Young adults encounter ‘No Greater Love’

NORTH END -- Enduring the deluge of rain that pounded against the cobblestone streets of the North End April 3 and 4, hundreds of college students and young adults gathered to “encounter Christ in the Eucharist and encounter Christ in the poor.”

It was to be a weekend of prayer, music, service and celebration of the Eucharist in the North End when nearly 400 twenty-somethings gathered Friday night at St. Stephen’s Church on Hanover Street.

It was the second annual Eucharistic Congress sponsored by the archdiocesan offices of New Evangelization for Youth and Young Adults, Vocations and Campus Ministry. The theme for the congress, “No Greater Love”-- referring to Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist -- ran throughout the weekend’s activities including witness talks, prayer, service projects, Mass and adoration.

The congress offered young adults an opportunity to deepen and reaffirm their faith, coinciding with the start of Holy Week, the traditional Catholic time of renewal.

“At the end of Mass we are instructed to ‘Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord,’” said Father Dan Hennessey, the director of vocations.

“The inspiration was that through the encounter of Christ in the Eucharist and in service they will be transformed and will help transform the world,” he said.

Following a time of prayer and music, Mother Mary Assumpta Long, the Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Mich., began the congress Friday night. Mother Assumpta was the first of three speakers chosen to address the young adults.

Mother Assumpta spoke about encountering Christ in the Eucharist and her relationship with Christ. In her witness talk, she urged the congress participants to all be martyrs who give their whole selves to Christ and are willing to endure sacrifice to defend their faith.

Saturday morning, Christine M. Wohar, Executive Director of FrassatiUSA, spoke to the young adults on Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, dubbed by his postulators, “The Saint for the Youth of the Third Millennium.” Wohar told the participants that Blessed Pier Giorgio is a model of contemporary holiness in the way that he “combined a deep love for Christ, a desire to serve the needy, and a mission to imbue society and politics with Christian ideals.”

“He shows us that holiness is for everyone and that only with the revolution of charity, can we enkindle hope in the hearts of young people,” she said.

Wohar’s speech set the stage for an afternoon of service-work, during which congress participants chose from 16 projects across Greater Boston of service to the elderly, the homeless, the archdiocese and the unborn.

Vivianna Garcia, a student at Providence College traveled to Quincy to Father Bill’s Place, a homeless shelter, where she helped clean windows and visited with a Kenyan named Arthur.

“It was very raw and very real,” she said. “We really got a sense of what’s going on with the homeless situation in America and all the problems and the difficulties that they face.”

Kristal Reis participated in street ministry with the St. Anthony’s Young Adult Group in Harvard Square. Reis and her service group made sandwiches, handed them out to the homeless and said a prayer for them.

“I have always been afraid of the homeless, but the speaker this morning was talking about helping the poor so I felt I should just take the plunge and I’m glad I did,” said Reis, of choosing street ministry over her original choice to help clean up after the congress. “I definitely got a lot out of it,” she said.

Another congress participant, Dina Carusi, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, helped clean St. Brigid’s Church in the South End.

“It was nice to meet people who have the same faith, because there are not a lot of people at school who are Catholic and go to church,” she said.

After completing their service projects, the congress participants gathered together with St. Stephen’s local parishioners for Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley urged the congregants to walk towards Jerusalem and to be aware of Jesus’ love while always remembering “our weakness, like Peter’s.”

“Palm Sunday is an invitation to enter Jerusalem, to follow Jesus on the road to Calvary--not at a safe distance, but up close--and for those who follow there is a happy ending,” he said.

Following Mass and a dinner of food donated by 30 restaurants in the North End, Lisa Epperson, a youth minister and resource director of Life Teen, spoke on the topic “No Greater Witness”--on how to live the Catholic faith in contemporary society.

The weekend’s events concluded with Eucharistic Adoration and a Eucharistic Procession, during which all of the congress participants walked through the streets of the North End with candles, singing and praying along the way. The procession was led by Father Mike Harrington, the assistant director of the Office for Vocations, who carried the monstrance and processed with the Eucharist.