Tag Archives: Dublin

All roads lead to Rome

Legatus pilgrims discover the glories of Ireland and the Eternal City while on pilgrimage . . .

From the green fields of the Emerald Isle to the stone-gray boulevards of Rome, nearly 20 Legatus pilgrims toured holy sites in Ireland and the Eternal City from Oct. 10-21.


Highlights of the trip’s first leg included following in the footsteps of St. Patrick and Blessed John Henry Newman — and attending the chartering of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter (see page 14).

Joe Melançon speaks with Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17

“The beauty of seeing the first chapter outside North America chartered was overwhelming,” said Joe Melançon, a member of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter who attended the Oct. 11 event. “We all know about the difficulties the Church in Ireland is suffering through, but being at the chartering was an affirmation of the faith in Ireland.

“Ireland is a deeply spiritual place, and when you combine it with the chartering evening, it’s hard to top,” Melançon said.


After Ireland, the pilgrims journeyed to Rome where highlights included a walking tour of the ancient city; a tour of the catacombs; lunch with students at the North American College, where most U.S. seminarians live and take classes; and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, followed by a tour of the Vatican Secret Archives.

One of the high points was an Oct. 17 general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Legates had VIP seating near the front of St. Peter’s Square, packed with thousands of pilgrims and visitors. At the end of the general audience, Melançon presented the Holy Father with Legatus’ annual contribution to the Holy See. He said his moment with the Pope was an overpowering experience that he will never forget.

His wife Paula said she was thrilled with the meetings Legates had with Vatican officials. “We were given the opportunity to meet with two offices in the curia,” she said. “The Holy Father’s opening of the Year of Faith, in which we Catholics are called to live the faith more dynamically, was wonderfully significant for us.”

Two priests served as spiritual guides during the pilgrimage. In Ireland, Dublin Chapter chaplain Fr. Michael Mullan, LC, guided Legates. In Rome, a native Texan did the honors: Fr. John C. Vargas.

“The Legatus pilgrimage gives them an opportunity to see and visit places and shrines that even life-long residents of Rome don’t ever get to see — and also to meet and learn from major Vatican prelates,” said Fr. Vargas, procurator general of the Redemporist order in Rome.

“The most beautiful experience for me as their spiritual director was to witness members’ faith and their searching hearts for an ever more profound union with our most holy Redeemer.”

Bill Bowman (left) poses with Gordon & Ann Stevens
of the New Orleans Chapter atop Santa Croce
University with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background

On their last night in Rome, pilgrims enjoyed a reception atop the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Several of the Legates are longtime friends with two of the university’s priests — Fr. John Wauck and Fr. Robert Gahl — who gave a pre-reception lecture about religious liberty in those heady days before the U.S. presidential election.

Enjoying a bounteous buffet of wine and cheese, Legates mingled against a backdrop of Rome’s magnificent views, including St. Peter’s Basilica beneath a rose-tinged sky.

“I enjoyed myself so much that I changed my mind and have decided to attend the summit in Scottsdale next February,” said Dr. Vicky Loberg of the Peoria Chapter.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Congress to promote communion

Legates from Ireland and abroad will participate in the June 10-17 IEC in Dublin . . .

The last International Eucharistic Congress held in Ireland was in 1932, shortly after the founding of the Irish Free State. Massively attended and with an air of patriotic zeal and religious fervor, the Congress also marked the 1,500th anniversary of St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland.


Mass is held on Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge during the Eucharistic Congress in June 1932

Eighty years later, the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) is once again convening in Dublin — from June 10-17 — but under subdued circumstances. The people’s faith — already weakened by secularism, poor catechesis in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and a belated reaction to over-clericalism — has been further damaged by priestly sex-abuse scandals. As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his March 2010 letter to Ireland’s Catholics, those scandals “have obscured the light of the Gospels to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.”

Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, said this IEC will have two positive aspects: “The lack of triumphalism” and “the focus on the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that communion is the center of the Eucharist.”

The theme of the 2012 Congress, which is expected to bring together more than 80,000 Catholics from around the world, is: “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with One Another.” Members of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter will be joined by their brethren from abroad and, as June draws near, excitement is building.

