By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published April 15, 2010
Catholic faithful from throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Southeast will again gather en masse to attend the region’s largest gathering of Catholics—the annual Eucharistic Congress.
Members of parishes throughout the archdiocese will be present with their representative banners flying high for the popular opening procession, while other members of the local church plan to listen to a variety of speakers and spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
This year’s congress, entitled “To Sanctify the Christian People,” will take place on Friday and Saturday, June 4-5, at the Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta, adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As in years past, admission is free.
The theme for the 2010 congress was chosen by Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who felt the theme was appropriate since the global church continues to celebrate the Year for Priests, which ends on June 19. The words of the theme come directly the prayer of ordination for priests.
“Since this is the Year for Priests, he wanted to stress the sanctifying work that the priests do,” said Deacon Dennis Dorner, chairman of the congress steering committee, about the archbishop’s choice of theme.
Now in its 15th year, organizers for the Eucharistic Congress are anticipating another massive crowd, with estimations of guests reaching 20,0000 to 30,000.
“I can only imagine that our numbers will be equal to the past couple of years where we maxed out capacity,” said Deacon Dorner. “The popularity has to do with Catholics’ love and devotion to Jesus Christ, real and present in the Eucharist.”
The congress will open its doors on Friday night for the Mass and healing service as well as Revive!, a young adult track featuring live music, speakers and Eucharistic adoration. Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama will serve as the main celebrant for the Friday night Mass, with the healing service scheduled to begin immediately afterward. Father Jack Durkin, pastor of St. Monica Church in Duluth, will lead the healing service.
Volunteers Needed For Congress
The Archdiocese of Atlanta is still seeking volunteers for the 2010 Eucharistic Congress on June 4-5 at the Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta. Those interested in helping run this important annual event can visit the Archdiocese of Atlanta Web site at to register online or call (404) 885-7234 to request an application via e-mail or fax.
All are required to fill out and submit a volunteer form and be Safe Environment compliant. Volunteers who have been helping for five years or more may be required to renew their Safe Environment compliance.
The greatest need for 2010 is for children’s track volunteers. The number of volunteers for this track will determine how many children can be accepted. Also, those volunteering in the children’s track will guarantee a spot for their own children.
To volunteer, call (404) 885-7234 for more information.
Running concurrently to the healing service will be Revive!, featuring Matt Maher, Catholic musician and songwriter, as well as Father Leo Patalinghug, a priest and host of the television show “Grace Before Meals,” and Tiffany Lambert, a St. Pius X High School graduate and convert to the Catholic faith. Katie Peterson, young adult ministry leader at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, will serve as the evening’s emcee.
This year, Revive! will be “unplugged,” with a smaller, more intimate venue and an acoustic performance by Maher, a first for the popular gathering. Maher will also perform at a Revive! after party at the nearby Atlanta Airport Marriott, another first for the young adult event.
Also new for Friday evening will be the Haitian and Brazilian tracks, which organizers hope will minister to the growing numbers of Haitian and Brazilian Catholics in Atlanta. Leading the Haitian track will be Father Jules Campion, a Haiti native and director of the Centre Biblique Notre-Dame de Fatima (Biblical Center of Our Lady of Fatima). The Brazilian track will include speakers Father Pedro Poloche, chief advocate for Atlanta’s Metropolitan Tribunal, and Father Roger Araujo, a priest who serves the Brazilian community at Holy Family Church in Marietta.
On Saturday, June 5, the GICC doors will open at 7:30 a.m. The day begins with an opening procession of representatives from parishes, schools and ministries at 8:30 a.m., followed by adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 10 a.m.
The congress boasts another impressive list of guests, speakers and presenters for 2010, with the general track including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, of Boston, who will lead the opening adoration and benediction. Speakers in the general track also include Archbishop J. Michael Miller, of Vancouver, Father Mitch Pacwa, a bi-ritual Jesuit priest who is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, and Allen Hunt, host of the Allen Hunt Radio Show on WSB AM 750.
“I am excited about all of the speakers,” said Deacon Dorner. “Cardinal O’Malley leading the opening adoration and benediction is quite an honor. I am especially pleased to have Allen Hunt on board in the general track.”
Other speakers in the general track include Dorner himself, chancellor of the archdiocese and director of the permanent diaconate, and Johnnette Benkovic, founder and president of Living His Life Abundantly International, Inc., a Catholic evangelization apostolate with outreaches in television, radio, print and Internet communications. Fox 5 News anchor Russ Spencer will serve as the emcee.
While many are excited to see and hear talks by many of the local and national speakers, most come for community with their Catholic neighbors and also to humble themselves before the source and summit of the Catholic faith—the Eucharist.
