New York Eucharistic Congress sees thousands of pilgrims walk among saints
(Part one of a five part series on the New York State Eucharistic Congress)
An estimated 8,000 people walked the same grounds as St. Isaac Jogues and St. Kateri Tekakwitha while learning of the power of, and need for, the Eucharist.
From Oct. 20-23, pilgrims gathered at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville, the site where St. Isaac Jogues died and St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born, for the New York State Eucharistic Congress. It was the perfect location. Holy ground that saw the ending and beginning of saintly lives. All talks took place in the round coliseum, with a monstrance and Eucharist at the center. Keynote addresses, also centered around the Eucharist, dealt with family, the role of fathers, secularism, the value of adoration, and the importance of participating at Mass. Adoration, music and Mass filled out the 40-hour retreat.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, was in Rome attending the Synod on Synodality, but he delivered a message via video.
“This day has been a dream of ours?, been long in coming,” he said, explaining his concerns about attendance. “Would the people come? Would the priests practice? And darn it, you may have, you may have. And for that, I praise Almighty God, and I thank all of you, my brother bishops, my deacons, religious women and men, all God’s people there, and we give it to faith. Hallelujah, those who have supported this.”
Despite being in Italy, Cardinal Dolan said the power of the Eucharist made him feel close to those gathered in upstate New York.
“That’s the magnetism of the Holy Eucharist,” he said. “I can remember when my father dropped dead at work at 50 years of age, as you might imagine, my dear mom was heartbroken, and she was shattered, and it took her a while to get over it. And one day, I was just a priest a year or so, when I was home on the day off, she had mentioned that she had begun to go to daily Mass. And I said, Mom, I know you’ve never missed Sunday Mass, but I don’t think anyone was going to daily Mass. And she said, ‘Tim, I feel very, very close to your Dad. I miss him very much, but I feel very close to him, especially at the Mass.’ She said, ‘I tell you this, when I receive my Lord and Holy Communion, I am very close to Jesus. He’s living in my heart and soul.’ And she said, ‘I trust that your dad is now very, very close to Jesus in heaven. So, if we’ve got your Holy Communion, am I ever close to him?’
“I never thought that my dear mom was a theologian, but she sure was. And so, when we’re at Mass, we’re close to Jesus, as close as we can be to this side of paradise. We’re close to our family and friends. We’re close to those who have gone before us. We’re close to the community of the saints. And so, I thank God I have this opportunity to be united with you in the prayer of this moment of the Eucharistic revival.”
The New York bishops, priests, religious sisters, and lay people roamed the sprawling grounds that include a rosary garden, statues, a museum and a trail to the site of René Goupil’s burial.
The Proulx family turned the event into a field trip for their homeschooled kids.
“We heard about the Eucharistic Congress and I told my husband about it and he said, yeah, we should definitely go because we’ve been looking for an opportunity to come up here anyway,” said Roberta Proulx, from St. Joachim & Anne Parish in Attica.
Her children are learning about the North American martyrs, and her daughter has already had a lesson on St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Guests who could not spend the entire weekend at the shrine came for certain parts. The Proulx family were able to find Bishop Michael W. Fisher pretty quickly after arriving Saturday morning.
“We didn’t get here in time last night for any of the talks but yeah, but it’s great so far,” said Proulx, who came with her husband and six of their seven kids.
Jack Fortna, from St. Anthony of Padua in Buffalo, came with classmates from Cornell University to “praise God and the Eucharist.”
“I think it’s pretty good,” he said. “Lots of time for adoration.”
While many of the talks focused on the importance of the Eucharist and not to stray from Mass, the 19-year-old seems to hold tight to his Catholic upbringing.
“As Catholics we affirm that this world is going to go away and it’s going to crumble away and what’s going to be left is our relationship with God. So that’s what we have to prioritize in this earthly pilgrimage is we have to prioritize building that relationship with God and loving Him as best we can because that’s what’s going to last,” he said.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The term “Eucharist” originates from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving.
In the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. The whole Christ is truly present – body, blood, soul and divinity – under the appearances of bread and wine, the glorified Christ who rose from the dead. This is what is meant by “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.
The Lord Jesus, on the night before he suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with his disciples. During this meal He instituted the sacrament of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and to entrust to the Church a memorial of his death and resurrection.
The New York State Eucharistic Congress gave pilgrims a taste of the National Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17-21, 2024.