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Testimonies
 
A Family Pilgrimage to the International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland
 
Kate O'Connor before a banner at the Royal Dublin Society
Kate O'Connor before a banner at the Royal Dublin Society

Siobhan O’Connor, a consecrated member of Regnum Christi, shares her experience of the International Eucharistic Congress.  

Dublin, Ireland -- This past June 10-17, my family made our first ever trip to the Emerald Isle, for two reasons:  one was for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin and the other was to explore our Irish heritage on my Dad’s side of the family. The occasion? To celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.

June 10: Arrival 

We arrived on the feast of Corpus Christi for the opening Mass of the Congress.  Complete with beautiful Gaelic music and rays of unusual Irish sunshine, the Royal Dublin Society stadium was only half full but the crowd was brimming with Canadians…about 1,200 of
Kathe and Siobhan O'Connor
Kathe and Siobhan O'Connor
them were there to show their support after the last Congress held in Quebec. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who is from Quebec and now works in the Vatican, presided over that Congress four years ago, and this time around, he was the papal legate for the Dublin event.  The theme of the entire week was Communion with Christ and One Another.
 

June 11: Communion in One Baptism

One of the talks that most impressed my sister and me was given by Br. Alois Löser, prior of the Taizé Community in France.  He spoke eloquently about the ecumenical efforts that he and his brothers are undertaking at their monastery to bring all Christians closer together in the one faith and one baptism that we share as Christians. While he himself is Catholic, there are brothers of the community who belong to different denominations, yet they are all living a community life rooted in the Eucharist and the Scriptures, which was fascinating. 

June 12: Communion in Marriage and Family

On this day, because we wanted to sightsee in Dublin, instead of going to the talks we tried to live the theme out as a family, travelling together throughout Dublin City and touring famous sites such as Trinity College, where we explored the Book of Kells and the Trinity Long Hall library. The treat for my Dad was our afternoon tour of the gigantic Guinness factory where they make that black brew the Irish love so much!  Note for all interested:  they give you two free pints as you make your way through six floors of the factory… 

June 13: Priesthood and Ministry in the Service of Communion

This day was definitely a highlight for me. My Mom’s dream was to participate in the Eucharistic Procession around the RDS stadium that evening. Miraculously, the weather stayed clear, and thousands of pilgrims from all over the world joined in this event. I personally loved seeing an African group of women who wore dresses and headscarves with the logo of the Congress printed all over them!  Cardinal Ouellet carried the monstrance under a canopy and then gave us all Benediction.  During the procession, we prayed five decades of the rosary and also meditated on texts that were read out over loudspeaker from people such as Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. 

A great sense of jubilation pervaded this walk through the streets as we accompanied Jesus, especially at this period of history for the Irish Church.  To have a public display of faith was a witness for all those who did not even know that the Congress was taking place or who no longer believe in the real Presence.  Having been in this place spiritually once myself, I thought about how powerful such a moment might be for the curious on-lookers. 

As the crowd slowly left the RDS grounds, we heard the sound of bagpipes.  Six members of the Irish Army were playing Amazing Grace and they quickly got an international group of supporters who urged them to keep playing! 

June 14: Last Day of the Congress

This was our last day at the Congress because we had family sightseeing to do in a few short days.  There were several churches throughout Dublin that offered Mass in different languages.  The closest one to us was actually run by Opus Dei priests.  A bonus came after the Mass when the pastor exposed the Blessed Sacrament and then two young men with a guitar sang beautifully as a way to help pilgrims pray.  In that moment of prayer, my eyes were closed and I thought they had put on a professional CD recording.  It was only a little later when I got up to leave that I noticed the live singers! 

Later that morning, we rented a car (with the steering wheel on the right side) and my Dad drove on the left hand side of the road all the way from Dublin to County Sligo to explore our ancestry.

June 15-18: The Final Days in Dublin

June 15th and 16th completed a virtual whirlwind of activity for the O’Connor Clan.  We met relatives we had never seen before and stayed at the original O’Connor Manor at Clonalis, in Castlerea, Co., Roscommon.  On Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we went to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Knock for Mass, adoration, confession and prayer.  That afternoon we caught the last tour time of the famous Sligo Abbey, the site of a now ruined monastery from the 7th century which is deeply connected to the O’Connors from Connaught, another family tie.

 On Saturday June 16th, my sister and I attended the Vigil Mass at the Dublin Airport since we were flying out Sunday morning while my parents were going to spend
The O'Connor family celebrates a wedding anniversary
The O'Connor family celebrates a wedding anniversary
a few more days in Ireland.  We were a little sad at not being able to attend the closing ceremony in Croke Park with over 75,000 pilgrims, but the young priest in this airport chapel suddenly announced before Mass that we were going to sing the Eucharistic Congress theme song Though We Are Many, We are One Body as the opening and closing hymn, which lifted our hearts.  He also gave a rousing homily about how we need to keep our faith alive though trials…a needed message for all believers inside and outside of Ireland.
 

At the end of Mass, my sister and I met the young organist who was going to be singing in the choir for Sunday’s closing Mass. Connor relayed to us the contrast between the 1932 Congress where they had the Eucharistic procession in downtown Dublin, constructed a high altar on O’Connell Street, the main thoroughfare, and Eucharistic benediction was attended by a million people.  This Congress’ procession was much more subdued, took place outside of Dublin city center and benediction was given from a small altar on the back of a large parked truck.  In addition, the crowd was half international and half Irish. 

For me, the entire experience was one of reconciliation, healing and peace.  Those three words came to me in every moment of prayer we had before the Blessed Sacrament and in Knock.  You probably know of the tumultuous year that the Church in Ireland has been through, and also that we as consecrated women in Regnum Christi have endured.  For those of us who see that this is our vocation, we need to open our hearts to much reconciliation and healing so that we can move forward in peace and in hope. I still feel a deep sense of peace from this pilgrimage, and I ask for your prayers that it bears fruit for all of my spiritual family in Regnum Christi and for our suffering brothers and sisters in Ireland. I hope that we truly do achieve a deeper communion with Christ and with each other. 

For excellent footage and reporting on the Congress, I highly recommend watching Salt and Light TV on-line, based in Toronto, Canada. 

Siobhan O’Connor and her sister Kate grew up in Ontario, Canada and have been consecrated to God in Regnum Christi for almost 15 years. After working for 9 years as dean of academics at Immaculate Conception Academy in Wakefield, RI, Siobhan currently serves as a spiritual guide in the Tri-state area and lives in Rye, NY. She can be contacted at soconnor@regnumchristi.net.

After working for 13 years in Brazil with young people and families, Kate now serves at Northwoods Catholic School in Houston, TX. She can be reached at kateoconnor@regnumchristi.net.

 
 
 

 


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