Eucharistic Congress a visible sign of a thriving Church


PROVIDENCE — The Church is not dead. Not by a long shot. Secular media outlets might make such a claim by pointing toward declining numbers of Catholics in the pews every Sunday, but the Church has gone through trials in the past and the devout have risen to leave their mark on the Church and the world.
The Church itself was born in fire. After Jesus rose from the dead, His apostles faced persecution, prison and even death, yet could not remain quiet about the truths they had witnessed. In Acts of the Apostles, as the leader of the Church, Peter said “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” The treatment the early disciples faced is one of the proofs of Christ’s existence and salvific nature. No one would die – and in such brutal ways – for a lie.
Modern Catholics are still called to stand for Christ. Attending the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 17-21 provides such an opportunity, both for sacrifice and a moment to serve as a visible sign of the Church’s vibrancy and relevance in a world gone crazy.
The Diocese of Providence has arranged a bus pilgrimage to take 150 people to the Congress. As with many of his brother bishops, Bishop Richard G. Henning will be in attendance for the five-day event. There are still spaces available for this historic trip in three different room occupancy rates.
One of the diocese’s goals is to have representation from every corner of the state. Westerly marks the farthest southwest point in the Diocese of Providence. Dylan Roche, 29, is one of two parishioners asked by Father Michael Najim, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, to attend the Congress. Roche reverted to the faith more than three years ago and is now active in his parish, but it was only recently that his relationship with God deepened.
“Over the last 12 months, I started going to Mass every day because it’s like I can’t miss it. To know He’s truly there is actually astounding,” Roche remarked.
Though he had been faithfully attending weekly Mass, somewhere over the course of the last year, he confessed that “something switched” inside and “I could just feel His presence there and it was something I needed to rely on.” A 5 a.m. commute to his job in New York doesn’t deter the young man, who knows the importance of “going out of your way to actually spend time with the Lord. Even if you don’t feel like it, even if it’s hard, you just do it because that’s what you’ve got to do.”
His presence in Indianapolis, added to the thousands of other Catholics, attests to the Real Presence of Jesus “in every tabernacle, in every Mass; He’s really there,” Roche stated fervently.
“That’s what I’m most excited for at the Congress – just to go and be in a stadium with tens of thousands of people who are all worshipping the Lord, who is really present. I think that’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And the Eucharistic procession planned through the heart of downtown Indianapolis, centrally located for half of the U.S.’s population, is a huge draw for him as well.
“I think it’s going to be a big countrywide witness for a Catholic society that seems to really need it right now.”
A great witness opens the weeklong event: pilgrims in four Eucharistic processions, beginning at or near the four borders of the continental United States, will bring Jesus to Indianapolis, journeying through major metropolises, from the New York City borough of Manhattan to Washington, D.C., to St. Louis to San Francisco. There is something astonishing and overwhelming about the image of the Blessed Sacrament being carried over the Rocky Mountains, through the Gateway Arch or rural towns across the country.
Diocese of Providence pilgrimage organizer Paige Bertuch marveled at the beauty of these processions, including the one at the Congress.
“We’re all here, standing behind Christ in the Eucharist,” she said.
She reported that it is now even easier to attend, as the diocese is supporting each pilgrim by generously covering the attendance ticket cost, taking $300 off the pilgrimage price.
“What makes our diocese so special is that it covers the entire state,” she said. And the more people who attend, the greater footprint the state makes.
With all the discontent and darkness in the world, taking a stand for Christ has become more important than ever.
“We as Catholics in such a stage have a choice to make,” Bertuch continued. “We can choose to go through the motions or choose to be our mission.”
Attending the Congress can increase reverence toward and conversations about the Eucharist, “the most important thing in our lives.”
Melissa DiFonzo comes to Indianapolis from the exact opposite side of the diocese as Roche. As the religious education coordinator at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Cumberland, she explained that she constantly seeks “new and exciting ways to evangelize the families and the young adults in our parish and help them understand the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”
To help ignite that spark of understanding, she and her husband host a monthly evening of adoration with praise and worship music at their parish. This year, she has asked Father Fernando P. Cabral to host a Eucharistic procession in the summer so that parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima can “go out into the streets and bring Jesus to the people.”
The DiFonzos had already planned to attend the Congress – had even booked their hotel – before she decided to check if the diocese was sending a contingent to the event. Rather than go alone, she reached out to Bertuch to make arrangements to attend with the group.
“We’re excited to take this adventure with other people from the diocese.”
Having attended Steubenville retreats in the past, DiFonzo sees this as “another mountaintop experience.”
“When you get in that kind of environment, it’s like a little slice of heaven.”
She believes that seeing the combined witness of roughly 80,000 Catholics gathered in one place to worship, to learn and to grow in faith, “will be a shot in the arm for us that we’re not alone.”
To register for the pilgrimage, go to