By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published May 31, 2007
The upcoming 2007 Eucharistic Congress, using the theme “The Food That Endures for Eternal Life,” will provide food for the heart and soul to those who attend, using storied speakers and gifted musicians, as well as a unique opportunity to pray in communion with thousands of others who attend this popular event devoted to the spiritual nourishment found in the Blessed Sacrament.
Open to people of all ages from around the South, the Congress will take place on the evening of Friday, June 8, and all day on Saturday, June 9, at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park, adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta is sponsoring the annual event, which promotes the love of and power of the Eucharist. During this year’s Congress, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will re-consecrate the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and dedicate the church in North Georgia to Our Lady of Guadalupe, designating 2007 as a year of special devotion to the Blessed Mother.
An estimated 20,000 people from around the southeastern United States attended last year’s Congress, and organizers are preparing for a record-breaking crowd again this year.
This event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required, and parking is available, although traveling with parish groups by bus or car pool is encouraged.
The Friday evening schedule begins with Mass at 6:30 p.m., followed by two tracks—a healing service at 7:45 p.m., led by Father Fernando Suarez, CC, a priest from Ottawa, Canada, and the “REVIVE!” program for young adults ages 18 to 40, which begins at 8 p.m. REVIVE! will feature Father Leo Patalinghug, a Baltimore priest with a background in breakdancing and martial arts, Matt Maher, a gifted, popular musician, and Darrell Miller, a former professional baseball player and convert to Catholicism.
On Saturday, the Congress offers a day filled with inspiring presenters, programs and music organized in various tracks for people of all ages and cultures. The General Track will include five renowned speakers from around the world, while concurrent tracks in Spanish, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language offer well-known speakers in those languages. Teenagers and children have their own tracks, with content, speakers and music geared especially toward their interests.
Deacon Dennis J. Dorner, who serves as chancellor for the archdiocese, attended his first Eucharistic Congress seven years ago. “I was in my first year of formation for the diaconate and was asked to carry the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament during the opening procession. That was the beginning of an absolutely amazing day. My wife Susan and I had never attended anything like the Congress. It was one of the most spiritually uplifting days we have ever experienced. To have the joy of celebrating our Lord in the Eucharist with so many of our fellow brothers and sisters from throughout our archdiocese and around the Southeast was incredible.”
Patricia Chivers, director of communications for the archdiocese, emphasized the family and fellowship aspect of the event, “Our neighbors can hardly wait for this year’s Eucharistic Congress. Some are planning to drive together and tailgate afterwards in the parking lot.”
She added, “The Eucharistic Congress is a highlight for our family every year. Our grandchildren want to be with their friends in the Kid Track, and we come away energized in our faith when we gather in the name of Jesus in a convention center full of Catholics. It is an amazing, uplifting event.”
The Eucharistic Congress will begin on Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., as participants and representatives of parishes, organizations and ministries of the archdiocese gather in a flowing stream of banners and enthusiasm to process into the main hall of the convention center. Adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin at 10 a.m., following the eucharistic procession into the great hall. Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue is the homilist for the morning session. Choirs directed by Mark Mayer and Elmer Menjibar will provide the music. Doors will open at 7:30 a.m.
Following the archbishop’s homily, attendees will separate to attend the different tracks available beginning at 11 a.m. until shortly before the closing Mass starts at 5 p.m.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio to the United States, is the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass. He serves as the official representative of the Holy Father and the Vatican to the United States.
General Track speakers include Archbishop Gregory; musician Tony Melendez; author and commentator George Weigel; Immaculée Ilibagiza, author of “Left To Tell” and a survivor of the Rwandan massacres; and Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, founder of the Catholic University of Honduras and advocate for the poor. Russ Spencer, FOX-5 news anchor and veteran journalist, will serve as emcee for the General Track.
The Hispanic Track will also include Cardinal Rodríguez as a speaker, as well as Brother Pablo-Maria, a missionary, and Father Manuel Corral-Martin, a Scripture expert who currently works with the Mexican Conference of Catholic Bishops. Patricia Ramos, news editor for Atlanta’s newspaper 7 Dias, will serve as emcee again this year.
The Vietnamese Track will feature Father Joseph Hoang Minh Thang, who travels around the world presenting Bible studies and retreats, and also prepares Vatican Radio’s Vietnamese program and Radio Veritas in Manila, and Father Joseph Tien Loc Nguyen, CSsR, who travels to various countries leading retreats and renewal weekends.
Deacon Patrick Graybill, a graduate of Gallaudet University, will be the special guest of the track for the deaf and hearing impaired. Now retired, he serves as a permanent deacon at Emmanuel Church of the Deaf, a Catholic church in Rochester, N.Y. He also travels as a missionary for the International Catholic Deaf Association.
Doug Brummel, a nationally known comedian and storyteller, will highlight the Teen Track, along with musicians Tony Melendez and Matt Maher. Paul George of Houma, La., who cofounded ADORE ministries, will serve as emcee.
In the Kid Track, children from kindergarten to age 11 can spend time with “The Cat.Chat Man and Moses the Cat,” enjoying enticing music and stories that will also educate them in the basics of the Catholic faith.
Following the different tracks, all will gather for the closing Mass at
5 p.m. Archbishop Sambi will be the celebrant; also present will be Cardinal Rodríguez, Archbishop Gregory, Archbishop Donoghue and the priests and deacons of the archdiocese. The Archbishop Lyke Memorial Mass Choir, directed by Dr. Kevin Johnson, will provide music for the Mass.
Also, those children who received their first Communion this year are asked to wear their first Communion apparel and gather at 4:30 p.m. for the procession into Mass.
The sacrament of reconciliation will be available throughout the day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many exhibitors will display books, tapes, DVDs, CDs, art and music, religious objects and gifts. Ministries will also provide information on their outreach.
Food and drinks can be purchased from vendors until 4 p.m. Child care is not available.
The Atlanta Airport Marriott Hotel, located at 4711 Best Road, College Park, will offer a special rate for those specifying they are Eucharistic Congress participants. Transportation will be provided all day between the hotel and convention site. For hotel bookings, call (404) 766-7900 or book online at www.archatl.com/congress.
In urging people to attend, Deacon Dorner noted, “Every Congress has its own unique personality. Sharing the love of the Eucharist in such a demonstrative and public way is an opportunity of a lifetime. The music, the community, the chance to worship and give praise to God in such a large gathering—combined, these are amazing blessings.”
For more information on the 2007 Eucharistic Congress and biographical information on all speakers, contact Veronica Diaz at (404) 978-2766 or visit the official Web site at www.archatl.com/congress.