WASHINGTON - Hundreds of people poured into the Basilica of
the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Sept. 11 and
12 for a eucharistic congress sponsored by the Council of
Major Superiors of Women Religious.
Pilgrims from across the country came to worship Jesus in the
Eucharist, listen to talks given by the head of the Knights
of Columbus and the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, and see
fireworks shoot into the sky next to the shrine. They also
attended workshops held throughout the day Sept. 12. The
theme of the gathering was "Sacrifice of Enduring Love."
Before the opening Mass began on the evening of Sept. 11,
hundreds of sisters in many different colored habits filled a
large portion of the center pews in the basilica's Upper
Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who delivered the
homily at the Mass, said the key to understanding the
Eucharist is to understand how Jesus was "motivated by a
great love for his Father."
There is an "explicit connection between Calvary and Christ's
love for his Father," the cardinal said. "We are here to
acknowledge the power of his blood, ... the sacrifice our
Lord, Jesus Christ offered for us on Calvary."
Concelebrating the Mass with Cardinal Rigali were Cardinal
Marc Ouellet of Quebec; Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston;
Cardinal William W. Baum, retired archbishop of Washington;
current Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl; Bishop Paul S.
Loverde of Arlington, Va.; Washington Auxiliary Bishops
Francisco Gonzalez, Martin D. Holley and Barry C. Knestout;
and nearly 40 priests.
Archbishop Wuerl said what brings people to the eucharistic
congress is the knowledge that the "central work of (the
church's) salvation becomes really present" in the Eucharist.
Following the Mass, Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the
Knights of Columbus, said the Eucharist is a "living sign of
a spiritual reality."
"The Eucharist reaches every corner of every life," he said.
"Each of us has some vocation, the vocation to love. If God
is love, and the Eucharist is the face of God's love, it
makes sense to take the Eucharist inside ourselves because we
become more loving."
Anderson also spoke about vocations, and the need to live a
joy-filled life so others can see the beauty of the
priesthood, consecrated life and married life.
It is "not scandal, but joylessness," that is responsible for
the lack of vocations, he said.
Students from Oklahoma State University and the University of
Tulsa in Oklahoma flew across the country to attend the
Beth Willis, a junior at Oklahoma State University, said she
came to see St. Gianna Molla's daughter, Laura Molla. She
also came to discern her vocation and grow in faith and love
for the Eucharist.
"That is the source and summit of our lives," she said.
Participating in Mass and sitting in front of the tabernacle
can "be a release," she added.
Joan Nuttall, a junior at University of Tulsa, said she also
came to learn more about the Eucharist.
She said she hopes to learn "something about how to apply
(the Eucharist) in my daily life." Nuttall added that after
Mass, when the priest dismisses people to go out into the
world, sometimes she doesn't use the grace given to her in
the Eucharist "as much as I could." She hoped to learn more
about how to do this at the eucharistic congress.
Lynne Jakobowski, whose husband served in the Knights of
Columbus honor guard at the Mass, said the Eucharist brings
her peace and closeness with God.
Later that evening, families, priests and sisters gathered
outside the shrine to pray, sing and watch a fireworks