Hundreds Gather at Eucharistic Congress
St. Rita Parish in Rockford hosts its first such congress on Corpus Christi weekend
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
June 27, 2019
ROCKFORD—The first ever Eucharistic Congress at St. Rita Parish in Rockford was held June 22. 
Sponsored by the Confraternity of Jesus Our Merciful Priest, “Free Indeed 2019, a Eucharistic Congress for the Healing of the Church” featured guest speakers, catechesis, workshop sessions, devotional exhibits, an international rosary and all-day confession. 
The event, which drew a crowd of about 300, concluded with the Corpus Christi Vigil Mass celebrated by Bishop David Malloy, eucharistic adoration and an outdoor procession around the grounds of the parish.
‘The Eucharist is not simply a joyful moment, not simply a sign of hospitality, but it is a call to faith.’
— Bishop David Malloy
Personal faith testimonies by Brandon and Laurale Ysteboe, parishioners of SS. Peter and Paul in Cary, were among the many presentations at the Eucharistic Congress. 
Laurale, who was raised Catholic, met and married Brandon, a life-long Protestant, while she was working at a large non-denominational church. After a series of family tragedies, Laurale found herself drawn back to the Catholic faith.
As Laurale’s interest in returning to the Church grew, Brandon began talking with several priests about the Catholic faith, reading Catholic books and stopping to pray each day in a different Catholic church.  The couple spent a lot of time talking and praying together before deciding to fully embrace the Catholic faith. 
“After a close Protestant friend of mine heard the story of my faith journey, he said, ‘You would make an excellent Catholic.’ So I think that was the sign I needed to fully pursue becoming Catholic,” Brandon said. 
“Even though our oldest was, at first, hesitant to become Catholic, our family’s spiritual life grew tremendously. We got our marriage blessed and in a nine-month time frame, our family of eight received 19 first sacraments along with Brandon completing RCIA instruction,” Laurale said. “It’s good to be Catholic!”
Father Ervin Caliente, pastor of St. Rita and organizer of the Eucharistic Congress felt timing the event on Corpus Christi Sunday speaks to how important the Eucharist is in the life of Catholics. 
“People are confused and don’t know where to go; so this is really an invitation to come to Jesus. What a gift we have in the Catholic Church. We have our Eucharistic Lord with us,” he said. “The congress is an invitation to come to Him with our problems.”
“Corpus Christi Sunday reminds us of what a gift the Eucharist is,” said Bishop David Malloy in his homily at the closing Mass. 
“Our task is not just to receive the Eucharist, but in faith to reach up and grasp the real presence of the Eucharist and bring that into our hearts and lives. The Eucharist is not simply a joyful moment, not simply a sign of hospitality, but it is a call to faith,” he said.
A group of young adults from around the Rockford Diocese also attended the Congress with some representing Totus Tuus, a Catholic evangelization program for children and teens. 
“I think the Church needs healing and revitalization to reach kids, teens and young adults,” said Ryan Nooraee, a seminarian of the Rockford Diocese, Totus Tuus team member and parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Crystal Lake. 
“What better way to bring young people into the Church than by teaching them about the Eucharist?” he said.