Bishop Conley to lead pilgrimage to Eucharistic Congress in Ireland
By Roxanne King
Photo Provided courtesy 2012 International Eucharistic Congress
It’s called the “Emerald Isle” and the “Island of Saints and Scholars.”
Lush, green Ireland has a rich history of Catholicism dating back to the fifth century and of contributions to world literature, music, dance and theater.
Next year, its capital and largest city, Dublin, will play host to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.
Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator for the Denver Archdiocese, will lead a pilgrimage June 9-18 to this gathering of the universal Church, which is expected to draw 25,000 participants to its catecheses and 80,000 to the closing Mass.
“Pilgrimages have always held a privileged place in the history of the Catholic Church. This more noble kind of travel has been a source of grace and renewal in the life of Christians for centuries,” Bishop Conley said in a letter inviting the faithful to the pilgrimage.
“The International Eucha-ristic Congress is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on Vatican II’s teaching that the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit’ of our faith because it is our encounter with the risen Christ himself,” he added, noting that the Eucharistic Congress is taking place on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
The 10-day pilgrimage will include five days of sightseeing. Sacred sites to be visited include the famed Knock Shrine, where apparitions of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist were witnessed in 1879; and the national cathedral, St. Patrick’s, which sits where the saint preached.
Highlights of the Irish landscape pilgrims will see include the picturesque villages of Enniskerry and Avoca in County Wicklow and the spectacular Cliffs of Moher on the coast. Historic sites pilgrims will visit or view include Trinity College, which houses the Book of Kells; Dublin Castle and the homes of authors Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.
Three days of the pilgrimage will be spent at the Eucharistic Congress and will include the climactic closing Mass, called the Statio Orbis. The first and last days of the trip will be spent traveling to and from Ireland.
Bishop Conley, who is a convert, spent a semester in west Ireland while in college, a month after being received into the Church.
“I have been to all of the sites we will visit on the pilgrimage and they are uniquely indicative of the rugged beauty and mystical enchantment that is Ireland,” he told the Denver Catholic Register. “But more than the physical beauty of the Emerald Isle, it is the people that make Ireland so special. The Irish have a great love for America and almost every Irish man and woman has a relative living in America. The hospitality and mirth of the Irish people is legendary, not to mention their music, poetry and love of dance. All of this is wrapped up in the colorful personality of the Irish people.”
Bishop Conley noted that in the 19th century, Irish immigrants brought a vibrant Catholic faith and heritage to the United States.
“We as Catholics in America owe so much to Ireland regarding the history of the Catholic Church here,” he said. “Most of our first bishops were Irish born.”
A Catholic for nearly 36 years, the 56-year-old bishop said this will be his first International Eucharistic Congress.
“I am really looking forward to this unique experience,” he said. “An International Eucharistic Congress provides an opportunity for Catholics from all over the world to gather together around the holy Eucharist and to celebrate the unity of our Catholic faith. It is truly a ‘catholic’ experience in the sense of the universality of our faith.”
Photo Provided courtesy Faith Journeys
Begun in France in 1881, Eucharistic Congresses promote the centrality of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church. Usually held every four years, they include dynamic daily celebrations of the Eucharist, catechesis and workshops led by leading prelates and theologians, stirring testimonies and lively cultural events.
The most recent International Eucharistic Congress was held in Quebec in 2008. The last time Ireland hosted the congress was in 1932.
The 2012 congress is themed, “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and With One Another.”
The theme, organizers said, aims to foster an awareness of the Eucharist as true personal communion with Jesus Christ and to renew appreciation of the Church as a eucharistic community.
“We hope … we will see growth both in understanding and in the reality of the Christian community,” Father Kevin Doran, a priest of the Dublin Archdiocese and secretary general for the congress, told the Denver Catholic Register.
The pilgrimage should be a time of encouragement and renewal as the participants deepen their love for the Eucharistic Lord, Bishop Conley said.
“A pilgrimage is a metaphor for life,” he said. “We are all pilgrims in this world; we are all sojourners. Making a pilgrimage to a faraway and enchanting place like Ireland reminds us of sacred things and the wonderful history of human experience.
“The faith runs so deep in the soil of the Irish soul,” he added. “It will be a special grace for all of us, as Americans, to experience the riches of a truly Catholic culture.”
The cost of the pilgrimage (with a minimum 25 passengers) including airfare is $3,095 per person (land only price is $2,085). The tour also includes three-star hotel accommodations (double occupancy) eight breakfasts and dinners, all scheduled sightseeing and entrance fees, motorcoach, car ferry across the River Shannon and Eucharistic Congress registration fee (including closing ceremony ticket).
Tour does not include private room, travel insurance and airport taxes/fuel surcharges. Early registration deadline is Dec. 1. Full payment must be received by March 10. Tour company is Faith Journeys. Pilgrimage sponsor is the Denver Catholic Register. For more information, call archdiocesan Events Coordinator Tess Stone at 303-715-3207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.