By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published June 23, 2017 | En Español
Every large gathering in today’s environment requires the assistance of security personnel—and our Eucharistic Congress is no exception. Bringing great numbers of people together involves providing for their safety and anticipating emergencies that may occur unexpectedly. Fortunately, our Eucharistic Congresses over the years have had nothing more serious to address than a temporarily lost child or a medical difficulty that needed attention. Nonetheless, we have been prepared for these events because of the presence of medical and first responders who walk the halls of the congress and keep an eye on the activities of the participants and their families.
I would like to thank these fine men and women who have kept us safe during all of these past congresses.
For the most part these people are unsung heroes and heroines that most folks never even notice. We have police officers, K-9 dogs and their handlers, and medical personnel who are at our beck and call. I would like to thank them in my name and in yours for their kind assistance. Over the past few years, I have gotten to know two such police staff members who have been assigned to me and who accompany me throughout the congress. Ty and Curtis have been wonderful companions taking care that I get to the activities without unnecessary delays. They have also shared with me some of the adventures that mark the lives of our police personnel. Some of these situations were humorous and others quite startling in their seriousness.
Our first responders are always vitally important to our common safety, but there are also ordinary men and women who perform tasks that often go unnoticed—until we need them.
In addition to the professional security personnel, we have been fortunate to have our volunteer security staffers (many of them from our Chancery personnel). They were the ones in the blue T-shirts who also helped with crowd control and safety. Because of the presence of these fine people, the events of the congress went off without a hitch or any major problems. Thousands of people came to the congress once again and hopefully never even noticed the security measures in place for their safety and protection.
Our speakers and vendors worked seamlessly to provide inspiring presentations and services that have become the hallmark of this annual celebration. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, visiting from Newark, New Jersey, remarked several times about the well-organized event that brought so many folks together to honor the Lord’s Eucharistic Gift. The congress is at once worship and reunion, ritual and enjoyment. We celebrate who we are before the Lord and with one another.
Each track is unique—and not just because of the languages spoken therein. The people who gather in cultural groups bring a joy and a hope that strengthens not just their individual group but the entire archdiocesan family. From the growing numbers of our Vietnamese Catholics to the cherished members of our hearing disabled neighbors, each small group adds to the joy of the entire assembly. The Hispanic assembly was electric with music and dance, assuring all of the great blessing we have in the Latino community.
A new addition to the congress over the past couple of years has been the “Starve Wars” project during which participants prepare over 100,000 meals for Catholic Relief Services distribution among people living in danger of starvation. This project serves as a reminder that the Eucharist demands that we who dine with the Lord are required to feed our hungry brothers and sisters.
The congress has become a vitally important expression of our health and future as a local Church. There are elements and dimensions of the congress that work quietly in the background and then there are the festive encounters that energize us. The hard work that it takes to produce the congress is well worth the effort when we see the thousands of happy faces and hear the voices of our people in song in honor of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Thanks to everyone who made such joy possible.