By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published April 26, 2012
On June 8-9, Catholics from around Georgia and the Southeast are invited to attend the 17th Eucharistic Congress, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Atlanta and hosted by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama.
The Congress will be held at the Georgia International Convention Center, College Park, next to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
This annual two-day event for the Corpus Christi solemnity offers the opportunity for the large and diverse Catholic community in the region to gather and pray together in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to listen to eloquent speakers and musicians sharing the faith in a multitude of languages, to visit with representatives of religious orders who serve the Church as missionaries in the U.S. and around the world, to ask for healing, to meet other Catholics and to attend Mass together.
Doors open on Friday at 5:30 p.m., and the sacrament of reconciliation will be available from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, doors open at 7:30 a.m., the traditional morning procession begins at 8:30 a.m., and adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament begins at 9:30 a.m. The sacrament of reconciliation will be available from 12 to 3:30 p.m.
Activities for all ages and speakers for tracks in five languages—English, Spanish, Francophone, Vietnamese and American Sign Language—are planned, some on Friday evening and some on Saturday. Speakers from around the world will be presenting at this year’s congress, including bishops, religious and missionaries.
This year’s theme, selected by Archbishop Gregory, expands on the idea of community: “We Though Many Are One Body In Christ.”
Deacon Dennis Dorner, chancellor of the archdiocese and chair of the congress committee, said, “Our focus this year is on the missionary work of the Church and the relationship between the Eucharist and this missionary work.”
He added, “The speakers and those represented in the tables (on the concourse) are all involved with the missionary work of the Church. … Our Church is large, diverse and has something for everyone. I pray that all who attend this year’s event are blessed with a close encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In addition, I hope that the focus of the theme, that we are many but one body in Christ, affords an opportunity to revisit what it is that God is calling them to do with the many gifts and talents He has given them.”
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, of Tucson, Ariz., will be the homilist for the morning Benediction on Saturday. He was ordained a priest 45 years ago in the Archdiocese of Chicago, where his ministry included serving as rector of Mundelein Seminary before he was ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1995. Serving the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Kicanas has led its committees on the diaconate and lay ecclesial ministry and now serves as chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. He received the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award in 2008 for his work in the Tucson Diocese on life issues and on the plight of migrating peoples.
Deacon Dorner noted that many parts of the congress are repeated every year, but the spiritual graces are always new.
“If we didn’t have the opening procession with the display of banners and music, the crush of the crowd, the generous number of priests available for the sacrament of reconciliation and others, people would be profoundly disappointed,” he said.
However, he added, “But in the same way that every Mass, every liturgy, every reading of sacred Scripture is new and fresh because of our own personal experiences, the congress is also new and fresh and has truly become a vital part of our archdiocesan Catholic culture.”
The 2011 Eucharistic procession moves toward the entrance of the Georgia International Convention Center. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
He mentioned the connection between the Eucharistic Congress and vocations: “It is no secret that we are in the midst of a major vocational crisis. This is true in all areas of life: marriage, religious and the priesthood, not to mention the assault on our society for everyone who is trying to live a life that is counter culture to the secularism of the world. When the congress was envisioned 17 years ago, the principal goals were an increased awareness of the reality of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”
He continued, “Our goal the past several years has been to find that focus again. As one of our wonderful speakers said several years ago, ‘No priests, no Eucharist.’ We need to continue to stress this important reality.”
Following are bios for speakers in the various tracks.
Dr. Albert Nordone, a dentist in the Atlanta area for the past 26 years, is a founding member of St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek. For the last 10 years, he and his wife, Daphne, parents of four, have also led mission groups to Nicaragua for Mustard Seed Communities, a Catholic ministry to abandoned and disabled children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Father Liam Cummins, a native of Waterford, Ireland, has 20 years of mission experience in Africa. Ordained a priest of the Mill Hill Missionaries in 1996, he has served in East and West Africa, in Uganda, northern Cameroon and in Kenya, first as a lay missionary and then as a missionary priest. His work has included evangelization, dialogue with Islam and forming and training others to serve in the missions. He will also speak in the Friday evening REVIVE! Young Adult Track.
Mother M. Assumpta Long is the prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She was one of the four founding sisters of the community in 1997 as Pope John Paul II invited new religious communities to form and respond to the needs of the New Evangelization. The community now has over 100 sisters teaching in seven dioceses, drawing from the rich heritage of the Dominican Order of Preachers and the vitality of the New Evangelization. She also assisted in the formation of the Sisters of Life in New York. She will also speak in the Friday evening
REVIVE! Young Adult Track.
Alex Jones’ love of the Bible and study of early Church Fathers led him into the Catholic Church in 2001, after 25 years as senior minister in two Detroit Pentecostal and evangelical churches. Embracing belief in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the liturgy, he entered the Church with many family members and congregants. Now a Catholic permanent deacon, he writes, speaks and preaches passionately on Catholics embracing the fullness of their faith.
Known for his love of cooking and for inviting families to rediscover the kitchen as a place of daily grace, Father Leo Patalinghug is a popular conference speaker. Raised near Baltimore, he was ordained in 1999 and as a parish priest wrote the book “Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life.” He is on the faculty at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he directs a pastoral program for future priests. He is featured in EWTN’s new series “Savoring Our Faith.” He will also speak in the Friday evening REVIVE! Young Adult Track.
Msgr. Wilfredo Peña-Moreno, a native of Cuba and a priest of the Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has a unique way of sharing the Good News, as he has done through his missionary work in various countries. He is the founder of pastoral groups, an evangelist, preacher, author, and writer and director of autos-sacramentals, plays written to express the mystery of the Eucharist for the Corpus Christi feast. Msgr. Peña studied philosophy, theology and canon law in the United States, Colombia, Rome and Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years he has been the pastor of the San Juan parish community of St. Bernadette.
Father Jaime Molina-Juarez is a religious priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Nativity of Mary. He was born in Ignacio Zaragoza, Chihuahua, Mexico, where he was also ordained a priest. Throughout his 20 years of priesthood, he has served in many capacities at a parish and diocesan level in Mexico and the United States, including as the leader of evangelization and catechesis in the Diocese of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. Since 1999, Father Jaime has served with the Missionaries of LaSalette as a parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna, where he is responsible for the Hispanic ministry and is a strong supporter of the small faith base communities.
Juan-David Henao, 28, is a native of Medellin, Colombia, who works full time for the Escuela Bíblica Catolica Yeshua in Colombia, ministering primarily to young people, coordinating spiritual retreats, workshops, encounters and education programs. He is studying theology at the Pontifical Bolivariana University. Juan-David has worked with some of the more vulnerable communities, including the incarcerated, substance abuse dependent and the sick, and he has coordinated evangelization processes to form disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ in several countries. He is part of radio station “Yeshua—The Voice of Jesus Christ” in Medellin.
Luz-María Cuartas of Medellin, Colombia, is a professor and administrative vice principal of the Escuela Biblica Catolica Yeshua in Colombia, where she organizes the logistics and coordinates seminars, encounters and courses for the Scripture school. Luz-María has a master’s degree in theology from the Pontifical Bolivariana University and has been invited to speak in Latin and Central America, Puerto Rico, the United States and Spain. She is the mother of Juan-David Henao.
A native of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Martin Zavala has been a full-time lay Catholic missionary for 24 years, as well as a husband and father. He has taught apologetics at the seminary in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, founded the Diocesan Theology Institute and the Misioneros de la Palabra de Dios (Missionaries of the Word of God). He has explained the Catholic faith and spoken on the phenomenon of sects on television and radio programs, in books and online and has spoken at conferences in Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, Mexico, the United States and England.
Father Matthew Hy Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, is associate professor of systematic theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Md., and also teaches in the permanent diaconate program of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. A member of the Society of St. Sulpice, he came to the United States in 1987. He holds a master of arts in theology and a master of divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary in San Francisco and he received his doctorate in theology at the Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.
Father Peter Vong Van Mai, 36, is a priest from the Diocese of Phat Diem, North Vietnam, who has been studying in the United States at the request of his bishop since 2006. This spring he will receive his doctorate in ministry from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., where he has already completed a master of arts in theology and in the multicultural church.
Father Daniel Gbadji from Togo, West Africa, will be the speaker in the Francophone Track of the 2012 Eucharistic Congress. Father Gbadji, 39, was ordained in 1999 for the new Diocese of Kpalime´ after study at John Paul II Major Seminary in Togo. A pastor and diocesan director of religious education, he has also guided charismatic prayer groups and regularly celebrates healing Masses for the people he pastors.
American Sign Language Track
Sister Shirley Bodisch, a Boston native and a member of the Sisters of Peace in New Orleans, has worked in deaf ministry for more than 30 years in Louisiana and Mississippi. One of her missions was to teach people who are deaf how to break open the word of God and discuss among themselves what it means and how it relates to their lives. She put more than 40,000 miles on her car during her travels to ensure Catholics who are deaf could learn, understand and carry the biblical messages into their lives. She helped to organize deaf community members to serve as Mass lectors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and altar servers. She also taught American Sign Language to seminarians.
Recalling the participation and reaction of attendees at past congresses in Atlanta, Deacon Dorner said, “Those who participate in the Congress with their attendance are clearly fed by the liturgy and wonderful speakers brought together on that special day. I also believe that even those not in attendance receive blessings. If we truly believe what Sacred Scripture says, that when two or more are gathered in the Lord’s name he is present, then when 30,000-plus believers come together Jesus is truly there … in a most tangible and wonderful way.”
Admission at the Eucharistic Congress is free, and concessions will be available at the event. Parking is available but limited, and the use of shuttle buses and carpools is strongly encouraged.