Local College Students Find Faith Revitalized at Eucharistic Congress

by | Nov 13, 2023 | News

AURIESVILLE, New York — The trip from Jamaica, Queens, to upstate Auriesville in a three-row van took nearly five hours, but eight St. John’s University students, hand-picked by campus ministry because of their strong Catholic faith, didn’t mind: They were determined to experience the New York Eucharistic Congress.

“It [the congress] sort of challenges the way I think about my own faith, and I’ll grow as a person,” described Philip Anthony Marbid, 19, a second-year pharmacy student and Richmond Hill resident, during the three-day event.

Students ranged from undergraduate freshmen to law students. Two had attended World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. All eight students represented the young faithful that St. John’s looks to cultivate, said Andrea Pinnavaia, campus minister for liturgy and faith formation.

“To be able to give them an experience where they are really invigorated in their faith — I think it is a real gift,” Pinnavaia said.

Pinnavaia was the catalyst for the St. John’s trip, which was paid for by the college, finding it online while researching the nationwide revival effort sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

She looks forward to the Diocese of Brooklyn Eucharistic Revival, rescheduled for the spring, when she is hoping to bring a large contingent of students since it will “be in our backyard.”

By starting their journey on Friday, Oct. 20, the students missed a tradition at St. John’s: Tip-Off, the annual kick-start of the basketball season. This year, 2Chainz was the headline performer for the celebration, which was free for students. It was a willing and simple sacrifice for Marbid, who jokingly noted that he is not even a fan.

Michael Fields, a law student at St. John’s, is considering planning a Eucharistic revival in his hometown in Ohio after visiting the state congress. Faith has always been a core part of his life, but he “kind of went through all the motions” growing up. The search for authenticity brought him to the Eucharistic Congress.

By day two of the revival, the students had already experienced something special, Pinnavaia explained. During the day’s Mass, the homily, given by Bishop Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, mentioned the song “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. The night prior, the group had blasted the song in their van.

“That’s what I’ve gained the most so far throughout this one day of being here. It’s just the Eucharist being love,” Fields, 24, said.

The St. John’s students were just a handful of the young people who attended the New York Eucharistic Congress, an inspiring sight for Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany.

“The reason young people are coming is because he’s speaking to their hearts,” Bishop Scharfenberger said.

Source and more photos: The Tablet