Today, August 31st, is the last day that you can register for our Diocese of Knoxville 25th Anniversary Eucharistic Congress, scheduled for the Sevierville Convention Center on September 13th and 14th. If you’ve looked at the calendar you know that the reason today is the last day is because the Congress is just two weeks away. A lot of people in our diocese, from Bishop Stika to our chancery staff to our priests, deacons, parish staff, and laypeople are both excited and nervous at the same time, I am sure. Everyone wants this to be as perfect as our lineup of speakers, musicians, and events is scheduled to be. The Eucharistic Congress marks the beginning of the Diocese of Knoxville’s 25th Anniversary Jubilee, and it is likely the biggest Catholic event that East Tennessee has ever known. Any one of our speakers could be the headliner at any eucharistic congress or Catholic conference anywhere in the country, but we are blessed that they are all coming to the Diocese of Knoxville. The “keynote speaker” is New York Archbishop and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Timothy Cardinal Dolan. It is well-known among those in our diocese who follow the affairs of the chancery as best they can that Bishop Stika and Cardinal Dolan, both being from St. Louis, know one another and that this is likely one of the reasons we were able to bring Cardinal Dolan to Knoxville. His Eminence is, we are compelled to admit, one of the most photogenic and media-savvy episcopal leaders in the Church in recent memory, and he is a gifted speaker. All of that makes Cardinal Dolan a “draw,” of course, but what really makes having him with us special is that his speeches, media appearances, and writing show he is able to be both zealous and pastoral in his defense of Catholic teaching. Whatever he has to say in his address, we can be certain that it will enrich our faith. As has been pointed out in previous posts, biblical scholar, Franciscan University of Steubenville professor, and St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology founder Dr. Scott Hahn will be joining us both for an adult “break out” session and a session with young people. Father Robert Barron’s presence could headline this event and no one would be at all surprised, as his ministry at Word On Fire is setting a new generation on fire for Christ by witnessing effectively for the Gospel in the secular media.
The most important reason for being at our Knoxville Eucharistic Congress, however, isn’t Cardinal Dolan, Father Barron, or Dr. Hahn, and it isn’t even Bishop Stika and Cardinal Rigali. The biggest reason to brave the Sevierville crowds two weeks from now is to join so many other people from our diocese and around the country as they come to spend time growing in faith and doing the one thing that will be available with ample opportunity at this very special event-adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We begin our diocesan jubilee with a eucharistic congress because the Holy Eucharist is the reason we are all here in a very real sense. It is, as the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium pointed out, the “source and summit” of the life of the Church. In addition to eucharistic adoration, there will also be plenty of opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so we will not only be able to spend some more “intimate” time in prayer with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we will have a chance to be more fully reconciled with him, and we will be able to do this along with so many of our brothers and sisters in a radical expression of the unity of our local Church and with many others who form part of the Body of Christ.
In these waning hours, make the time for Jesus in a couple of weeks by registering for the Diocese of Knoxville Eucharistic Congress. Your faith will be enriched, and it could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many in the Church in East Tennessee.