The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has had its eyes turned toward the Eucharist these last few years. Different Catholic entities have therefore given more time to venture into this treasure and mystery, especially our Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and the Province of Saint Ann (USA).
The Africans living and working in the United States of America under the patronage of the USCCB organized a Eucharistic Congress in Washington, DC, at the Catholic University of America with a unity Mass celebrated in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception by His Eminence Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
- Over fourteen bishops graced the Conference, including the Cardinal-elect, His Excellency Christopher Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, who gave a keynote address.
- There were over one hundred priests and religious and a total participation of almost three hundred faithful.
- Invited by the Conference, Ugandan Father Simon Peter Zikusooka SSS represented the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.
- The theme of this Conference was “May They Be One”, an extract from Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17:21-23. The DC Congress identified itself more on the unity of the Eucharist. This aspect was vital in the lives of many African immigrants in the United States: that the world might be reminded that we are all children of the same God.
- Different workshops, some of which touched on racism and culture, were a part of this Congress. All themes drove the participants into communion, participation, and mission. The recitation of the rosary, celebration of the Eucharist, and fellowship moments dominated the DC Congress.
After celebrating the solemnities of Saint Ann and Saint Peter Julien Eymard, the USA Province of Saint Ann hosted the 5th Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (CEE) Eucharistic Congress in the Provincialate and parish of Saint Paschal Baylon (SPB), Highland Heights (Cleveland area), Ohio.
- Most religious of the province attended, including some SSS from other provinces and communities, including Uganda, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom.
- The Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament were also present from Waterville, Maine.
- The most significant group present was the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament in the United States (Associates).
- For context and history, the other CEE Congresses were in 1994 in Houston, Texas (USA), 1996 in Manila/Quezon City (Philippines), 1998 in Highland Heights (Cleveland), Ohio (USA), and 2002 in Madrid (Spain).
The theme of this Congress was: Renewing Our Eucharistic Spirituality.
Different speakers included Father Daren Maslen SSS, Father John Thomas Lane SSS, Father Norman Pelletier SSS, and Sister Catherine Marie Caron SSS, with workshops by Brother Michael Perez SSS, Father John Keenan SSS, Father William Fickel SSS, and Associate and Saint Paschal Baylon Parish Youth Minister Mrs. Evamarie Cross.
- Sister Catherine took us through the experience of the real presence in the life of Saint Peter Julien Eymard and four key points in the story of his life where he would experience a renewed Eucharistic Spirituality.
- Father Norman shared the general understanding of real presence as per the USCCB and the reasons for the renewal/revival for the USA. He stressed the importance of highlighting the Risen Lord and our communal response to living the Real Presence, one aspect of living the Eucharistic mystery. “It’s not just about transubstantiation, though that is an important part of the mystery – it’s about taking care of the poor and making our Eucharists mean something in the world we live in and be Eucharist to others.”
- Father Darren stressed that the participants renew their eucharistic lives, especially with an ever-expanding understanding of the Eucharist as a mystery that we live in, dying and rising within our lives.
- Various workshops, where free interactions with the presenters and sharing of experiences, brought this mystery closer to the participants, especially learning how to develop prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in their parish or involve youth in the ministry of our Aggregations. A lot was learned.
The Congress was crowned by a Eucharistic celebration led by the Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland, Michael G. Woost, on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. (The homily may be viewed on the SPB website YouTube channel.) Bishop Woost thanked the Congregation for organizing this Eucharistic Congress and bringing this mystery closer to the faithful. He shared how at each Mass, each Eucharist, we come to the mountain of God to be transfigured and go forth and live the Risen Christ in our world, fed at the table of the Lord Christ.
Moments of silent and animated prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (“adoration”) were observed with Taizé style music, a full music group and orchestration, and a procession with the Blessed Sacrament. It was moving and an honor to process while holding lit candles. The keynotes, workshops, prayer experiences, excellent meals, hotel banquet, Eucharistic celebration, and other fellowship moments made the Congress so successful.
I express my great gratitude to the Province of Saint Ann, the mother province of Uganda, for this beautiful eucharistic experience especially shared with the faithful and our Eymard Family!
August 7, 2023
Father Simon Peter Zikusooka, sss
Blessed Sacrament Parish, Masaka, Uganda