Fourteen delegates from Saskatchewan attended the 50th anniversary of the International Eucharist Congress (IEC) in Dublin, Ireland.
They enjoyed the opening mass celebrated by Cardinal Marc Ouellette, Papal Legate, speaking on the theme of the conference, the Eucharist — communion with Christ and one another.
It not only amazes me that the Bible is still around 2000 years later, but that Catholicism is so universal around the globe no matter what language is spoken, the mass is the same and understood by all.
Archbishop Albert Legatt of St. Boniface spoke of the 20,000 people gathered at the Sunday opening mass, from many corners of Ireland and many lands of the world to celebrate, one Lord, one Baptism, gathered by one Faith. It was entirely appropriate to celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, the encourager. Legatt spoke of St. John Chrystendom and how the Holy Spirit used the dissension between Barnabas and Paul to spread the good news even further as they went their separate ways.
We are expected to do likewise. How? Allow ourselves to be emptied so we can be filled with the Holy Spirit and go on an interior pilgrimage, called to conversion letting the Lord be first in our lives, sharing joyfully and with the hope and the love of God with others. "We are called to journey together, to be with Him and one another," he stated.
In a workshop on Vatican II and Ecumenism, Bishop Brian Farrel looked back 50 years over how much has been done. He reflected on a childhood experience where a child couldn't attend a classmate’s funeral because he was not Catholic. If we have a common baptism in Christ then we are Christian brothers and sisters. John XXIII wanted leaders of all the churches to meet. Since then barriers have been broken down.
Methodist preacher, Dr. Richard Clutterbuck, in speaking of the last 50 years, compared the journey to climbing a mountain. Halfway there, you look up, the mountain seems steep and progress is slow; but turn around and you see how far we have come and how much has been accomplished. Christian reconciliation requires courage to come together.
The goal of the ecumenical movement was full visible union in Christ. How long will this take? It is like a fellow asking when the Berlin Wall will come down. An old man responded, "Not In my lifetime, maybe in one or two generations." It came down that very night! The pain of division may drive us together, and to not give up hope. The summit is ahead of us, and the summit is Christ.
Alois Loser of the Taize community spoke of reform that will take place when we focus on our baptismal identity rather than denominational identity. Different gifts are experienced by east and west churches.
Richard Moore, founder of Crossfire, gave his testimony. In 1972, at age 10, while on his way home from school, he was blinded by a rubber bullet fired at point blank range into his face in Derry, Northern Ireland. Although his mother prayed for his eyesight to be restored, he did not get his eyesight back, but he got a lot more out of life. His mother would hang every medal she received on him to the point of carrying 40 medals pinned on his shirt. In 2006, he met and forgave the soldier who shot him. Moore said, "Forgiveness is a gift to yourself ". He refused to be a victim of anger. He concluded his amazing story with a powerful statement, "You can take away my eyesight, but you can’t take away my vision!”
In a Trafficking of Persons “Broken Lives” workshop, three sisters made the presentation. Sr. Catherine Dunne, SSHM stated trafficking is global modern day slavery. When the sisters became aware of it, they wondered what they could do. They decided to raise awareness through an organization, called APT, Act to Prevent Trafficking. She said, “We need to understand who and what we are talking about? This is not about illegals. This is people recruited, transported, and controlled against their will: be it labour, human organs, or sexual exploitation for profit.” Their presentation focused on the latter.
Sr. Mary Manganese began her presentation with a want ad and told Nadia's story. When I saw the want ad, I thought anyone would apply. Wanted: Women and girls with entrepreneurial spirit, all ages, willing to travel, flexible hours, all shifts available, written or verbal communication skills not required, opportunity for career growth, no references required, enquire within.”
Nadia thought to become a hairdresser in Europe, but did not have enough money to pay for travel and passport. When she applied, they said it was OK, they would provide it and she could pay back later. She was met at the airport by her minder who checked her name on her passport and kept it for safe keeping as well as gave her a mobile phone. But the job ended up being a job to provide sex 24/7 and when she objected, she was beaten and raped. The minder warned her she was an illegal, had no passport and she owed $30,000 E for her flight, food and lodging. Her family would suffer if she didn't comply and left her to think things over.
Each week she was moved to a different town. She thought the men would help her, but all they wanted was sex for value. They had paid. The mobile phone was for calls from clients or her minder. Effectively she is imprisoned by her fear and can see no rescue. Sr. Mary concluded her part of the presentation by asking, “How does Nadia's story challenge you? Would it be acceptable if it was your daughter, sister, or mother?”
Sr. Eilis Coe spoke of the Eucharist, the body of Christ and scripture of St. Paul. We’re all members of the Body of Christ. If one is hurts, all share it's pain. When these girls are released because of pregnancy, disease or a police raid, they come to APT via hospitals or police. Sometimes people don't believe their stories. They arrive in a country they don't speak the language, and don't know where they are.
Following the presentation, many questions were asked: Is prostitution illegal in Europe? Are the police doing anything? What is drawing the demand? Are you speaking to men's groups and schools? As for what is driving the demand, it is money, greed, sex, gender inequality, lack of respect, more separations and divorces or pornography?
In the closing mass, held in the Croke Park stadium, there were 80,000 in attendance. We were entertained before the mass by soprano singer Brynne, three tenor priests and choirs. The next International Congress will be held in Cebu, Philippines in four years.
Fellow pilgrims I travelled with were Shirley Kucher of Kindersley, Henriette Le Strat, and Mary Kehrlig, Father Ralph Kleiter, Msg. Ray Senger, Bishop Don Bolen, Wayne and Joanne Kzyzyk, Monica and John Beavis, all of Saskatoon and Lois and Ed Weber of Wilkie.
To be continued …