John Reid

“The Congress will be a great opportunity for the Church in Ireland,” said John Reid, president of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter. “At the end of the day, the Blessed Sacrament is the source and summit of our faith, what being Catholic is all about. And though the momentum and excitement in anticipation of the Congress have increased, we have to be careful about comparisons with the last Eucharistic Congress here in 1932. Times are completely different.

“The media may draw unfair comparisons, citing the astronomical number of people attending in 1932: over a million people in the streets of Dublin kneeling for benediction. We don’t anticipate that this year. We are focusing more on renewal in the Church, a sense of community, and a sense of the Church not merely as an institution, but as a family.”

While the faith in Ireland today does not enjoy the popular triumphalism of yore, Reid noted that the situation in his country is similar to that of Western Europe in general: a smaller percentage of the population professing the faith, but the faithful who do so being “much more fervent, orthodox and determined.”

As a cause for hope, Reid cited the plethora of little Catholic groups around the country promoting the faith from the ground up — from family rosary circles and youth groups to movements like Opus Dei and the Legion of Mary. Orders such as the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, to which Reid, his wife Maureen, and other Irish Legates belong, are another sign of the Church’s improving health.

Abundant grace

Dublin’s chapter coordinator Marion Mulhall, whose main vocation is CEO of the pro-priest apostolate Worldpriest.com, expressed similarly sober enthusiasm.

“I think the green shoots are already appearing all over Ireland and will come into greater blossom with the Eucharistic Congress,” she said, noting “an awful lot of prayer groups” in Ireland, many of them focused on Divine Mercy.

And though things are tough for the faithful in Ireland, Mulhall, who will address the IEC, is hopeful about the Church in Ireland.

Marion Mulhall

“I honestly and truly believe that the faith is in the hearts of the Irish people, despite many good people being deeply hurt in different ways,” said Mulhall, a lay Carmelite. “Though the Church has gone through turmoil, the Irish people believe that the Church and her sacraments are an integral part of how we are prepared for eternal bliss. No matter what people might say, the faith hasn’t left the Irish people.”

If past performance can predict future results, Ireland can look forward to receiving graces from hosting the Congress. The last one was held in Quebec City in 2008, underwritten in part by Legatus. According to Sr. Doris Lamontagne, spokesperson for the Quebec archdiocese, the “enthusiasm for the faith stemming from the 2008 Congress remains very strong. Something changed after the Congress, something hard to put a finger on or to measure: a new spirit of confidence among priests and laity, including several young men whose experience at the Congress inspired them to enter the seminary.”

Sister Lamontagne, the national delegate for French-speaking Canadians to the upcoming Congress, is in charge of preparing the Quebec archdiocese’s delegation. “In 2004, only 200 French-Canadians attended the Congress held in Guadalajara, Mexico. This year, over 800 people have already signed up to travel to Ireland. I think hosting the Congress ourselves has a great deal to do with this upswing in numbers.”

Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter, said he is honored to have been invited to give two presentations at the IEC.

“I enjoyed reading G.K. Chesterton’s Christendom in Dublin about his experience at the World Eucharistic Congress in 1932 and how strongly Ireland manifested her Catholic identity,” he said. “Now that identity is under attack and the faith has been shaken. If we can get people focused back on Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and that we receive it through a priest, I hope that will go a long way to revitalizing and strengthening what had been a deeply Catholic culture.”

O’Donnell, who teaches a course at Christendom’s study abroad program in Ireland, has “a deep love for Irish history and culture” — a love similar to that of the Holy Father.

“Back in 2000, the Pope wrote that beautiful letter to the people of Ireland, emphasizing the need for them to get back to their roots — especially to their understanding that the Church is not just an institution, but the mystical Body of Christ. They need to understand what made Ireland great in order to go forward well, and I can’t think of a better way to do so than through this Congress.”

O’Donnell hopes the Holy Father will be able to attend the Congress. “The Church in Ireland would be energized all the more after taking it on the chin for so long,” he said. His hope is shared by Irish Catholics. “We’d be absolutely thrilled if he came, if only for a day,” said John Reid. “Some of our members have offered to pay the cost of him coming over.”

Whether or not the Holy Father attends, Reid wants all Legates attending the IEC to let the Dublin Chapter know so that they can convene a special Legatus event. Please email Marion Mulhall at marion@worldpriest.com

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.