St. John’s Students Join Thousands of Fellow Catholics at Eucharistic Congress

St John's Student at the Eucharistic Conference 2023
December 20, 2023

Eight St. John’s University students were among thousands of Catholics who gathered in Auriesville, NY, recently for the New York State Eucharistic Congress. Sponsored by the eight Catholic dioceses of New York state, the Eucharistic Congress is part of a national effort to reinvigorate devotion to the Eucharist.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, NY, teaming with the Archdiocese of New York and the state’s six other dioceses, hosted a range of activities October 20-22 as a local component of the United States Bishops Eucharistic Revival. The revival will culminate in the national Eucharistic Congress taking place next summer.

“There were about 8,500 New York Catholics in attendance, and it was a phenomenal experience,” said Andrea Pinnavaia ’07C, ’08G, Campus Minister, Liturgy and Faith Formation, at St. John’s. Ms. Pinnavaia was the lead organizer of the St. John’s trip, and she accompanied the students, along with Rachel Burgos, Residence Campus Minister for Vincentian Outreach, Wellness and Leadership, and Rev. Hugo A. Medellin, C.M., St. John’s University Chaplain.

“All of us at St. John’s were minor celebrities for the weekend as we met hundreds of people with a St. John’s connection drawn to our students wearing their St. John’s University gear. Several Catholic journalists also interviewed our students,” Ms. Pinnavaia said. One of those journalists was Alicia Venter ’22CCPS, writer for The Tablet, and a St. John’s alumna baptized in 2022 through St. John’s University’s Rite of Christian Initiative of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Thomas More Church, located on the Queens, NY, campus.

Several students emphasized the profound impact they experienced at the Eucharistic Congress.

“I wanted to attend the Congress to encounter  the Lord in the Eucharist. I experienced a beautiful weekend, filled with much grace, and I took away a deeper ability to understand and appreciate the gift of the Eucharist,” said Peter Paolo, a graduate student at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Michael Fields, a third-year student at St. John’s University School of Law, remarked, “Saying ‘yes’ to this Eucharistic Congress was grounded in learning the love the Eucharist gives us and how we can give that same love back.  After learning about this kind of love, I think we can be transformed and begin sharing that love with others.”

Andrew Butta, a first-year student at The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, said, “I’ve always wanted to witness so many Catholics in one place processing and praising the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The congress was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I feel like I  grew closer to God and have a much stronger connection with him,” he added.

The other attending St. John’s students were Joliz Claudio, a graduate student at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; graduate student Grace Lugo; Aidan Heffernan, a junior; sophomore Philip Anthony Marbid; and Nicholas Salerno, a sophomore.

According to Ms. Pinnavaia, “The students have been inspired with so many ideas to build up a Eucharistic culture on campus: from more Holy Hours offered, to a Eucharistic Procession, to invitations to the sacrament of Reconciliation, to opportunities for catechesis on the Eucharist, which they see as crucial for their fellow students. They’re on fire for their faith, and know they are supported here to bring their ideas to reality. The Holy Spirit is absolutely working through them.”