By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published May 16, 2019
COLLEGE PARK—Thousands of Catholics from the Southeast will gather for the 2019 Eucharistic Congress on June 21-22 at the Georgia International Convention Center. The theme for this year’s annual event is from Luke 22:19, “This is my body given up for you.”
For more than 30,000 Catholics, the annual congress is a time of prayer, fellowship and spiritual renewal. Tracks are offered in multiple languages—English, Spanish, French, Vietnamese and American Sign Language. Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation are available throughout most of the congress.
Deacon Dennis Dorner, chair of the Eucharistic Congress steering committee for 11 years, believes the annual event is a time for Catholics to share and connect with Christ.
“We are all united in Jesus and as Catholics, the Eucharist is such a tangible way for us to share that connection,” he said. “Even if one person has a conversion of heart that allows them to let Jesus in more deeply, that is the greatest gift of all.”
To stay connected during the congress, download the official Eucharistic Congress app by texting ATLEC to 88202. You can also search for myParish in the App Store or Google Play and search ATLEC after opening. To share your congress experience on social media, use #ATLEC2019.
Veterans invited to serve
The annual event will begin with Starve Wars, where volunteers will gather to help pack 100,000 meals for Burkina Faso in Africa. This is a collaborative effort with Justice and Peace Ministries, Catholic Relief Services, Helping Hands and the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III invites all active and veteran military service members to join him for the first session from 9-10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 21.
“As a former veteran of the United States Air Force, I was proud to be part of a team that defended our loved ones at home,” said Bishop Shlesinger. During his travels while in service, he became aware of people in need in various parts of the world, he said.
Accommodations for those with disabilities and Spanish-speaking interpreters will be available at the second session of Starve Wars from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Teens gather for prayer and fellowship
This year’s Eucharistic Congress will have a teen track, combining middle and high school students. The track scheduled for Saturday, June 22, will include prayer, music, breakout sessions, games and adoration. Speakers include Father Michael Schmitz, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth in Minnesota and chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Jessie Corsey, youth minister at Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch.
Live music will be provided by EPIC the Band, a group based in Miami, Florida. According to their website, they have “dedicated their lives to sharing the Gospel through music.”
Middle and high school youth must register through a youth minister or parish group leader to attend. The registration deadline is Friday, May 24.
According to the congress website, this is a “great opportunity for middle and high school youth to gather for fellowship and prayer.”
Speakers share faith experiences
The diversity of the annual Eucharistic Congress brings together speakers who present programs on different aspects of the Catholic faith from their own experiences.
Young adults are invited to attend the Revive Track at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21. Father Schmitz will be the keynote speaker, followed by Patrick Williams and the Renew Band. Williams is a singer, musician, liturgist and the director of music at the Georgia Tech Catholic Center. A social will immediately follow. To attend, RSVP on the Eucharistic congress website.
Bishop Guy Sansaricq, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Brooklyn, will lead the Francophone Track on Friday, June 21 at 8 p.m. Sansaricq is the only Haitian American bishop in the United States.
The lineup for the English track on Saturday, June 22, includes Dr. Elizabeth Lev, an author and art historian; Father Mike Joly, a priest from New England who helps with adult and youth retreats; Sonja Corbitt, an author who shares the works of the Holy Spirit and Father Schmitz. The track also features Steve Ray, a popular congress speaker, who with his wife, Janet, teaches Catholic bible studies and creates documentaries.
Those attending the Spanish Track on Saturday, June 22, will hear from Atlanta’s auxiliary bishops Bernard E. Shlesinger III and Joel M. Konzen, SM. Other speakers include Elena Segura, associate director of the Office of Human Dignity and senior coordinator for immigration for the Archdiocese of Chicago and Father Jaime Molina Juarez, a priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna. The track will also feature José “Pepe” Alonso, host of “Nuestra Fe en Vivo” broadcast by EWTN.
Archbishop Joseph Linh Chi Nguyen from the Thanh Hoa Diocese in Vietnam will speak at the Vietnamese track, while the American Sign Language track will be led by Father Thomas Coughlin, OP Miss., the first deaf priest ordained in North America.
Deacon Dorner encourages everyone, even if it is your first time, to attend this year’s Eucharistic Congress.
You may “have a million excuses not to come. But there is one overriding reason to be there—Jesus! Just come and see what you have been missing!” he said.