Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

2016 Congress provides means to nourish soul and body

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published June 9, 2016  | En Español

The other day, as I pulled into the Chancery parking lot, I noticed that several big rental trucks were at the front entrance. They were not bringing packages—they were being loaded with materials from our offices, and the workers doing the loading were our own staff members. Preparation for the Eucharistic Congress means that many of our office items are carted off for two days to the Georgia International Convention Center to be used during the EC. And many other items are loaned to the congress from parishes and institutions throughout the Archdiocese. From vestments and chairs, to crosses and statues, the EC uses many items that are lent for that purpose by many different communities. The annual congress has become such a happy event in the life of this local Church that people are more than willing to share materials to add to its success.

But the most important source of sharing that makes the congress a success is the participation of countless hundreds of volunteers who prepare for, staff and then stay behind to clean up after the event. These quiet and generous servants make the two-day event both possible and always enjoyable.

In a special way, I am grateful to our Archdiocesan Chancery personnel who give generously and freely of their time. They are not “on the clock” when they make such wonderful sacrifices along with members of their own families both before and after the EC. I could not be more grateful to them, and I know that those who attend the congress are equally thankful for their kind assistance.

A new initiative was linked to the EC this year as people collaborated with Catholic Relief Services in preparing sustainable meal packages for communities in Africa. There were more than 500 folks—many of them young people—who volunteered to package 100,000 food kits that will be distributed to people served by CRS in parts of the world where hunger is a reality and a serious threat. These packages were prepared to serve families of six, nutritional meals that might well save the lives of thousands of hungry families.

In preparation for the congress where we honor Christ in his Eucharistic generosity and presence, people helped to address the hungers of those whose lives are daily in jeopardy. We know that millions of people live with severe hunger every day—many of them children, sick people and the elderly. Those food packets will be shipped to CRS locations, where the kindness of the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta will alleviate some of the hunger in places most of us have never even heard of, much less visited.

The Eucharist is the nourishment of heart and soul that Christ gives to us to keep us from dying of spiritual hunger. We who dine with and upon the Lord are then commissioned to help to satisfy the life-threatening hungers of others. What those wonderful folks did in anticipation and as part of the EC was to fulfill one of the corporal works of mercy—feeding the hungry. I suspect that this CRS project might well become a regular part of our EC with even more volunteers taking part next year.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta is widely known and respected throughout our nation for our annual Eucharistic Congress and the prayerful and joyful spirit that it engenders. Perhaps now people who may not have ever heard of Atlanta, who may not be very familiar with the Catholic Church, and who may not even suspect that people in our nation would care for them and their families, will have a lifesaving meal. Because of our love for the Lord who nourishes us, some who dine here with Christ at the Eucharistic sacrifice will make Him present in faraway places.