Many of us are beginning to make plans for the busiest time of the year as we go through one big celebration after another. This is especially true for the Filipino community in the diocese. However, in addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas and other cultural observances, we are preparing to embark on a pilgrimage to the Philippines to participate in the 51st International Eucharistic Congress Jan. 28-31, 2016.
A Eucharistic Congress normally takes place every four years. It is an international gathering of people that promotes an awareness of the Eucharist as the heart of the life and mission of the Catholic Church. Each Congress is different since it takes place in a different country.
In June 2012, the Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made the announcement where the next event will take place in a video message. He said, “I would like to invite you to join me in praying for God’s blessings upon the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2016 in the city of Cebu! To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering. I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe.”
Why Cebu? Because Manila already hosted the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress in 1937. Another reason is the significance of this city to the Christianization of the country. The arrival of the Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, at the shores of the island of Sugbu (Cebu) on March 17, 1521 marked the reception of the Catholic faith by the indigenous people of the Philippines. The story goes that Magellan met with Rajah Humabon, ruler of the island, who had an ill grandson. Magellan (or one of his men) was able to cure the young boy, and in gratitude Humabon allowed himself, his wife Humamay, and 800 of his subjects to be baptised en masse. Claiming the country for Spain and Christianity, Magellan planted a cross into the ground which today stands tall next to the Basilica of Santo Niño de Cebu.
From Jan. 22 to 31, 2016, a joint pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn will attend the Congress. We look forward to learning from many great speakers. A few popular names are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.
Time has been set aside to visit the local shrines and places of interest. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will be with the pilgrims. His presence is a sign of his continued support to the Filipino community not just in the diocese, but in those areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Our diocese has given generously to assist the Dioceses of Palo and Borongan (both neighboring Cebu) in addition to the diocesan second collection given to Catholic Relief Services, that is still working on the ground.
For more information about the pilgrimage, contact Amy at Peter’s Way Travel at 516-605-1551.
Father Longalong, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, was born in the Philippines and serves as a parochial vicar at St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor.