Bishop John Noonan recently returned to the Diocese of Orlando after a vacation to his childhood home in County Cork, Ireland, and recalled one of the highlights of his trip: the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which took place June 10-17 in Dublin.
It marked the first time since 1932 that the International Eucharistic Congress, which occurs every four years, was held in Ireland. The International Eucharistic Congress is a gathering of people from around the world which aims to promote an aware of the Eucharistic in the life and mission of the Catholic Church; help improve the understanding and celebration of the liturgy; and draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist.
Each day, Mass was celebrated in a number of different languages, and the Congress offered the opportunity to spend time with Christ through Eucharistic Adoration. The program also consisted of a number of pilgrimages, other liturgical and cultural events, workshops, speeches, testimonies and exhibitions occurred. Among the themes were reconciliation and healing. The closing Mass, held at Croke Park, a sports stadium, attracted nearly 100,000 people.
This year’s International Eucharistic Congress was the first time Bishop Noonan attended the Congress. Bishop Noonan said he wanted to be present because he wanted to offer support for the Catholic Church in Ireland. Irish priests and religious sisters from Ireland made a lasting impact on Florida and specifically central Florida, as many parishes in the Diocese of Orlando were constructed by Irish priests. The Sisters of Mercy were among the leaders in education, and built a number of schools.
“I went basically because the Church in Ireland is struggling right now,” Bishop Noonan said. “I thought it was important to go and lend support. I also thought it was important to go because of what the Irish Church had done for central Florida. It was a very important moment for the Church – especially the Church in Ireland – and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to represent the Diocese and to be there to give thanks to the Lord for what the Irish priests have done here.”
Bishop Noonan reflected on a number of Irish speakers, including John Waters, a reporter from The Irish Times who recently returned to the Catholic faith; and Abbot Patrick Hederman, a Benedictine monk, teacher and writer. He also had the opportunity to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament through Adoration.
“I thought it was very good in regards to the speakers, and the fact that it reflected on the reality of what is going on in the Church today,” Bishop Noonan said. “Every day that I went to Adoration, there were 400 or 500 people in the chapel too.
“Overall, I was very happy with it,” Bishop Noonan added. “I talked to young people and priests from different places, and the people were enthusiastic. It was a time for reflection, soul searching and renewal. The event was focused on the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is what brings us back to the Lord. It’s food for the soul rather than food for the body, and I think most people that attended felt they had been renewed.”
The 2016 International Eucharistic Congress is scheduled to take place in Cebu, Philippines.