Share this story

 | By Teresa Peterson

Eucharistic Encounter was a Powerful Witness to the Presence of Christ

September 21, 2023 | Clara Moll becomes emotional when she speaks about the Eucharist. “I treasure the fact that I get to hold Jesus,” said Moll, who is originally from the Dominican Republic.

She has been Catholic her entire life, but growing up she took the Eucharist for granted. After becoming an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Clearwater, she came to realize what the Eucharist is really about.

“Having that ability to be close to Jesus, it’s a gift,” she said as her voice began to quiver.

Moll was one of nearly 700 people who attended Eucharistic Encounter on September 16, 2023, at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Tampa. Dr. Armando Chavarria and Michael Guarino were lead planners of the event that was held in response to the National Eucharistic Revival, an invitation to renew our devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. The event sold out all available tickets a few days after registration opened to the public and participants represented 65 churches from the five counties of the Diocese.

“May the Lord be praised for such an incredible Eucharistic Encounter we experienced. I am grateful to all of you who were able to join us, as it was truly a grace-filled moment,” said Dr. Chavarria, Executive Director of Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. “I have confidence that the Holy Spirit was truly at work and we will continue to see the fruits of this event for years to come,” he added.

The day was filled with reminders of the Lord's true presence in the Eucharist, how He is always with us during our joys and our struggles.

Mother Olga Yaqob of the Sacred Heart, founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, spoke to participants about the many ways she has encountered Jesus.

“I personally have encountered Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, in the Holy Eucharist, but also in the brokenness of the people that the Lord has given me the privilege to serve,” said Mother Olga, who ministers to victims of domestic violence, drug addicts and the ill.

“Jesus allowed himself to be broken on the cross, to be broken in the Holy Eucharist. To show us again, He’s one with us, even in the midst of our brokenness,” said Mother Olga.

During his homily at the closing Mass, Bishop Gregory Parkes said he hopes that encountering Jesus leads people to becoming transformed.

“In the Gospels over and over again, we see how Jesus encounters individuals in His daily ministry. Over and over again, those encounters end up being life-changing for those individuals,” said Bishop Parkes.

“My dear friends, it is the same with us. On this very altar, the bread and the wine which is placed there will truly become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have talked so much today about the Lord's presence. He will be truly present on this altar before us here this evening. How will this encounter today be transformational in your life?” asked Bishop Parkes.

Glennell Munne, parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Inverness, has been Catholic since 2011. Now she is teaching the faith to people interested in becoming Catholic. She walked away from the event with a renewed love for Jesus in the Eucharist that she will pass on to people she encounters.

“I wanted to be a part of this wonderful awakening to the Eucharist. I don’t think we can ever get closer to Jesus than by partaking in the Eucharist. Listening to the talks today has brought witness to the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” said Munne.

Other speakers at the event included Curtis Martin of FOCUS, Father Tim Anastos of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Sister Ana Chiara of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and John Bergsma of the St. Paul Center. Also, Bishop Gregory Parkes celebrated Mass for all participants.

To hear talks from the guest speakers and Bishop Parkes’ homily, visit

Eucharistic Encounter was made possible by Legatus of Tampa Bay, the Catholic Ministry Appeal and the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

You can view the photos in the Flickr albums below by clicking on the arrows.


Eucharistic Encounter Album #1


Eucharistic Encounter Album #2


Eucharistic Encounter Album #3