By Marcia Moore
The first Eucharistic Congress was held in France in 1881. As popularity arose, the number of people attending increased and the congresses continued. Soon a committee for the Organization of Eucharistic Congresses was established and the eighth congress was held in Jerusalem in 1893. Currently, congresses are held every four years.
On June 13 I traveled along with Maribeth Green and Kathy Maloney-Loomis, both from Davenport, to St. Louis where we joined a group of 27 from the Archdiocese of St. Louis (led by Bishop Edward Rice) to attend the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland.
The weeklong congress began Sunday, June 10, the Feast Day of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and ended with the Statio Orbis (closing ceremony) on Sunday, June 17, where 75,000 Catholics from around the world came together to celebrate. Throughout the week talks and liturgies focused on the importance of our Catholic faith centered on the Eucharist. Speakers from around the globe shared wisdom and witnessed to the importance of the Catholic faith in their personal lives and in the Church as a whole.
The theme of the Congress, “The Eucharist, Communion with Christ and with One Another,” had its origins in the document Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council where we read: “Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. ‘Because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread.’ In this way all of us are made members of his body, ‘individually members one of another.’” (Lumen Gentium, 7)
Here the idea of Communion is broader than receiving the Eucharist, it extends to relationship of mutual love and self-giving which flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ.
The congress extended to the city of Dublin with prayer events and liturgies in various parishes throughout the city. Pilgrims were encouraged to go forward from the congress and spread the Good News.
The video address given by Pope Benedict XVI can be viewed on YouTube.com by simply typing in, “YouTube Pope Benedict IEC.” Other videos will be available as time permits by visiting the official congress website: www.iec2012.ie.
Bishop Rice chose to lead this pilgrimage to support and encourage the Church in Ireland during this critical time and to bring a sense of family to the Church. Three other priests traveled as a part of our group. Father Barry Clayton, who has Irish heritage and is from Kansas City, Kan., expressed closeness to St. Patrick. The priest also believed attending the congress would enhance his priesthood. Fathers Jim Theby and Brad Modde said the congress offered an opportunity to be with other Catholics from around the world.
The most moving part of the congress for me was the Statio Orbis. Hundreds of priests and bishops walked in procession into the stadium, which was packed with thousands of pilgrims from around the world. The Eucharist was celebrated by papal legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S.
The words written across the top of the stage were, “Become What You Receive.”
As the congress closed, the pope — via video — announced the next International Congress will be held in 2016 in Cebu, Philippines. The four congress icons: Our Lady of Refuge, Pantocrator, the Prophet Elijah and Pentecost, were presented by Irish representatives to Philippine representatives amidst great cheers from the audience.
I am thankful to the Lord and to Our Lady of Knock for making this pilgrimage possible for me. I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime, grace-filled opportunity. I hope that many will begin praying to be able to attend the next Eucharistic Congress in 2016.
(Marcia Moore is director of Eagles’ Wings Counseling and Retreat Centers in Davenport.)