Highlights of the Eucharistic Congress
Fourteen Sisters of St Joseph of Toronto, some pictured above, participated in the 49th International Eucharistic Congress from June 15 - 22, 2008. They joined 11,000 delegates from over 50 countries in Quebec City for a truly remarkable week.
Sunday June 15 was a travel day. After a long bus ride, 471 Toronto pilgrims arrived at Mont Ste. Anne, a ski resort dedicated for this week to pilgrims from the Toronto Archdiocese.
Monday included a talk on The Eucharist as the Gift of God Par Excellence and liturgy presided over by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec. The altar of sacrifice, see photo above, and the altar of the word, were both round and supported by what appeared to be kindling wood, suggestive of both the host and the ardent love of God. Translation into English, French and Spanish was available by means of a personal radio distributed to each pilgrim.
Tuesday focused on the Eucharist as a Memorial of the Paschal Mystery, and the witness of Friar N. Buttet was particularly touching. The afternoon featured a visit to the shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre.
Wednesday’s theme, The Eucharist Builds up the Church, the Sacrament of Salvation, provided a beautiful experience of the Byzantine liturgy. Time for a visit to the old city ended with afternoon prayer at the Convent of the Ursulines, the congregation whose foundress came to Canada in 1639.
On Thursday, Bishop Tagle of Imus in the Philippines provided the catechesis on ‘The Eucharist, the Life of Christ in our Lives. His talk was enriched by stories from his own experience. One day he saw a 13-year old girl at a nutrition centre for children under 12. She was feeding her three-year-old brother. When the Bishop asked if she had eaten, her reply was “No.” He said, “Perhaps we could find some food for you.” “Oh no, Bishop,” was her reply, “I am already 13 and if there is more food, there are many more hungry children under 12 in the city.” Later, a penitential liturgy took place, led by Cardinal Hummes of Brazil. This featured a dramatization of the parable of the Prodigal Son. That night found us in a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Quebec City, see photo above.
During the evening procession of the Blessed Sacrament, pilgrims were joined by huge papier-mâché models of the saints of New France, including François Laval and Marguerite Bourgeoys, see photo above.
Friday the focus was on the Eucharist and Mission. Jose Prado Flores taught a wonderful lessons using as props: a can of diet coke (his faith in the past provided no nourishment); a frozen steak (like the faith he was passing on, which cannot be eaten until it is thawed and cooked, when the aroma will draw others); and a road map (now he had decided to surrender to God and “let God drive the car.”) In the evening a mountain top experience was planned for the Toronto pilgrims.
Saturday called us to reflect on Eucharist at the Heart of the World. The witness of Marguerite Barankitse, foundress of Shalom House in Burundi, held what was for many the most moving presentation of the week. At Shalom House, she brings together children, victims of war from whatever side, to live in harmony. Her stories were fascinating: she was described in the headline of a Belgian newspaper as a clown. She has accepted to be “a fool for Christ’s sake.”
Sunday the final mass was celebrated on the Plains of Abraham; then began the long journey home, remembering one among the many powerful messages, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”
By Mechtilde O’Mara CSJ
Photos by Mechtilde O’Mara CSJ and Nida Fe Chavez CSJ