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Catholics ready to show love of Eucharist

Blessed Sacrament in procession

NORTH PALM BEACH  |  While pilgrims from throughout the United States walk four routes with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, destined for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, July 17-21, groups and individuals in the Diocese of Palm Beach are getting ready to join in the celebration. 

The motivations of those planning to make the journey to Indiana vary slightly, but they all profess a deep love for God and a desire to gather with other Catholics around the Real Presence of Jesus.

Deanna Bartalini, who is going to the congress with her husband, Deacon John Bartalini, who serves at St. Peter in Jupiter, said, “I love the idea of celebrating the Eucharist, which is central to my faith. Without it, there would be a lack in my life. I love learning, and there are many great Catholic speakers to look forward to hearing at the event.”

The Bartalinis will stay in Indianapolis with a group of pilgrims, led by Kate Devine, director of religious education at St. Paul of the Cross in North Palm Beach. Retired Father Dan Devore, who lives at the parish, is going with the contingent of 12, which will stay July 16-22 at an Airbnb house fairly close to Lucas Oil Stadium, the main venue for the Eucharistic Congress.

Another member of the group, Cindy Ozog of St. Paul of the Cross, said she will attend the congress “because I think it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Also, this congress sounds, and will most likely be, very special in many ways. I hope to gain friends, learn more about my faith, and have more confidence to go out and be a disciple and apostle.” 

Devine, who teaches at the parish and tries to foster belief in the Real Presence, said she is excited to hear inspiring and popular Catholic speakers at the Eucharistic event. “This is an opportunity in the United States to go and let your Catholic show. So why wouldn’t you? That was my emphasis on going,” she said.

The congress will be split into morning, afternoon and evening sessions, Devine said. The people in her group have signed up for different sessions, so they’ll be using their rented 15-passenger van to get back and forth to their residence.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to come home for dinner or go out for dinner or something before the night session,” she said. “The night session starts at 7:30 until 10. It sounds like the night sessions are going to be a little bit like the Steubenville conferences (presented by Franciscan University). Like there’s big music names coming in, a keynote speaker. It sounds like it’s going to be kind of a powerful evening.” 

Ozog, who is a dedicated music ministry singer at St. Paul of the Cross, said she hopes to have a chance to talk with contemporary Christian singer-musician Matt Maher, whom she met a long time ago in Arizona when he was a Life Teen ministry leader. “I really think the event will be amazing and fulfilling, and I am so grateful to be a part of something so big,” she said. “I really wish I could have sung with my husband (he plays the guitar) at some small event or even at break. We love giving back using our God-given gift of music.”

Jonathan and Alissa Morel of the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola are going to the National Eucharistic Congress with their three children: Alexander, 18; Lily, 17; and Genevieve, 16. They’ll stay in rooms reserved last year at a downtown Indianapolis hotel.

Asked what the Eucharist means to them, they said, “It is God’s only real presence here on earth — it means he is still with us. As Communion, it is the most intimate physical connection with God possible that we can experience. It is a legitimate miracle that takes place before our very eyes every time we participate in Mass. It is the essential sustenance for our souls, akin to food and water for our bodies.”

Alissa recalled attending a large Mass at New York’s Yankee Stadium as a teenager, with Cardinal John O’Connor as the main celebrant. “That shared experience of prayer and periods of silence was extremely moving and has remained with me to this day. We hope our kids have a similar experience and that it becomes a catalyst for a life well lived,” she said.

The Morels, young and old, are anticipating a boost in their love for and understanding of the Eucharist, thanks to wise Catholic speakers at the congress. 

“For us specifically, as the first of our children heads off to college this fall, we know that they are about to be thrown right into the thick of the most intense spiritual battle they have ever encountered,” the parents said. “We hope that, armed with the love for and strength of the Eucharist, they will not only prevail in this environment but thrive.”

With about 50,000 pilgrims from across the country expected at the Eucharistic event, all sorts of snafus are bound to happen. But Devine said she has no concerns about the trip. 

“I know that we’re meant to do this,” she said. “I’m just excited. I think it’s going to be great. I try to go in with no expectations because then you’re just in awe. We pretty much live to find the small joys.”

For information about the National Eucharistic Congress, visit Attendees are invited to stay connected to the Diocese of Palm Beach through Facebook at The Florida Catholic is planning a follow-up article with groups and individuals going to the event. Contact William Cone at