THE INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS IN DUBLIN, IRELAND
June 10-17, 2012
The International Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin in 2012, was a week- long program of events linking faith and culture and was focused on the Sacred Eucharist. All fifty Eucharistic Congresses, beginning with the first which was held in Paris, France in 1881, aimed at highlighting the centrality of the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church.
The 2012 Congress opened on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 10, 2012, and ended with a closing Mass on June 17 in Croke Park, Ireland's national football stadium. Approximately 75,000 were in attendance for the closing event. Among those present were archbishops, bishops and priests, sisters, laity and youth from over one hundred countries. Orthodox church leaders were present as were ecumenical church leaders.
The week between the opening and closing events had full daily schedules of catechesis programs and theology lectures presented by leading theologians and bishops from around the world. Daily participation in these ranged from 12,000 - 15,000 people. These presentations highlighted the relationship between the Eucharist and the sacraments, priesthood, moral living and service to humanity.
I entered the stadium for the closing Mass about 1:30 pm, where I joined a number of priest friends from my seminary days and from my home diocese in Ireland. The Mass did not formally begin until 3:30 pm. That interim time was somewhat like the entrance rite of a typical Mass. It was a time of setting the tone and mood for the celebration. People moved about, greeting one another and sharing stories of their lives and their coming to this event. This time was filled with music and singing by many Irish choirs and well known professional singers and musicians.
The role of master of ceremonies was filled by two of Ireland's best known television commentators - Joe Duffy and Eileen Dunne. Liturgical music composer Father Liam Lawton led the singing of The Cloud's Veil, accompanied by a youth choir. A threesome, known as the Irish Tenors, sang You Raise Me Up; and Panis Angelicus was sung by a Nigerian born priest, a Polish born priest and Irish born Celine Byrne, accompanied by the National Chamber Orchestra. A priest trio from Belfast, Ireland sang King of Kings.
Another inspirational aspect of the preparatory rite was a series of personal witnesses or testimonials on how faith helped individuals in times of crisis and how they discovered or rediscovered faith in their lives. One of these was Brother Luke, a Dominican religious brother who was a native of the Netherlands and who had grown up without any faith or church affiliation. He came to Ireland as a scientist in his late 20s. His research and questions led him to a belief in the existence of God and eventually into Catholicism. His faith journey continued until he became a vowed religious brother in the Dominican Order. His suggestion to the assembly was “Read the New Testament for five minutes each day.”
Another witness story was by Maeve Conlon, a 24-year elementary school teacher in Ireland. She led her parish youth group to the World Youth Event in Madrid, Spain, in 2011. A group of St. Mary (Natchez) youth also attended that event. She testified that she was knocked down by a motorist who ran a traffic light; she was seriously injured and is permanently in a wheelchair. She is now back in her classroom and believes that God is working through her in that setting. She has found peace.
Eighty years ago in 1932, an International Eucharistic Congress was held in Phoenix Park in Dublin. This year, one hundred and seventy two (172) special attendees were recognized for their attending the 1932 Congress. These were seated in the Hogan Stand of the stadium, and most of these ranged in age from 90-99. I was reminded by their presence that my maternal grandfather attended the 1932 Congress. I had the opportunity of serving as diocesan coordinator for the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, PA, and attending with Bishop Joseph Brunini, former bishop of our Diocese of Jackson.
The preparatory rite, consisting of music, hymns, personal witness stories, and interaction among the assembly, effectively prepared us for the Celebration of Eucharist. The setting was reverent and prayerful. The stewarding by two thousand volunteers - half of whom were young people- was excellent. The entrance procession by archbishops, bishops and laity from over one hundred countries was a graced experience. The liturgical roles of the Mass were done by representatives of different countries, languages and cultures. The homily was preached by the Holy Father's delegate, Marc Cardinal Quellet, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in Rome and President of the Pontifical Commission on Latin America. During the meditation time of the Mass, thanks to modern communications technology, Pope Benedict XVI spoke via large screen to the congregation.
The Mass ended approximately four (4) hours after the preparatory rite began. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin gave a message of hope and gratitude on behalf of the Church in Ireland. The Mass was a time of inspiration and prayer and a sign of the working of God's Spirit. I am grateful that I had such a blessed experience.