Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Annual Event Focuses On The Power Of Eucharist

By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published May 5, 2005

As the summer months begin, bringing opportunities for leisure and recreation to all those who revel in the beautiful days of the season, the Archdiocese of Atlanta will once again offer a different kind of opportunity for Catholics around Atlanta and the South—one focused on Catholic spirituality and the compelling importance of the Eucharist—at the annual Eucharistic Congress.

This popular and powerful event, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, offers activities for the whole family, including a slate of renowned speakers from across the United States and around the world, as well as programs, enhanced by music, for Hispanic and Vietnamese attendees, young adults, teenagers, and children.

Among the many speakers—old favorites and new treasures—highlighting the day are Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus in the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Caviezel, a well-known Catholic, will speak about his life following the release of the movie. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise, will speak on his current focus and devoted endeavors in the cause of Catholic higher education. And in their first public speaking engagement following the death of daughter and sister Terri Schiavo, Robert and Mary Schindler and their son Bobby Schindler will talk about their reliance on the Eucharist during their difficult journey with Terri in life and death and on the importance of her receiving Communion at the end of her life.

The Eucharistic Congress 2005 will also offer something completely new this year. For those inspired to attend on Friday evening, a healing service will be offered at the Congress. The service will begin with praise and worship at 7 p.m. on June 3 and Mass at 7:30 p.m. Those providing grace-filled talks throughout the evening include Sister Briege McKenna, OSC, widely known for her gift of healing, and Father Kevin Scallon, CM, of Ireland, who has a full-time ministry focused on the spiritual renewal of the priesthood. Alan Ames, a native of London, England, and an evangelist with a mystical prayer life and the gift of miraculous healing powers, will share his compelling story of life in Christ. Ames will also speak in the general track the next day.

Open to people of all ages, the Congress will be held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park, adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

This event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required, and ample parking is available, although traveling with parish groups by bus is encouraged.

Last year’s Eucharistic Congress brought in over 20,000 enthusiastic attendees, and organizers are planning for the same number or more this year.

The theme of last year’s Eucharistic Congress echoed Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue’s motto, “To Live in Christ Jesus.” In the same vein, this year’s Congress will take on the theme, “We Are the Lord’s,” a Bible verse particularly meaningful to Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and the motto on his coat of arms.

This year’s Congress also marks several important anniversaries, as this Congress is celebrated in the Year of the Eucharist, established by Pope John Paul II in October 2004.

This year marks the 10th year in which the Archdiocese of Atlanta has held an event devoted to the Eucharist.

And June 4 is a particularly special day for Archbishop Donoghue, who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood this year. Honors and accolades are planned to commemorate this noteworthy anniversary for the archbishop, who retired in December 2004. Bishop Peter J. Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., and Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., will be among those on hand to honor Archbishop Donoghue on his anniversary. Bishop F. Joseph Gossman of Raleigh, N.C., will be the homilist during the morning service of adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Archbishop Donoghue was instrumental in establishing and strengthening a devotion to the Eucharist among the people of the archdiocese. He instituted perpetual adoration 11 years ago, which continues today in numerous parishes. Through his vision and commitment to bring Catholics to a deeper understanding of Christ in the Eucharist, the Eucharistic Congress has grown from a small event to the Spirit-filled, huge event it is today.

In addition to the Mass and healing service, all young adults, single and married, aged 18 to 40, in the archdiocese are invited to attend REVIVE, a dynamic program geared to their concerns and spirituality, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening. Speakers will include Dr. Jorge Valdés, Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, and missionaries Chris and Michelle Benzinger.

The events on Saturday, June 4, will commence bright and early beginning with a procession into the hall at 8:30 a.m. During previous Eucharistic Congresses, the procession has been a bright moment at the beginning of the day, as thousands of Catholics gather with vivid colorful banners echoing the spiritual enthusiasm of the attendees.

Father Tom Hennessy, pastor of St. Patrick Church, Norcross, is in charge of this year’s morning procession, just as last year. He is looking forward to this year’s event and believes that the Eucharistic Congress is a great way to gain “an understanding of the great gift of the Eucharist.” Mentioning the thousands who’ve gathered in the past, he noted that, unlike other dioceses in the United States, this Eucharistic Congress is free, “given to us” as a gift to all the Catholics in the archdiocese.

“We are blessed … to hear the wonderful Catholic speakers,” said Father Hennessy.

He quietly emphasized that this day “is a gift … a treasure, to come together as a full community, whether from the south side of Atlanta, like LaGrange and Griffin, or from the northern part of the archdiocese.”

“People come from little churches,” he continued, “to this huge great gathering. And we see faith in action.”

After the long and expressive procession into the hall, adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will take place at 10 a.m. in the great hall inside the convention center with Bishop Gossman as homilist.

Following opening remarks and words of welcome from Archbishop Gregory, attendees will separate to attend the different tracks planned from 11:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The general track offers a number of notable speakers on the topic of the importance of the Eucharist, including Jeff Cavins, the host of the nationally broadcast show, “The Great Adventure Bible Study,” and Alex Jones, a Pentecostal/Evangelical minister who converted to Catholicism and now serves on the evangelical team for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Also sharing their stories in the general track are Alan Ames, Jim Caviezel, Tom Monaghan, and the Schindler family.

The Hispanic track will provide speakers and music, including Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic and apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico, and Father Benjamin Bravo-Perez, pastor and professor at the Pontifical University of Mexico, who has written several books on evangelization.

Teenagers attending this year’s Congress will participate through music, led by Janelle and ONE80, who performed at the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto, and through the words of speakers like Mark Hart, affectionately known as “The Bible Geek,” and Mike Patin, a keynote speaker at National Catholic Youth Conferences.

Children in kindergarten through fifth grade will participate in a fun and lively program called “Good News Clues.”

Vietnamese attendees to the Congress are invited to a special Vietnamese-language track.

The Congress will also for the first time offer a special track for attendees who are hearing impaired and who use American Sign Language to communicate. Father Michael Depcik, OSFS, of Chicago will be the speaker for this track.

Ed McCoy, director of the archdiocesan Ministry With Persons With Disabilities, is enthused about the fact this year’s Congress includes a program for persons with disabilities. He said, “We are really excited. This is something that is really inclusive, so that all Catholics can be seriously a part of the Eucharistic Congress.”

The closing Mass, which begins at 5:30 p.m., is the culmination of the day, as attendees gather as one body to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

As in previous Congresses, all children who received first Communion in the archdiocese this year are invited to lead the procession for the closing Mass. The children are asked to wear their first Communion apparel and gather at 5 p.m. for the closing procession.

More information about the schedule and other aspects of the two-day event are available online at the archdiocesan Web site at

Food and drink will be available for purchase throughout the day.

The Atlanta Airport Marriott Hotel, located at 4711 Best Road, College Park, will offer a special rate for those specifying they are conference participants, and transportation will be provided all day between the hotel and convention site. For hotel bookings call (404) 766-7900.


For more information on the Congress, call Diane Gilsdorf at (404) 885-7445 or visit