With an array of well-known speakers, 24 hours of confession, a Vatican international exhibit of eucharistic miracles and talks for teens, the 2014 Eucharistic Congress at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral draws the faithful from around the Diocese of Phoenix.
Theresa Serrano-Keel, one of the organizers of the event, said this is the sixth such congress to be held in the Phoenix Diocese. This year, the congress begins Sept. 15, the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The opening night of the congress features the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary that will be prayed at 5:45 p.m. Serrano-Keel has felt a personal calling over the last couple of years to revive the ancient prayer that recalls the sufferings of the Mother of God. Few Catholics are aware of the practice that began in medieval times of contemplating the dolors or sorrows of the Virgin Mary.
“It’s a beautiful devotion,” Serrano-Keel said. “Any sorrow or obstacle in your life, you can reflect on it and unite it with the Blessed Mother’s sorrow.”
Mother Mary Assumpta Long, OP, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, will speak about the Eucharist and the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin following the 6:30 p.m. Mass.
Steve Ray, a frequent guest on Catholic radio and EWTN television, will address the crowd Sept. 17 about how a Baptist came to believe in the Eucharist. Ray, once an Evangelical Christian, is a well-known convert to the faith who often leads pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
“He is on fire,” Serrano-Keel said. “It’s his own journey and about defending the Eucharist. He goes through the True Presence and how he came to believe in it.”
Liz Salgado, a teacher at St. Mary’s High School, made sure she attended last year’s Eucharistic Conference each evening after work. Salgado admits it’s not easy since she rises each day at 3 a.m. but says she wouldn’t miss the congress for anything.
“It’s worth the sacrifice,” Salgado said. “You will learn more and open your heart more to the Lord and listen to people recognized and endorsed by the Church.”
Making the Mass and the Eucharist the focus of her day, she said, helps her as a teacher. Students are in great need of love, leadership and discipline. A life rich in prayer helps fill that void.
“To me, the Eucharist is everything,” Salgado said. “It’s the center of my life.”
One of the big motivators for Salgado is the line-up of nationally known speakers who teach about the Eucharist each year. Ss. Simon and Jude Parish has worked hard to organize the congress, she said, and it’s free for anyone who would like to attend.
“To end the day learning about and receiving the Eucharist is the best,” Salgado said. “I don’t want to miss it.”
This is the third year that Ss. Simon and Jude will host the Eucharistic Congress. In 2012 and 2013, the congress marked the opening and closing of the Year of Faith. Previous congresses were held at St. Mary Parish in Chandler beginning in 2009.