Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 14, 2008
Congress organizers focus on the spirit
The event organizes the opportunity, the Holy Spirit gives the results
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"It is not really easy to measure spiritual results in everyone."
- Msgr. Jean Picher
To welcome Jesus, we need to change our lives and come back to him, Lamontagne said.
In some ways, the preparations have felt like a protracted Lent "with its Good Fridays," said Picher.
Picher and Lamontagne describe themselves as Ouellet's "two arms" in managing the congress preparations.
The Quebec Archdiocese and the city itself are relatively small to be mounting such a large event. This has puts a strain on the volunteer base, when "the Catholic faith is not very popular at this time," said Picher.
"The biggest challenge is pastoral."
When Picher first heard talk of a Eucharistic Congress to coincide with Quebec City's 400th anniversary he thought: "I pity the one who will be in charge of that. It will be an enormous challenge."
He agreed to take on the task because he saw the congress as a "wonderful opportunity" not only for those already convinced of their faith, but also those who are distant, who need to be reminded of how the Eucharist is at the centre of the Church's life.
Born in 1945 in Quebec City and ordained in 1968, Picher has served his 40 years in the priesthood mostly in the Quebec diocese downtown churches. In 1998, he became episcopal vicar for the western part of the diocese.
He is old enough to remember carrying the monstrance during Corpus Christi processions, before the Second Vatican Council and the Quiet Revolution, practices that virtually disappeared in Quebec by the time Lamontagne was growing up in a small town in northern Quebec.
Born in 1962, Lamontagne recalls being attracted to Jesus Christ while very young. She joined the Little Franciscans of Mary, and as a novice, went to Montreal's Olympic Park for Pope John Paul II's 1984 visit. After that, she became involved in the evangelization of youth and has attended five World Youth Days.
In 2004, she went to her first Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. After the official announcement there of the next congress in Quebec City, Ouellet asked her if she would help organize it.
Though surprised, she embraced the opportunity to serve Christ by putting her talents to work. The deep faith of the Mexican volunteers and the spirit of service that animated pilgrims from all over the world had impressed her.
Picher and Lamontagne have already observed results in the three years of preparation: fruits across Canada of increased prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, and fraternal sharing as small groups come together for teaching and prayer.
Lamontagne has been amazed at how the pilgrimage of the Ark of the New Covenant has taken shape, from an idea proposed at a 2005 Youth Summit, to a beautiful symbolic object that has travelled through all of Canada's dioceses.
For its final leg, young pilgrims are carrying the Ark on foot to Quebec City. It left the National Canadian Martyrs Shrine in Midlands, Ont., on Easter Sunday, and will arrive in Quebec City May 25 for the feast of Corpus Christi.
By mid-March, Picher said 9,300 registrants had signed up for the full week of activities, up substantially from 5,000 reported in early February.
So far, Western Canada is well-represented, he said. Ottawa has 200 pilgrims and Toronto 600.
Picher and Lamontagne believe more people will sign up as the Ark of the New Covenant makes its final pilgrimage, so they will meet their goal of 12,000 to 15,000 people registered for the full week.
They expect 50,000 to 75,000 at the closing Mass on the historic Plains of Abraham.
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