Diocesan News

Filipinos Prepare to Host Eucharistic Congress

IEC16As pilgrims around the world head to the Philippines to participate in the 51st International Eucharistic Congress Jan. 24-31, members of the Diocese of Brooklyn are reflecting on the Congress’ significance and praying for its success.

The goal of the Eucharistic Congress is to enhance and deepen the understanding, appreciation and celebration of the Eucharist.

“As a Filipino, I’m proud that the Congress will be held in my country, that people will converge to discuss our relationship with Jesus in His body and blood: the Eucharist,” said Hermes Allas, parishioner of St. Robert Bellarmine parish, Bayside, and senior advisor to the ministry to Filipino migrants in the diocese.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will offer a Mass at St. Sebastian Church, Woodside, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, in conjunction with the International Eucharistic Congress.

Allas said that the Jan. 27 Mass will be offered both to give thanks for the Congress and as a way to offer prayers for its success.

“For those who could not make it to the Philippines, this is an opportunity for everyone to come together for a Mass to unite their intentions with the intentions of the Congress,” said Father Patrick Longalong, coordinator of the ministry to Filipino migrants in Brooklyn and Queens.

Father Longalong is one of 30 pilgrims from the Brooklyn Diocese and the Archdiocese of New York who will participate in the Eucharistic Congress. His group of pilgrims will visit local shrines in the historic city of Cebu, including the Basilica of the Santo Niño, the oldest Catholic image in the country.

The Eucharistic Congress – which dates back to 1881 – normally takes place at a different location every four years. This is the second time the Philippines is the host. The 33rd Congress was held in Manila in 1937. The significance of the location is connected to the fact that Christianity came to the Philippines through the shores of Cebu in 1521.

Father Longalong said that the theme this year, “Eucharist and Mission,” is apropos of the chosen venue and he is looking forward to hearing the speakers, including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, Calif., and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.

“From the preparation talks that the organizers have done (and posted on Youtube), we have come to understand that the different presentations at the Congress are geared toward mission,” Father Longalong said. The main focus of the presentations will relate to “Faith and culture, faith and different religions in Asia, faith and the poor, and faith and how we deal with the youth.”

According to the organizers, around 15,000 pilgrims are expected to attend daily sessions. People around the globe can participate by watching live broadcasting of public events by logging onto iec2016.ph/live-streaming.

“We are so happy that (the Congress) is taking place,” said Hilda Mantalaba, a St. Sebastian parishioner and member of Cebuanos Engaging in Building Unity (C.E.B.U. Inc.). “We are longing to be there. Our body is not there but we will be there in spirit.”

She added that the fiesta of Santo Niño in St. Sebastian – which attracted thousands of participants and was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto – was also a chance to reflect on the mystery of the Eucharist.

“People are talking about Eucharist and mission and it is something that we really want the Church to evangelize about,” Mantalaba said. “So many people don’t know what is the Eucharist, that the host at Mass is God.”

At the celebration in honor of the Holy Infant Jesus at Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, some parishioners said the fact that the Congress was taking place in Cebu was a happy occasion, given the deep faith of the people in the Philippines.

“The International Congress could bring about a renewal of faith” for all Catholics, said Ed Pascual of Our Lady of Lourdes, echoing the message of retired Pope Benedict XVI to participants of the last Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012.

Mantalaba said it was appropriate that the 2016 Congress would take place a week after the feast day of the Holy Infant Jesus.

“In Cebu, we celebrate the Little Jesus fiesta and then we talk about Jesus in the Eucharist,” she said.

“Now is a time to pray and think of our relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist, the essence of our faith,” Alas said.