By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff reporter | Published April 22, 2014
COLLEGE PARK—The theme of this year’s Eucharistic Congress comes from the Gospel of Matthew: “Go and make disciples,” a theme that echoes the recent Year of Faith and resounds throughout the Catholic Church today under the guidance of Pope Francis.
Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Atlanta and hosted by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Auxiliary Bishops Luis R. Zarama and David P. Talley, the 19th Eucharistic Congress will take place June 20-21. The annual event is open to Catholics from around Georgia and the Southeast.
The Congress will be held at the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC), College Park, next to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Held each year on the feast of Corpus Christi, the congress brings together the growing, diverse and devoted Catholic community in north and middle Georgia and areas beyond. During the two-day event, Catholics gather to pray in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; they listen and are enriched by speakers from around the world. They have the opportunity to discuss vocations with those who represent religious orders and serve as missionaries in the U.S. and globally. They gather for Mass to celebrate together once again the gift of Jesus Christ in his Body and Blood.
Congress begins Friday with Mass
Organizers anticipate that some 30,000 people will attend the congress, which begins on Friday evening, June 20, with Mass at 6 p.m. celebrated by Bishop Zarama.
A healing service with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, will be led by Father Tim Hepburn, vocations director of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and Msgr. Jaime Barona, pastor of St. Michael Church, Gainesville. Teams of trained intercessors will be on hand to pray in multiple languages for those who seeking healing in mind, body and soul.
Running concurrently with the healing service are two other tracks: REVIVE! and the Francophone session.
REVIVE!, a track for young adults ages 18-40, will be held in the Marriott Gateway Hotel adjacent to the convention center, and will include adoration. Father Dave Dwyer, a Paulist priest and director of Busted Halo, will be the main speaker for REVIVE!
A praise and worship service will lead off the Francophone Track for the French-speaking community in the archdiocese, beginning at 8 p.m., and will also include the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Father Dimitri Demesmin, a priest of the Diocese of Les Cayes, Haiti, will lead the session.
Saturday opens with a procession
The congress continues throughout the day on Saturday, ending with the vigil Mass for Corpus Christi at 5 p.m. celebrated by Archbishop Gregory.
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.
Activities for all ages and speakers for tracks in four languages—English, Spanish, Vietnamese and American Sign Language—will begin around 11 a.m. Well-known speakers planned for this year include Greg Willits, Patty Schneier, Mother Dolores Hart and Jeff Cavins in the English Track; Father Shawn Carey in the American Sign Language Track; Bishop Cirilo Flores, Mother Adela Galindo, Juan David Henoa and Father Luis Guillermo Cordobo in the Spanish Track; and Brother Fortunate Phong and Father Anthony Phong Kim Bui in the Vietnamese Track.
Kid Track requires pre-registration
The ADORE! Kid Track this year will feature activities centering on the theme “Disciples on the Road with St. Paul”. Prayer and Praise will include live music and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. ADORE! Kid Track is open to children ages 5-11 who will have a parent on site during the conference. There is no cost to participate but online pre-registration is required and spaces are limited. To register, visit the Eucharistic Congress website (www.archatl.com/congress/).
Cardinal DiNardo to give morning homily
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Houston-Galveston Archdiocese, will be the homilist at the Saturday morning Benediction service. The spiritual leader of the largest diocese in Texas, Cardinal DiNardo is known for his constant efforts to unite a multicultural, multilingual flock of Christian faithful to live out the Gospel with passion and enthusiasm.
Cardinal DiNardo serves on the board of the National Catholic Partnership for Persons with Disabilities, a position to which he brings empathy, contending as he does with significant hearing loss. He is a past chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who has spoken often before Congress on the Catholic Church position on pro-life matters, the death penalty, conscience protection, and the ongoing defense by the U.S. bishops of religious freedom in health care. Cardinal DiNardo was elected as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2013.
Deacon Dennis Dorner, chancellor of the archdiocese and chair of the congress committee, said, “Our lineup of speakers is always the best part of each Congress. Having Cardinal DiNardo here for the Benediction on Saturday will be special. He brings an exciting voice to the Church with the vibrant and growing diocese of Galveston/Houston.”
He added, “Mother Dolores Hart has a most amazing story, and I am personally looking forward to her talk. Her vocational story of moving from an actress in Hollywood to a cloistered abbey and a life of solitude, work, and prayer is fascinating.
Parishioner at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, and a long-time attendee at the Eucharistic Congress, JoAnn Hayman “can’t remember if I attended the very first ones, but certainly some of the ones that were held in churches, and every year after that.” As a volunteer this year, she is responsible for assigning hosts for the speakers. She said, “These hosts pick up from the airport and attend to every need while the speaker is with us…. Anything from selling their merchandise to buying replacement shoelaces!”
Hayman recommends attending the annual Congress. “We have a great line-up of speakers, and it is a great way to hear many wonderful Catholics talk about our faith, and our role in the world today.”
Describing the unifying effect of the Eucharistic Congress, Deacon Dorner said, “I was recently conducting a retreat at one of our parishes in the far edges of the Archdiocese. We discussed how the outlying parishes can feel more a part of the larger local Church here in North and Central Georgia. There is nothing else quite like experiencing the Eucharistic procession on Saturday morning with all of the parish, school and ministry banners all leading Jesus into the GICC.”
He said, “The Congress is a way for Catholics to gather in community and share the joy and power of Jesus’ Real Presence. If you have never experienced it, words are hard to come up with describe the energy.”
Hayman added, “Our Eucharistic Congress is an incredible event, and I love to hear the comments of attendees and of the speakers who come here for the first time. It’s a wonderful day for the entire family since we have tracks for just about everyone. It’s like an all-day retreat, and I always come away feeling renewed and refreshed in my faith.”
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.
For information on all aspects of the 2014 Eucharistic Congress, visit www.archatl.com/congress. There are links to make hotel reservations, to volunteer to serve at the congress and many details on June 20-21 events and speakers. Also for information, contact Meaghan Schroeder at email@example.com or (404) 920-6800.