TRENTON, NJ - Catholics across the region are invited to gather over three historic days in Octo­ber to celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ during the Diocese of Trenton’s first Eucharistic Congress.

Set to unfold from Oct. 12 through 14 at the PNC Banks Arts Center, Holmdel, the congress will feature a full slate of activities, including Masses celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.; opportunities for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist); a service of remembrance for veterans living and deceased; presentations and musical perfor­mances by both national renowned and locally-based speakers and artists; special activities for children, families and teens, and ceremonies honoring married couples and recipients of several papal and diocesan awards.

Centered on the theme, “His Presence. Our Faith. Celebrate!”, the congress was announced in March by Bishop O’Connell to stand as the diocese’s observance of the Year of Faith pro­claimed by Pope Benedict XVI.  The Year of Faith, beginning Oct. 11, 2012, was timed to begin with the start of the Second Vatican Council on the same day 50 years ago. It is a time the pope has set aside for the Church throughout the world to seek deeper conversion and renewal in Christ.

Bishop O’Connell urged participation from all of the diocese’s 109 parishes and 44 schools. He has likewise invited representatives from all surrounding dioceses, and will welcome both Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark and Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson to differ­ent movements of the congress.

The gathering will officially open Oct. 12 when more than 7,000 teens, hailing from parishes and Catholic schools throughout the diocese, will fill the main stage of the arts center as part of A Day for Youth. The 7th through 12th graders will experience Mass celebrated by Bishop O’Connell, Christian rock music concerts, inspirational speakers, faith formation and a special outreach project in which they will collect and package food for people of the west African country of Burkina Faso, as well as those in need locally. Several Catholic schools in the area plan to close for the day so that their students can participate in the congress.

Also on Friday, a number of high school youth will have an opportunity to learn about Catholic Athletes for Christ, a newly inaugurated sports and faith program being implemented in the diocese. Hockey personality and former referee Kerry Fraser is slated to speak.

During the evening of Oct. 12, Bishop Ser­ratelli will address priests and seminarians of the diocese, who will gather for prayer and fellowship.

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14, are open to the general public and will feature speakers, concerts, prayer instruction and time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacra­ment, and activities for children and parents. Bishop O’Connell will bring congress-goers together each of the two days for the cel­ebration of Mass.

Among the featured presenters and performers who will take the stage at various points are Chris­tian rock performing artist and Catholic evangelizer John Angotti; actor and inspirational speaker Frank Runyeon; Catholic apolo­gist Patrick Madrid, and national marriage advocate Damon Clarke Owens.

Local personalities include brother-sister musical team Sib­ling Rivalry; the Ken Perry Band; parish catechetical leader and master catechist Dr. Linda Dix; Father William Lago; diocesan ministry leader Bob Bursley, St. Vincent de Paul Society nation­al officer Marge McGinley and local theologian, Father Pablo Gadenz.

A highlight of Saturday will be a special prayer service at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial (adjacent to the arts center) that will offer remem­brance for living and deceased veterans and for those currently serving in the military. All are invited to take part in the service, beginning with a procession with bagpip­ers’ accompaniment leaving at 10 a.m. from the PNC Bank Arts Center Gate.

Of special interest for parents and children will be Saturday performances by Christian clown ministers, John and Joann Tyne of JMT Productions, and children’s songwriter Rob Evans “The Donut Man.”

Also on Saturday, Bishop O’Connell will bless married couples marking their first an­niversary, as well as those cel­ebrating 25, 50 and more years of marriage.

Sunday events will include a special Spanish-language seg­ment, featuring Peruvian native Father Carlos Garcia, a Multicul­tural Song and Dance Expo and a catechetical session given by Bishop O’Connell to children who received their First Holy Commu­nion last spring.

Joining Bishop O’Connell at the altar for the Great Mass Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. will be principal con­celebrant Archbishop Myers and numerous priests of the diocese.  At the close of Mass, Bishop O’Connell will confer papal and diocesan honors on a number of clergy, religious and laypersons, including, Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life; Msgr. Joseph Roldan, rector of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, and liaison for Hispanic and Portuguese Ministry; Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, president of Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton; Sacred Heart Brother Robert Ziobro, director of religious education in St. David the King Parish, West Windsor; Deacon John Flanagan of St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel; Maureen Fitzsimmons, diocesan victim assistance coordinator; James Manfredonia, and Cheryl Manfredonia, who co-founded Domestic Church Media and currently operate local radio stations WFJS 1260 AM and 89.3 FM; Father Brian McCormick, recently-retired director of Martin House, the diocese’s former inner-city social service agency, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Janet Yurkanin, who was the diocese’s director of the Office of Migration and Refugee Services.

Throughout the two days, con­gress-goers can take advantage of Reconciliation stations set up on the main plaza, and one of several Question and Answer forums.

Exhibits showcasing diocesan ministries and programs will run throughout Saturday and Sunday, and a Shopper’s Village will be set up on the grounds of the arts cen­ter on Saturday, featuring vendors and exhibitors.

Concessions will be open, of­fering standard picnic fare. Con­gress-goers are also welcome to pack a lunch or dinner, and picnic on the ample grounds of the arts center.

Students attending the Friday event are asked to cover their bus transportation and lunch.  There is no charge for admis­sion to the congress on Saturday or Sunday. A free will donation will be accepted. This is a rain or shine event. The facility is wheelchair accessible. Parking is free and shuttle service will be available for transport from the outlying lots.  Opportunities for vendors and sponsorships are available.

For a detailed schedule and other information about the Diocese of Trenton’s Eucharistic Congress, go to www.eucharisticcongress.net; call the Office of Communica­tions at 609-403-7199, or e-mail [email protected]­trenton.org