August 31, 2007

Diocese celebrates 150th anniversary with Eucharistic Congress

Bishop John M. D’Arcy celebrates the closing Mass of the Eucharistic Congress at the University of Notre Dame on Aug. 18. (Photo by Tom Uebbing/Today’s Catholic)

Bishop John M. D’Arcy celebrates the closing Mass of the Eucharistic Congress at the University of Notre Dame on Aug. 18. (Photo by Tom Uebbing/Today’s Catholic)

By Ann Carey (Today’s Catholic)

NOTRE DAME, Ind.—Thousands of Catholics made the pilgrimage to the University of Notre Dame campus on Aug. 18 to celebrate the 150th anniver­sary of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

While oppressive heat and heavy rains affected much of the country, northern Indiana enjoyed an unusually mild August day, and persistent gray clouds even held back their sprinkles until everyone had gathered in the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center for the event’s closing Mass.

Some participants came on buses chartered by their parishes. Others drove with their families, often meeting up with fellow parishioners once they arrived on campus.

Like some of the other pilgrims, Dan and Karen VanOverberghe’s family from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in New Carlisle, Ind., proudly wore T-shirts with their parish’s name on the front.

Shuttle buses ran continuously from parking lots to deliver people to the various pilgrimage venues on campus, but many people brought their own “wheels” for moving around, including wheelchairs for seniors and the disabled, and strollers and wagons for the youngest generation.

The day’s events began with an ecumenical prayer service in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart that was filled to capacity. An array of Christian pastors and leaders from around the city of South Bend lined the front of the sanctuary along with Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-

South Bend and Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Archbishop Buechlein presided at the service and, at Bishop D’Arcy’s request, gave a reflection on the early Church’s “collage of ministry” as an insight into how different Christians can appreciate what each contributes to the Church.

The university’s Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto also was crowded all day long due to ongoing recitation of the rosary. Daylong eucharistic adoration in the Alumni Hall Chapel was a suitably quieter venue with a stream of worshippers throughout the day.

Priests offered the sacrament of reconciliation at 45 stations sprinkled around the campus.

Father John Stecher of the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., told Today’s Catholic that confessions had been “steady” all day. There weren’t long lines of people waiting, he said, but people milling around would come to confession when they saw that a priest was free.

University of Saint Francis sophomore Megan Gamble said that, for her, confession was the best part of the congress.

“It’s probably the best confession I’ve had in like, five years,” she said. “I don’t know the priest’s name, but he was fabulous.”

A vast array of workshops in morning and afternoon sessions kept the pilgrims moving between buildings, and many first-time visitors to Notre Dame enjoyed touring the campus while walking to their chosen workshops.

First-time visitor John Fedele of St. John the Baptist Parish in New Haven, Ind., pronounced Notre Dame “breathtaking” as he admired the preservation of historical artifacts and buildings on the campus.

Workshops at the congress included adult, family and youth tracks. Some were interactive, like the family concert with Amanda Vernon that recruited entertainers out of the audience of families with children from preschool through age 8.

Other more heady adult workshops covered everything from Scripture to the Blessed Mother to Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”).

Workshops of a practical nature offered lessons in areas like preparing children for first Eucharist, encouraging vocations and inviting

non-practicing Catholics back to the Church.

One of the goals of congress planners was to attract a wide variety of people, and the crowds moving around the campus gave testimony to their success. Senior citizens, families and youths all seemed to find something of interest, and one older person was overheard remarking that it was very inspirational simply to be among so many other Catholics.

Greg Sweeney, youth minister at Christ the King Parish in South Bend, Ind., was happy to see at least 20 young people from his parish at the event, but he was even more impressed by the large number of youths in attendance.

“I’m really thrilled and surprised to see so many young people here today with their families or by themselves, united for one cause,” Sweeney said. “They were laughing and really enjoying the day. For them, it was a chance to experience Christ in a new way.”

After the last workshops ended, about 40 young people gathered on the steps of the Administration Building to transfer the Jubilee Pilgrim Cross to the Joyce Center for the closing Mass, ending the two-year pilgrimage of the cross around the diocese.

The Mass, the culmination of the Eucharistic Congress, was attended by approximately 6,000 people.

Bishop D’Arcy was joined by several bishops and more than 100 diocesan and Congregation of the Holy Cross priests in celebrating the Eucharist.

In his homily, Bishop D’Arcy spoke of the theme of the jubilee year, “Behold the Face of Christ,” and asked how one pursues the face of Christ.

He said the emphasis of this pursuit should not be on visions or the extraordinary, but in finding it in what God has left his people, such as prayer and his presence in the Eucharist. The bishop said it also comes in knowing Christ as a contemporary, as a friend.

(Don Clemmer of Today’s Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, contributed to this story.) †

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