St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Tennessee Ridge is hosting a Eucharistic Congress day retreat on Saturday, April 29, and organizers hope that Catholics from around the diocese will make the trek to the northwest corner of Middle Tennessee to deepen their love of and reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The congress and retreat, “Reaching for Jesus with Reverence,” is open to everyone and will begin with registration at 9 a.m. and conclude following the 4:30 p.m. Mass, which will satisfy the Sunday obligation. It will include talks, adoration, confession, Mass, lunch, snacks, and vendors.
The Congress will be the culmination, but certainly not the end, of the parish’s efforts begun in 2020 to encourage more reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist, according to Valerie Brown, who serves as the director of religious education among her other jobs at the church, which is a mission of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Dover.
The parish began by focusing its post-pandemic religious education program on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and then worked to integrate those lessons into the parish as a whole, Brown explained.
“For the whole year, we taught about the Eucharist,” Brown said. “Whatever we did, we always brought it back to the Eucharist.”
At the start of the religious education classes on the weekends, all the students and teachers would go into the church with the lights turned off, Brown said. “We all had to shut our eyes and visualize Jesus in our minds.”
That would be followed by a reading about the Eucharist, Brown said. “After that, we would go into the classroom.”
The Holy Hour for the children also would be held in the church with the lights turned off, Brown said. They would then direct a light to the monstrance, which would shine in the midst of the darkness, she said.
Church leaders then decided to bring the message of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to the adult parishioners, Brown said. “We thought if kids see adults being irreverent (before the Eucharist), everything we’re teaching won’t matter.”
That led to the idea of hosting the Eucharistic Congress day retreat, Brown said. She and catechist Bonnie Lill have taken the lead in organizing the Eucharistic Congress day retreat.
The church also opens each Mass by announcing that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church is a eucharistic parish followed by a short meditation on a quote about the eucharist, Brown said.
Father Joseph Mundakal, CMI, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, has been leading a Holy Hour at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton during the week, Brown said. Attendance at the weekday adoration and Masses has been growing, she added.
“If you have reverence for the Eucharist,” Brown said, “God will bring people to your church.”
Featured speakers at the Eucharistic Congress day retreat will be Father of Mercy Ben Cameron and Kate Morris, who participated in Nashville Cursillo #72.
Father Cameron is an Indiana native who joined the Fathers of Mercy in 1992 and was ordained a priest in 1997. He has served as a full-time parish mission preacher and retreat master from 2000-2018. After serving as a parish pastor until 2022, he has returned to being a parish mission preacher and retreat master.
Father Cameron will have four 30-minute talks during the day and will speak on “The Holy Eucharist: Shadows and Fulfillment.”
Morris, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Humboldt and formerly a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro, will deliver two 30-minute talks. She will focus on a personal witness associated with the Eucharist and practical methods for directing one’s life to the Eucharist.
There is no charge to attend but free tickets will be issued; space is limited. Tickets may be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church (931-721-3769), or by calling or texting Valerie Brown (931-980-7331) or Bonnie Lill (931-249-0821).
Lunch (BBQ sandwich and chips or salad, with dessert and water) will be available for $10; T-shirts will be offered for $20 and may be pre-ordered or purchased at the Congress.