Stewardship director gives account of recent International Eucharistic Congress
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
Barbara Dowding, the vice-chancellor and Stewardship Director of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, usually plans and hosts events for priests, laity, and Catholic organizations. However, at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, she came not as an organizer, but as a pilgrim looking for solace.
"I went with my husband, not in an official capacity, and it was the first time in a long time I didn't have to look out for everyone," she said.
She arrived in the Irish capital for the week-long event June 10. Throughout the week, her enthusiasm grew.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, delivered a catechesis on "Priesthood and Ministry in the Service of Communion" halfway through the week.
"It's said that priests are no different from anyone else. True, in regard to their baptism," the archbishop proclaimed. However, the "dignity that belongs to the faithful because of this sacrament does not mean that everyone has the same mission."
While a priest has a different role in the Church, he is not better than anyone else, the archbishop explained.
Dowding commented, "I'm struck by how he, in speaking largely to priests, reminded us as laity what the ministerial priesthood is really about."
Archbishop Miller's speech gave her a deeper appreciation of the priestly vocation. At the same time, he encouraged priests to be themselves.
"He said the mutual respect between men of the cloth and the laity is important and vital. He reminded us that we must base our relationship on the Eucharist, first and foremost," she recalled.
Dowding, director of the stewardship office, especially appreciated the archbishop's call for priests to help everyone to identify and to use their specific talents on behalf of the Church.
After his talk, "Once other attendees found out I was from Vancouver, they would exclaim, 'Oh my, you have a wonderful archbishop!' or a similar sentiment," she exulted.
"The other best talk I went to throughout the week was from Father Kevin Scallon, CM. His message was for priests to take ownership of their vocation."
Father Scallon's talk was titled, "Caring for Our Priests." He explained that the clergy do not have to be supermen; instead they have to lead by being holy men. He thought that was the most important part of their mission, and that lay people are called to care for their priests.
A few other scenes remained vivid in Dowding's mind. First, "many of the current generation of Irish parents, born in the 1970s and '80s, are wholly ignorant of the Church."
As a tonic, she witnessed how organizations of Irish grandparents are trying to foster proper Catholic values in their grandchildren, to generation-leap as a "joyful, noble vocation."
The accessibility of hundreds of bishops and priests at the congress amazed her. "They were genuine, warm. It's wonderful to see the hierarchy engaging the laity."
And the solace she was looking for? Ultimately, she found what she was looking for in quiet reflection before the Blessed Sacrament.
"I'm really glad I went; the choirs, including The Priests and the Three Irish Tenors, performed beautifully," she concluded.