Eucharistic Congress: Taking it outside

When I first moved to Boston seven and a half years ago, I was not a baseball fan. I didn't follow games, or wins or losses, or players, or even rivalries. But I did notice something during baseball season: when the news from Fenway was good, it radiated throughout the city. There was a palpable energy pulsating from the ballpark, even from a distance. And when the game ended and the fans spilled out into the streets, so did their joy at a well-fought, well-earned victory. Then, even I could not help but get swept up into the excitement.

The essence of the New Evangelization is the act of taking that Good News into the streets, beyond the walls of the church, letting it spill over into the world and our every-day lives. This is what happens concretely in the Archdiocese of Boston's Eucharistic Congress, and it's exactly why I look forward to the congress so much each year.

The Friday evenings are first always fun -- a great gathering of friends and new faces -- and then more profound -- adoration, confession, and the earnest entreaty of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, "Have mercy on us and on the whole world!" We close the evening with night prayer and a dessert social, and disperse to our homes for the night.

But the next morning we return, eager for more. This was the first thing that caught my attention about the congress, and it is what sets it apart from all other spiritual formation events. Something meaningful and attractive happens in that humble North End church every year that brings us back for a second day.

I have stood outside the church on the Saturday morning of a Eucharistic Congress as the music of hundreds of vibrant voices singing praise to God floats out an open window and reverberates through the twisted cobblestone streets and narrow alleys of the North End. That alone catches people's attention and makes them wonder: what is happening in there? Better still, when the church doors open and those voices spill out into the world and make their way to the various Saturday afternoon service projects. Then, not only do we speak the Good News, but our actions proclaim the love we've come to know so intimately.

This is the New Evangelization: to emerge from the church building and take the Good News into the streets where there is both curiosity and hunger to know the source of our joy within it. Through us, the Lord comes to visit the lost and forsaken where they are. And best, on Saturday night at the pinnacle of the Eucharistic Congress when, in our eucharistic procession, we again emerge from the church, led by Our Lord in the Eucharist, and give people a chance to encounter him directly. Suddenly, Saturday night restaurant-goers and tourists trudging along the Freedom Trail are swept up in the excitement, and our joy can become theirs.

Passing by a baseball park I might wonder who's winning until the home team fans I encounter make it clear. Passing by a church, should anyone similarly wonder who's winning, an encounter with a Eucharistic Congress participant gives the world an answer.

Tanya Skypeck is a member of the St. Clement's Eucharistic Shrine community in Boston's Back Bay, where she is involved with Perpetual Adoration and the choir. Tanya works in state government and enjoys taking Catholic lay formation classes through the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization of St. John's Seminary.