jesus’ body, soul, and divinity, he said.

That presence inspires love and unity and active service as demonstrated by Christ himself and by the clergy bringing “healing and reconciliation to hundreds of souls here in this Congress,” Bishop Estévez said. Likewise, the faithful must share that same love with others, he said.

They must be convinced God loves them to do that, said Father Larry Richards, a speaker, bestselling author, and host of programs on EWTN radio and Relevant Radio.

Speaking Friday night, Father Larry urged Catholics to remember that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were sacrifices given on their behalf.

Bishop Felipe Estévez addresses the crowd of more than 4,500 during the Florida Eucharistic Congress. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

“You need healing, power, and energy,” he said. “Go to Jesus – let God love you.”

Kelly Colangelo, director of youth ministry and college life at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Tallahassee, urged hundreds of young people Saturday to use this time in their lives to build a solid foundation of faith.

Hard lessons from poor decisions in junior high and high school taught her that. She finally saw during a youth retreat that God was all around her.

“I had to surround myself with good people” because “God was calling me to greatness,” said Colangelo, who has appeared on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” and contributes to the Life Teen blog.

Peter Herbeck, an author, speaker and television host known around the world for his work in evangelization and Catholic renewal.

“It’s a great time to be a Catholic,” Herbeck said Saturday afternoon.

Father Larry Richards delivers the Friday keynote address. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

That greatness is due to the state of American and world cultures in which abortion, debates over the definition of marriage and gender abound.

That’s precisely the kind of world that needs the light of God’s love. And Catholics, inspired and sustained by the Eucharist, are called to shine that light.

“The gift of the Eucharist” is intended to “equip us and challenge us” to share the faith, Herbeck said.


Click here to download the full text of Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s keynote address