“What greater draw could we have than to celebrate Jesus with us,” said Deacon Dorner. “I always think of how many people flock to rock concerts and celebrity speakers. Then recognize that Jesus Christ himself is always present in our midst and in the flesh when we are in the presence of the Eucharist. What greater attraction could there be?”
The overall focus on the Blessed Sacrament spreads across the congress to all of the tracks, no matter which cultural group is participating. Included on Saturday will be a children’s track, a teen track, a deaf track and other culturally centered tracks. Growing each year is the Hispanic track, which draws thousands to share God’s word and the Church’s love of the Eucharist through participants’ native language.
This year, Archbishop Miller will serve as one of the main speakers for the Hispanic track, and he will be joined by Bishop Zarama, Dr. Carmen Cervantes, executive director of Instituto Fe y Vida, and Dr. Ricardo Castañón-Gómez, president and researcher of Grupo Internacional para la Paz and author of more than a dozen books. Juan Manuel Diaz, director and chief executive officer of Radio Kerigma Inc., an online radio station in Atlanta, will serve as the track’s emcee.
Respect and adoration of the Eucharist is not something for just the adults either. The children’s track is known for its exuberant singing and playing, but even the kids have the chance to spend some time with the Eucharist as it travels to every track throughout the day.
At this year’s children’s track, which ministers to children in kindergarten through eighth grade, Christ Music Kids will lead the children through song and prayer, all while giving them a solid spiritual experience which culminates when the archbishop bring the monstrance into the room.
Older kids will be attending the teen track, a typically crowded and lively gathering of Catholic middle and high school students. Maher will provide music for the track, which will run concurrently with the other tracks on Saturday. Other guests include Father Patalinghug and Bob Rice. J. Michael Ragan will serve as the emcee for the day.
Also on Saturday will be a Vietnamese track and a track specifically for deaf Catholics in attendance. The Vietnamese track will host Bishop Peter Tran Dinh Tu, of Phu Cuong, Vietnam, as well as Father Joseph Nguyen Van Thinh. Leading the deaf track will be Father Michael Medas, professor of domiletics and director of pastoral formation at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.
The day will end with a vigil Mass at 5 p.m. in the main exhibit hall with main celebrant Archbishop Gregory, who will be assisted by various local and visiting clergy.
As always, the Eucharistic Congress offers something for everyone, from young kids to grandparents and everyone in between. The congress is an event anticipated by many Catholics in the archdiocese and beyond since it offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see both the diversity and unity of the Catholic Church.
“Those who attend the Eucharistic Congress will discover a unique opportunity for prayer, evangelization, adoration, inspiring talks and music, as well as the once-a-year chance to gather with Catholics from all over for an intense communal experience of Catholic spirituality unparalleled in the Southeast,” the event’s Facebook page states.
“This marks the 15th anniversary of the Congress. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Archbishop (John F.) Donoghue for launching the Eucharistic Congress and Archbishop Gregory for continuing the tradition,” said Deacon Dorner. “And of course words of thanks are not even adequate when it comes to the appreciation of the thousands of volunteers who have worked over the years to ensure the success of the Congress.”
The Eucharistic Congress uses nearly 600 volunteers each year to help the event run smoothly. Deacon Dorner said they are still in need of volunteers in various capacities and are hoping local Catholics will lend a helping hand.
“If in any way the work of the Eucharistic Congress can bring one person into a closer more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ then we have all done our work. If the overall event brings praise and glory to Jesus, then we have achieved our mission,” said Deacon Dorner.
“As Catholics, particularly those living in this local church, this is a great chance to gather in community in a way that is unique,” he added. While planning and executing the event takes a lot of work, it is a labor of love for the steering committee and volunteers, Dorner said. “It is … the most life-giving and energizing event that I have ever experienced. I have no doubt that is why so many come again and again.”
15th Annual Eucharistic Congress
Friday-Saturday, June 4-5
Georgia International Convention Center,
Friday, June 4
5:30 p.m. Doors open
6:30 p.m. Mass
7:30 p.m. Revive! for young adults
(concurrent to healing service)
7:45 p.m. Healing service
8 p.m. Haitian Track
8 p.m. Brazilian Track
Saturday, June 5
7:30 a.m. Doors open
8:30 a.m. Opening procession
10 a.m. Adoration and exposition
of the Blessed Sacrament
11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tracks
5 p.m. Closing vigil Mass
The Georgia International Convention Center is located at 2000 Convention Center Concourse, College Park, GA 30337. For more information on volunteering visit the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Web site, www.archatl.com, and click on Eucharistic Congress 2010.