It does not seem like ten years since we celebrated the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of our vibrant and growing Diocese of Palm Beach. Ten years seems to have quickly gone by and October 24th marks our Thirty-fifth Anniversary. The Diocese of Palm Beach came into existence with our territory having been carved from the Archdiocese of Miami and the Diocese of Orlando. We are over 5,000 square miles which include five counties in southern Florida from Sebastian to Boca Raton and from Okeechobee to Palm Beach.
We are still a very young diocese compared to the length of years that so many dioceses have been in existence in the United States. Placed in the context of the history of the Church, which extends for 2,000 years, we are definitely a relatively new portion of the People of God. However, as a diocese we are a particular Church in which the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative. Our birth truly goes back to Pentecost itself and we are an integral part of the history and life of the Church.
Although young, the Diocese of Palm Beach possesses a great deal of wisdom because of the wonderful people who are the faithful here. We experience so much of the universality of the Church because our population reflects well the diversity of people with varied ethnic backgrounds. During the past thirty-five years, not only has the population of our Diocese continued to grow, but also the number of people belonging to different nationalities have done so as well. Our diverse population includes Hispanic, Haitian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Portuguese, Irish, Italian, Polish, French Canadian and even more. We also are a diocese with a large influx of immigrants and migrants and are blessed by their being an essential part of who we are as the people of God in southern Florida. In addition, the Diocese of Palm Beach is home to many from other parts of the country, especially the Northeast, during the winter months. All of our people reflect the nature of the Church and bring a wisdom of experience to the meaning of life and family.
We are also a diocese marked by a contrast in the economic situations of our population. There is no doubt that the Diocese of Palm Beach possesses some areas which are known for their wealth. However, we also possess areas which are far from being known as the wealthiest in the nation. Unfortunately, the name of our Diocese as Palm Beach gives many from outside of it the wrong impression of our 5,000 square miles. I many times encounter this misunderstanding among bishops from other parts of the country who have not visited the Diocese. Sometimes even the residents of the Diocese are unaware of the variance and the need we share as a diocese to support the parishes more in need. No matter what the economic background of our people may be, we are rich in the diversity of people and the faith they exhibit in so many different ways.
The theme that was chosen for the celebration of our Twenty-fifth Anniversary was Twenty-five Years –A Eucharistic People. That same theme applies for this year, Thirty-five Years – A Eucharistic People. It will apply for every year of the life of our Diocese for it is the Eucharist which gives us life and makes us the People of God. The celebration of the Eucharist is what the life of the Church is all about. Our Diocese has been nourished by the Eucharist for thirty-five years. It is from this great gift that our life as a diocese flows and returns. It is the centrality of the Eucharist which makes us one in Christ.
I have been greatly inspired by the faith in the Eucharist which I encounter among the faithful throughout our Diocese. It is a great blessing to have so many parishes that have Eucharistic adoration and center their lives around the celebration of the Eucharist. It was very disconcerting to learn that an alarming recent pew research study maintains that 31% of Catholics surveyed do not believe the Church’s teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The majority of those surveyed believe that the Eucharist is mostly symbolic of Christ. I find it difficult to accept that this is the case among practicing Catholics and, from my experience of the life of faith of the parishes in our Diocese, I know it is not the case. I am grateful for the strong faith that is demonstrated among the people of our Diocese in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. At this time, it is essential for us to continue to be the Eucharistic people that we are and to teach others about the reality of the Eucharist. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a defining element of what the Church is all about.
As we celebrate our Thirty-fifth Anniversary, we give thanks to God for the blessings of our young, vibrant, growing, varied and wise Diocese. We give thanks that our Diocese came into existence through the vision of Pope John Paul II who is now a saint of the Church. We pray that his holiness will be a reminder to all of us to be holy, especially as we center ourselves upon the Eucharist. As a Diocese, we continue to recommit ourselves to the sanctity of life on behalf of every human being made in the image of likeness of God, from conception until natural death. We strive to build up family life and to live the reality that marriage and family life reflect the very nature of God who is love. We continue to promote Catholic school education and to do all we can to encourage vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. We strive to protect the rights of all men and women, especially those on the periphery of society which include the immigrant, the poor, those discriminated against and the disabled. As a Eucharistic people, these are some of the priorities we continue to live and promote as the people of God in this part of southern Florida.
Thirty-five years as a Eucharistic people! That is indeed something to celebrate as we look forward to the future with a great deal of hope and promise. May our Patroness, Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, continue to lead us to her Son as one family at His Eucharistic table.
A Blessed Anniversary!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
October 25, 2019