By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 3, 2019
COLLEGE PARK—Those who have attended the Atlanta Eucharistic Congress within the last few years may have seen Ronald Lapierre, 53, walking with Jesus during the eucharistic procession or helping kids during the children’s track. Maybe he pointed you in the right direction if you lost your way or told a joke that brought a smile.
No matter how you crossed paths, his fun spirit stays with all who encounter him.
Originally from Cumberland, Rhode Island, Lapierre has been Catholic all his life. He originally got involved with the Eucharistic Congress five years ago, when his pastor asked him be to be the Eucharistic Congress coordinator for St. Mary Mission in Elberton.
Since first becoming involved, he moved to Sparta, Tennessee, but still makes the over four-hour drive to the congress every year.
“I enjoy everything about the congress. To me, it’s another form (of) worship,” he said. “It is a bigger picture of the whole faith.”
Even though Lapierre has moved away, organizers consider him an integral part of the annual event. Charles Thibaudeau, director of human resources for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and head of security for the congress, described the longtime volunteer in an email as “enthusiastic and conscientious about everything he does.”
He is “always the first one there and the last one to leave,” added Thibaudeau.
Lapierre’s reliability and helpfulness make him a special part of the security team. Some of the best memories Thibaudeau has of Lapierre regard his help in connecting lost children with their families.
“He would actually walk through the immense conference center” twice and “usually was the one who found the kid,” recalled Thibaudeau.
“I don’t mind helping people. It’s second nature to me,” was Lapierre’s joyful response.
Sue Stubbs, director for the victim assistance program for the Atlanta Archdiocese and coordinator of volunteer registration, knows that Lapierre goes the extra mile to serve. “The first year he helped with set up, we were short on trolleys to move materials. So the next year, he brought (one) from his home for us to use exclusively … nothing short of a miracle,” she said.
Congress volunteers needed
Around 600 volunteers are needed for the annual Eucharistic Congress, scheduled for June 21-22 at the Georgia International Convention Center. This year’s theme is from Luke 22:19, “This is my body given up for you.” More than 30,000 people gather for this annual event to celebrate the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
Volunteers can serve in many areas, such as ushers and greeters, by helping those preparing to receive the sacrament of reconciliation or by encouraging youth to grow in their faith at the children’s track. Scheduling of volunteer hours is flexible for Friday, Saturday or both days. All adult volunteers must undergo a background check and potentially complete safe environment training.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory described the Eucharistic Congress as a “celebration of our unity in Christ, the eucharistic Lord of the church. On this one weekend of the year, we tell the Lord that we will speak with one voice, love with a single heart and strive to live the unity of the Eucharist faithfully for another year.”
Being a part of the annual congress has widened Lapierre’s faith, especially with so many cultures and languages represented. Some of his favorite memories include helping a little girl walk up to Archbishop Gregory to ask a question and helping children introduce themselves to Jesus during the children’s track program.
Now retired from his security work at the Environmental Protection Agency, Lapierre is a eucharistic minister, serves in the Knights of Columbus, trains altar servers and is involved in outreach programs at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Sparta. He invites neighbors in his Tennessee community to Atlanta for the annual congress, and looks forward to seeing his friends in Atlanta again this year.
For those considering involvement in the Eucharistic Congress, Lapierre believes that participating once will make a difference.
“Just volunteer for one thing, one day,” he said. “Next year, you’re gonna want to do more.”