Published June 21, 2012
As the saying goes: “Let’s give credit where credit is due!” So here goes: Credit for the wonderful success of our Eucharistic Congress this year (as in past years) goes to the extraordinarily generous volunteers, sponsors, speakers, clergy, religious, and to my own fantastic chancery staff! People throughout our country and well beyond know what a special event Atlanta’s Eucharistic Congresses have become for 17 years now. They often accurately attribute that success to our late beloved Archbishop John Francis Donoghue who conceived the idea of holding such annual events (and he rightfully is the father figure for these festive occasions). I personally receive many kind expressions of thanks for hosting the gatherings, but if truth be told, both Archbishop Donoghue and I would have to admit that our people make the congresses what they have become—great moments of prayer and fellowship.
I think of the hundreds of volunteers who take care of our little ones, direct traffic, pick up and deliver our speakers, answer endless questions, and generally act as hosts and hostesses for more than 30,000 people; they deserve the credit and our thanks. Most of the volunteers do not get a chance even to hear the presentations, spend a lot of time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, or enjoy the displays, but without them and their help the participants would not be able to enjoy this festive spiritual time. This year’s Eucharistic Congress drew the largest crowds in our history and so with more work to do in the same amount of time, the people behind the scenes once again performed splendidly. They deserve all of the credit.
Without catching their breath, many of those very same volunteers went into action as the Catholic bishops of the United States began arriving (for their June national meeting) as early as Sunday afternoon following the congress. Our terrific volunteers then hosted the American hierarchy and never gave the slightest indication that they might have been exhausted already. Mary Elkins, JoAnn and Hugh Hayman, and Cyndy Furgiuele literally spent days in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, welcoming bishops, pointing out different locations, suggesting restaurants, and arranging departure times. We provided our own forms of Ralph Kramdens as the bus drivers who ferried bishops back and forth in our school buses from Hartsfield-Jackson to the Hyatt. Some of our youngsters helped greet the bishops, assist with retrieving and carrying luggage, and generally provided those bright faces of welcome that tend to make travel much less burdensome. Our own chancery staff assisted with media, messaging, worship, and technical issues.
Repeatedly, I heard lots of bishops comment: “Wilton, thanks for your wonderful hospitality!” The credit belongs entirely to our people who helped 220 bishops experience the faith, the kindness and the generosity that I have come to know and to love during these past seven and a half years.
How proud I felt of the folks of the Archdiocese who gave of themselves so generously—not once but twice within the course of a very hectic week in June. With the Eucharistic Congress now behind us until next year and all the bishops safely returned to their dioceses, I want once again to say thanks to the people of this wondrous local Church for giving so generously of yourselves in reference to these two special events but also in so many different and loving ways throughout the year in your parishes and with the other activities of the Archdiocese. You deserve all of the credit for the wonderful reputation that the Archdiocese of Atlanta enjoys nationally and that is so richly deserved! Thanks to everyone and may the coming summer be a time of rest and happiness for you and all of your loved ones!