Next month (June 10-17) the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), which takes place once every four years, will return to these shores to celebrate its 50th gathering. On this occasion it will find a very different Ireland to that of 1932, in terms of religious climate and socio-economic issues.
According to Fr. Turlough Baxter, the liaison between the IEC’s national committee and the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, in 1932 the IEC offered people the opportunity to heal from the Civil War (1922 – 1923) and the challenges of the day.
“This Eucharistic Congress (2012) will feature a stone made of Wicklow granite upon which will be inscribed a prayer from someone who was abused. This is something written in stone and something that we have to be proactive about. This healing will be a part of the whole week,” said Fr. Baxter speaking to the Leader from Athlone, County Westmeath where he is a curate with St. Mary’s Church.
Bishop Colm O’Reilly agrees. In a statement he said there is “the strong opinion that the Congress should contain a penitential element so that it may become a source of healing and renewal. That is my view.”
A native of Battery Road, Longford, Fr. Baxter points out that theme of the 50th IEC is ‘Communion with Christ and with each other’ and so “We have to offer healing to those who have suffered in the past.”
From a unity perspective the week-long programme will feature Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, celebrating the liturgy. Archbishop Jackson is a son of Roy Jackson, a former Church of Ireland rector in Longford.
Fr. Baxter, who was in Carrick-on-Shannon for 13 years prior to his move to Athlone last September (2011), feels that enthusiasm for the IEC will build further when the event gets under way in the RDS, Dublin.
“I think it’s like any event. People get a real sense of it as it happens. It will be a full week so I feel that people will be much more enthusiastic as it progresses,” he said.
In 1932 a number of public processions took place across County Longford. When asked if there had been similar events in the lead up to this IEC, Fr. Baxter replied: “We’ve had the bell pilgrimage that visited every parish in the diocese. We also had an all day celebration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Youth Ministry Office for the diocese is also arranging for young people to go for three days to the Congress.”
The week, which is mainly based within the RDS, will feature workshops, themed discussions and liturgies. It will close on Sunday June 17 in Croke Park with Statio Orbis.
“This is like a station mass for the world and Dublin is hosting it. Each diocese has been given a number of tickets and we have received just over 600,” said Fr. Baxter.
He added: “This week is about coming to a better understanding of the Eucharist. It’s about living the Eucharist in people’s lives. It’s about coming to understand faith themselves. It’s a people power event – an opening of possibilities.” Click on www.iec2012.ie to find out.