By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published March 23, 2006
“Until He Comes” is the theme of this year’s Eucharistic Congress, and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory invites all Catholics from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and beyond to come together for this popular worship and teaching experience. During the daylong event, various speakers and spiritual leaders will explore the meaning of the Eucharist, particularly as a means of evangelization and outreach.
This year is the 11th year in which the Archdiocese of Atlanta has held an event devoted to the Eucharist.
The Congress, which is sponsored by the archdiocese, will be held on Saturday, June 17, beginning with a procession at 8:30 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. Like last year, on the evening before the Congress, a healing Mass and “REVIVE!” a young adult event, will take place on Friday, June 16.
In a statement about the theme of this year’s event, Archbishop Gregory challenged Catholics to use the Eucharist as a catalyst for change.
“Eucharistic adoration is not an end,” he said. “It is the first step that leads to outreach to others. We are to be agents of service, change, and care to the world around us. As we give thanks to Christ for the Eucharist, we step up to the plate to represent Him. We become His Eucharistic presence to the people. It compels us to work for the care of those people who are disenfranchised.”
Last year, more than 20,000 people from around the Southeastern United States attended the Congress, which is 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.
The Eucharistic Congress offers activities for all age groups and is highlighted by a roster of renowned speakers from across the United States and around the world. In addition to the young adult track held Friday evening, the program on Saturday includes a general track for all adults and tracks for teenagers and children as well as Hispanic and Vietnamese attendees. Also included is a track for those who are hearing impaired.
In a letter to pastors, Archbishop Gregory shared his impressions of last year’s Eucharistic Congress, which was the first he had attended in Atlanta. He said, “As the event unfolded before my eyes, I was overwhelmed as I witnessed the love and awe so many showered on our truly living and loving Christ Jesus.” He also believes the wondrous effects from this event did not stop with that day but “flowed into parishes, homes and businesses.”
The keynote speaker for the event is Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who is the archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, and has served the church in a variety of offices at the Vatican, including as the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. As part of his work on that council, Archbishop Martin represented the Holy See at the major United Nations international conferences on social questions in the 1990s. He headlines a group of thought-provoking, internationally known speakers who will present during the general track at the Congress, such as Sister Anita P. Baird, DHM, a nationally recognized revivalist and retreat leader. A native of Chicago, Sister Baird has been involved in the work of the church for more than 25 years and has been a leader, specifically in the area of racial justice.
Known for his works on theology and spirituality, Father Robert Barron, a professor of systematic theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake–Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, is another scheduled speaker. His recent publications include the 2004 book “Bridging the Great Divide: Musings of a Post-Liberal, Post-Conservative, Evangelical Catholic” and a DVD entitled “Untold Blessings: The Three Paths of Holiness” in 2005.
Also speaking during the general track is Msgr. Kevin Irwin, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and the dean of the school of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is the author of 14 books on liturgy and sacraments and over 50 articles, including major articles for the “New Catholic Encyclopedia” and other Catholic reference books.
Adding to this year’s compelling general track is Raymond Arroyo, the news director and lead anchor for the Eternal Word Television Network, which serves over 80 million homes through the world’s largest religious network. Arroyo has interviewed numerous luminaries, most notably Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The events for the Eucharistic Congress 2006 will begin with an opportunity for prayer and comfort during a healing Mass on Friday evening. The service will begin with praise and worship at 7 p.m. on June 16 and Mass at 7:30 p.m. Sharing his unique story of life in Christ during this evening of hope will be Alan Ames, a native of London and an evangelist with a mystical prayer life and the gift of miraculous healing.
Ames will share the hope and blessing of his sacramental relationship of love with God.
In addition to the 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 Atlanta’s Father Ricardo Bailey; Mary Beth Bonacci, who speaks on love, relationships and chastity; and Lisa Epperson, the Eastern and international director for LIFE TEEN and co-founder of “On the Deck,” a ministry committed to building faith and community among college students.
On the morning of Saturday, June 17, the Congress will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with the dramatic, colorful procession into the main hall of the convention center. Parish groups and Catholic organizations form a long parade, bearing vivid banners displaying their names and their devotion to God.
As the vibrant procession of the faithful concludes inside the hall, adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin at 10 a.m. in the great hall inside the convention center.
Following opening remarks and homily from Archbishop Gregory, attendees will separate to attend the different tracks planned from 11:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Hispanic track will feature speakers and music, including Father Allan Figueroa Deck, the president of the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, Calif.; Bishop Héctor Salah Zuleta of Riohacha, Colombia; Father Mario Vizcaino, SchP, founder and executive director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami; and Father Jose Duvan Gonzalez, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Teenagers who attend this year’s Eucharistic Congress will enjoy presentations from Danielle Rose, who has traveled the world as a music missionary to spread the Gospel through a joyful witness of story and song, and Father Bailey, a parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, and a dynamic speaker who evangelizes wherever he goes.
Children in kindergarten through fifth grade will participate in a fun and lively program called “Conquered in Love.”
Vietnamese attendees to the Congress are invited to a special Vietnamese-language track featuring Msgr. Joseph Dinh Duc Dao, who is a professor of missiology at the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy.
The Congress will also again offer a special track for attendees who are hearing impaired and who use American Sign Language to communicate. Msgr. Glenn Nelson, who is the chancellor and vicar general of the Diocese of Rockford, Ill., will be the speaker for this track. He also serves on the board of directors for the National Catholic Office for the Deaf.
The closing Mass, which begins at 5:30 p.m., is the culmination of the day, as attendees gather together in thankfulness to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Archbishop Gregory will be the homilist and principal celebrant for this Mass.
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.
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 and for more information on the schedule as it becomes available, visit the Web site for Atlanta’s Eucharistic Congress at www.archatl.com/congress.