'Eucharistic Congress, April 1-4: An an encounter with Christ'

The Eucharistic Congress is my favorite event of the spring semester. Yes, even though I am a college student, I look forward to it more than I long for spring break or the end of finals. So what is this experience that beats warm weather and the end of classes? Just that: an experience. An experience of Christ alive in the Eucharist. An experience with hundreds of enthusiastic college students and young adults. An experience that provides the strength to go out and serve others.

I have attended the past three Eucharistic Congresses held in Boston's historic North End, and each one has been such an inspirational weekend. Motivating speakers present on fascinating topics of our Catholic faith that relate to young people living in today's society. Compelling witnesses describe how Christ has changed their lives. Cardinal Seán O'Malley celebrates Mass and expresses his love and hope for the youth. Local Italian restaurants cater a delicious dinner and desserts.

One of the most amazing things about the Eucharistic Congress is the vast number of college students and young adults who attend. It is incredible to see and to meet so many young people excited about their faith and desiring to know Christ more. The Eucharistic Congress is a powerful reminder that we are not alone on our journey towards Heaven.

A major theme of each Eucharistic Congress is that we must bring the love of Christ that we experience in the Eucharist out into the world with us. Everyone participates in service projects throughout Boston. In the past, I helped run a birthday party for the elderly with the Little Sisters of the Poor and distributed lunches to the homeless. Serving alongside other attendees of the Eucharistic Congress emphasizes how we can actively share the gifts we have received.

The highlight of the Eucharistic Congress is the eucharistic procession throughout the streets of the North End. Christ, present in the Eucharist, is placed in a monstrance at the head of the procession. Led by many priests, seminarians and religious, we all process throughout the North End on Saturday night with candles, singing. It is so stirring to see the reactions of people who see us. Many join us for adoration afterwards.

I went to the first Eucharistic Congress by myself, not sure what to expect. I was so excited by my initial experience that I brought a group of friends with me the next year. They were just as stimulated by the event as I was and invited even more people to join us the following year!

The Eucharistic Congress is primarily an encounter with Christ in the Eucharist through adoration, sacraments, prayer, music and everyone around you. It is one that generates love and life. This year, the theme of the Eucharistic Congress is: "Be Not Afraid! John Paul II: His Life, His Witness, His Challenge." It will be great and I am already counting down the days! I hope to meet you there!

Anne Marie Warner is a graduate student studying at Bentley College in Waltham.

Editor's note: The Archdiocese of Boston is holding the fourth annual Eucharistic Congress at Sacred Heart Church in the North End, from Friday April 1 until Sunday April 3. For more information, visit www.eucharisticcongress.org.