After more than two decades of scandals, declining Mass attendances and religious vocations, and an apostolic visitation by the Holy See, 2012 might not seem to be the best year for an international religious festival on the “island of saints and scholars”.
Yet that is exactly what is happening this coming June when the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) will take place in Dublin, Ireland, having as its theme “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with each other”.
What is an International Eucharistic Congress? It is a gathering of Catholics, and indeed of some non-Catholics, from all over the world to promote the centrality of the Eucharist for the Church, improve understanding of the Eucharist and its celebration, and draw attention to its social dimension.
Dr Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and primate of Ireland, in choosing a theme of communion, focuses attention on an element of Eucharistic theology found especially in the writings of St Paul. This aspect had not been so prominent in the reflections of the Church for many centuries and it is a suitable theme given the painful period which the Church in Ireland continues to traverse.
The first sign for many Irish Catholics that IEC 2012 was coming to Ireland was news of the arrival of the (Dominican) Congress Bell in their area – to their parish or cathedral church.
The last IEC held in Ireland was in 1932 and included the ringing of the fragile bell of fifth century St Patrick, apostle to the Irish. Unfortunately, St Patrick’s bell cannot be rung as part of IEC 2012.
It is said that the use of church bells originated in Irish monasteries and from there spread throughout Western Europe eventually being accepted by the Eastern Churches.
The bell associated with IEC 2012 in Dublin did not come from a monastery but served nonetheless for many years as the bell of an Irish religious community – the Dominican convent of Portstewart, Northern Ireland. The congress bell has been travelling Ireland and elsewhere as an invitation to Catholics to come to IEC 2012. Tens of thousands have even been given the opportunity to ring the bell themselves with Pope Benedict himself not letting the chance pass him by when the bell was in Rome.
The Dominican connection with the Congress does not end there as the modern equivalent of a bell – an app – has been created by Br Luuk Dominiek Jansen OP to keep both pilgrims and those unable to attend the Congress up to date with the happenings at IEC 2012.
Br Luuk and fellow Dominican student brother, Damian Polly, are working for IEC 2012 as media volunteers, while their community, St Saviour’s Priory, are the hosts for Portuguese-speaking pilgrims.
During the week of the Congress and as part of “The Congress Extends to the City”, the community’s church on Dominick Street, is holding “Adoro Te Devote”, four nights of Eucharistic Adoration with reflections from four Dominican friars based on the Eucharistic hymns of St Thomas Aquinas. The four friars are Polish Dominican Fr Wojciech Giertych (Papal theologian and member of the IEC committee) and Irish Dominicans Frs Terence Crotty (biblical scholar, Rome), John Harris (theologian, Dublin) and Paul Murray (theologian, Rome).
Dominican sister and theologian Geraldine Smyth is contributing to the Theological Symposium taking place the week before the Congress at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. She will speak with Prof Robert Enright on Becoming Eucharist for One Another through Forgiving.
At least two Dominican brothers are speaking at the Congress itself in the main venue, the premises of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS): former Master General, Englishman Fr Timothy Radcliffe, is speaking on Spirituality for Today, Suffering and Healing, while the title of Belfast man Fr Paul Murray’s talk is Amazing Grace – the Poets of the Eucharist.
There will be many Dominicans from all over the world present in various capacities at IEC 2012, not excluding as pilgrims of course – friars, sisters, nuns and laity – and their presence will surely be felt. All of the students in St Saviour's will be acting as volunteers at the Congress in various capacities: as ushers, sacristans and in media work.
For information on all IEC 2012 events, see the website www.iec2012.ie and download the app.
For Dominican updates, visit www.DominicanFriars.ie
-This entry first appeared on the International website of the Order - www.op.org - courtesy of fr Fergus Ryan OP (Irish Province)