Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Reunions are a blessing for Christ’s one family

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published June 11, 2015  | En Español

This time of year often finds many families planning or participating in a “family reunion.” Those are gatherings of people from far and near who somehow share in a common heritage as members of a specific family. These reunions can bring scores of people together, many of whom may rarely see one another and may even be quite unfamiliar with one another, but they constitute a single family and they rejoice in that fact.

Family reunions are often too large for a single home to host them so they must find venues that can accommodate a large number of folks who could not fit into a single house. Sometimes they choose a resort facility at the beach or in a park site. It does not really matter where families gather since the get-together is the far more important aspect of the event.

Family reunions are intergenerational in scope, bringing people together who represent not only geographic or regional diversity but age and culturally diverse backgrounds as well. Sometimes family reunions occur because of a special occasion—a golden wedding anniversary or a graduation celebration or even the passing of a matriarch or patriarch of the family. They are the times when families find it important to be together.

Some families plan these reunions every other year or at five- or 10-year intervals. Whenever they occur, a family should certainly feel the warmth and the affection of the bonds that unite them.

Our Eucharistic Congress is something of an archdiocesan family reunion that has taken place every year for the past 20 years. Our most recent one last week was yet another success and for that I am most deeply grateful to all those who helped to make it so fruitful.

Our Eucharistic Congresses have all of the dynamics of a family gathering. They bring together folks from far and wide within and beyond the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Many of the members of the family only see each other during these events, yet they look forward to these encounters. Every race, language, culture and age of this particular family finds welcome at our congresses. Many people meet friends from previous congresses and then meet others that they have not encountered before. There is music, food, laughter and shared stories that make this event even more like a family reunion.

Our Eucharistic Congresses began at the wise initiation of Archbishop John Francis Donoghue, who wanted to increase Eucharistic devotion within the Archdiocese. They continue that important objective, but they also now celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of this local Church. Our family is comprised of people of every nation and race. The Eucharistic Congress invites every group to bring their religious customs to the festival. Participants wear indigenous garb, play folk instruments and sing native songs that honor the Blessed Mother, the saints, and, of course, Christ Himself. The Eucharistic presence of Christ becomes the great magnet that draws all people to Himself.

As family reunions highlight the importance of being a family, so does our Eucharistic Congress. Each year the theme for the congress attempts to focus on an important dimension of our faith. Next year—June 3-4, 2016—that theme will be: “Be Merciful Just as Your Father Is Merciful,” in keeping with the Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis.

Every family knows firsthand that mercy is a much-needed quality in the life of every member of the family. We not only need to be merciful toward one another, but often we ourselves need the merciful love of others.

As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament during this next year, let us all ask for a more merciful heart so that this local family of faith will be blessed with a spirit of joy, compassion and forgiveness that will strengthen each one of us.

Mercy is a way of living our faith, and that is the second theme of our Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan and certainly a much-needed quality for each household within this single family that belongs to Christ.