Eucharistic Congress welcomes thousands

RALEIGH - The Diocese of Raleigh held its Eucharistic Congress Oct. 21 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The event, which welcomed about 5,000 people, was the kickoff for a centennial, which will be observed in 2024 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Raleigh in 1924.

For many, the bilingual congress was a day for reflection and deepening connections to the Eucharist. 

The public event, which was free of charge but required registration, began with Morning Prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.

Using live music and reflection, the Vigil Project group from Louisiana started the morning gathering.

“We’re here for one reason, right?” musician and speaker Greg Boudreaux asked those gathered. “It’s for the Lord Jesus Christ, present body, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.”

Brenda Garcia, a youth track speaker and the event’s emcee, further opened the event by briefly discussing the Catholic population in eastern North Carolina, the work of Catholic Charities and the 95 parishes and missions of the diocese.

“We come together from all the corners and deaneries of this diocese,” she said, first in English and then in Spanish.

Bailey Valle was one of 1,400 participants in the youth track, designed for those in grades 6 - 12. She said the opening prayer was “delightful” and that one presenter reminded her and her peers that “God is always blessing us.”

Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama and Father Michael Burbeck, vicar general for the diocese, led the Morning Prayer. During a moment that was poignant to many, Bishop Luis knelt and expressed his gratitude to the participants. He shared that, in their faces, he saw the presence of God.

Three keynote speeches were shared during the day-long congress. One was for adults, another for youth in  and a third for Spanish speakers. Workshops were presented on topics such as “100 Years of Carolina Catholicism.”

Bishop Stephen Parkes of Savannah took the podium for the English-speaking audience, delivering an impactful message on faith and unity. Simultaneously, within the Spanish-speaking community, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio shared an inspiring address.

Bolstered by a dedicated group of about 177 volunteers, the Eucharistic Congress committee, led by Father Scott McCue, worked for months to guarantee the event’s success. The 30-member committee held its first planning meeting in February 2022.

“It has been excellent event, and I have been learning a lot about the Eucharistic,” said Laura Ximenez of St. Eugene Parish in Wendell. “As Catholics we are blessed to experience God in the Eucharist.”

Highlights of the congress included the vocations assembly and reconciliation. About 80 priests, employing six languages, offered the sacrament over the course of more than four hours, according to organizers.

Another highlight of the day was a small, early-morning procession from Sacred Heart Church, the original cathedral for the diocese, to the convention center. While it was not a public event due to logistics, the procession included participants from St. Joseph Parish and Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral Parish. The group was led by Monsignor David Brockman and represented the diocese. 

The day concluded with a Mass, during which Bishop Luis began his homily by asking for a silent moment to remind people to listen for how God is calling them by name.

“We are so honored to be here today. We are so lucky to be here today,” the bishop said. “At the same time, how great is our responsibility looking toward the future?”

He continued by saying that when people live and open themselves to be who they are and to exercise what they received in their baptism, they may begin to listen to God and have humble hearts.


Photos by Greg Mintel.

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