This year marks the return of the Eucharistic Congress after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Congress was to be the 25th annual Eucharistic Congress since the first one in 1996. With the event back on track for 2022, the Archdiocese of Atlanta is celebrating the 25th Congress this June. In honor of this milestone, a timeline with photos and highlights from each previous year’s Congress has been compiled below.

June 9, 1996

First Congress

In January of 1996, Archbishop John F. Donoghue called for a time of Eucharistic Renewal in the archdiocese in an effort to bring Catholics to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Eucharist. The year of programming, themed “His True Presence,” formally began on June 9th–the Feast of Corpus Christi–with Mass at Holy Spirit attended by over 1,000 people. The year of Eucharistic Renewal would culminate with another gathering in 1997, and the annual gathering each subsequent year would eventually become known as the Eucharistic Congress.

Photo: Clergy of the archdiocese are gathered around the monstrance while they listen to Archbishop John F. Donoghue’s homily at the opening Mass for the year of Eucharistic Renewal at Holy Spirit.
Photo by Kathi Stearns

June 1, 1997

Second congress

The year of Eucharistic Renewal called by Archbishop Donoghue in 1996 concluded in 1997 with a Mass and healing service at the Atlanta Civic Center attended by 4,000 people. The year in between this event and that first Mass at Holy Spirit in 1996 focused on teaching the meaning of the Eucharist at the parish level and providing opportunities for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. At the Mass at the Civic Center, Archbishop Donoghue expressed his hope that the eucharistic renewal would continue for years to come.

Photo: Fr. Kevin Scallon, C.M., carries the monstrance through the Atlanta Civic Center during the healing service at the 1997 Eucharistic Renewal.
Photo by Kathi Stearns

June 14, 1998

third congress

Another year of Eucharistic Renewal culminated with the third annual Corpus Christi Mass, this time at the Cathedral of Christ the King. Beginning with a procession into the Cathedral, the event continued with a homily by Fr. Richard Lopez, Benediction, and an original song by Mary Welch Rogers titled “He is Truly Present.”

Photo: Parishioners with colorful banners file into the Cathedral of Christ the King during the opening procession of the 1998 Eucharistic Renewal.
Photo by Kathi Stearns

June 6, 1999

fourth congress

Returning to Holy Spirit Church, the fourth Eucharistic Renewal program continued the format from the previous year. The opening procession included girls from Pinecrest Academy dropping rose petals ahead of the Eucharist held by Archbishop Donoghue. The homilist was Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., director of the Office of Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York. The archbishop concluded the service with Benediction.

Photo: Archbishop John F. Donoghue poses with girls from Pinecrest Academy carrying baskets of rose petals.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 25, 2000

Missionaries of Charity from the Gift of Grace House at the Eucharistic Renewal [See Georgia Bulletin: July 20, 2000]

fifth congress

Held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, the fifth year of Eucharistic Renewal brought a new mission to the archdiocese. Hearing from Fr. Jack Durkin, Fr. Brian Higgins, and Archbishop Donoghue, Mass attendees were encouraged to reach out to friends and family who had drifted away from the Church. The goal of this new mission of evangelization was to reconnect lapsed Catholics with their Church and with the Eucharist. A new Evangelization Committee was established to facilitate a year of events that would culminate with a larger gathering in 2001.

Photo: Missionaries of Charity from the Gift of Grace House in Atlanta attend the 2000 Eucharistic Renewal at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 16, 2001

115 banners representing parishes, religious organizations, and Catholic schools assemble at the procession for the Eucharistic Renewal at the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC) [See Georgia Bulletin: June 21, 2001]

sixth congress

One year after Archbishop Donoghue implemented the new mission of evangelization for the archdiocese, an estimated 12,000 people filed into the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC) in College Park. The full-day event, titled “Come to Me,” was the largest of its kind ever held in the archdiocese. Featuring separate tracks for adults (with sessions in English and Spanish), children, and teens, this format would serve as a blueprint for future Eucharistic celebrations in the archdiocese.

Photo: Banners representing parishes, religious organizations, and Catholic schools assemble at the procession for the Eucharistic Renewal at the Georgia International Convention Center.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 1, 2002

Teens from Saint Brigid before the closing Mass. [See Georgia Bulletin: June 6, 2002]

seventh congress

Officially called the Eucharistic Congress for the first time, the 2002 event returned once again to the GICC, where it would remain for all subsequent years. Building on the tremendous success of the previous year’s event, “Come to Me,” this year’s theme was titled “Stay with Me.” The program included full tracks in both English and Spanish and continued programming for children and teens. Tents outside were set up for additional speakers, vendors, and children’s activities.

Photo: Teens from Saint Brigid gather in the GICC before the closing Mass.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 20-21, 2003

Sister Cecilia Joseph, OP, left, and Sister Anastasia, OP, converse with a litter girl at the Eucharistic Congress at the Georgia International Congress Center. [See Georgia Bulletin: April 29, 2004]

eighth congress

The Eucharistic Congress returned in 2003 with some major additions. A new program for young adults called “Revive!” was added to Friday evening, making this year the first two-day Congress. Also included this year was a new Vietnamese track on Saturday. With the theme of “Seek and You Shall Find,” speakers included some notable Catholic converts and Passion of the Christ actor Jim Caviezel.

Photo: Sister Cecilia Joseph, OP, left, and Sister Anastasia, OP, talk with children outside the GICC.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 11-12, 2004

ninth congress

From the start of his tenure in Atlanta, Archbishop John F. Donoghue made it his goal to bring Catholics closer to the Eucharist, beginning with the establishment of perpetual adoration at the Cathedral of Christ the King in 1994. On the 10th anniversary of that milestone, the 2004 Congress adopted as its theme the archbishop’s episcopal motto, “To Live in Christ Jesus.” This Congress would also be Archbishop Donoghue’s last as Archbishop of Atlanta before retiring that December.

Photo: Father James Larson, LC, hears the confession of a parishioner in the lobby of the GICC.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 3-4, 2005

tenth congress

In January 2005, Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory was installed as Archbishop of Atlanta. His first Eucharistic Congress borrowed his episcopal motto, “We are the Lord’s,” as its theme. His predecessor, Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, was honored at the Congress for initiating the annual event, with this year coinciding with the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. The 2005 Congress was also noteworthy for being the first with a Mass and healing service on Friday, as well as the establishment of the American Sign Language Track, sponsored by the archdiocesan Disabilities Ministry.

Photo: Young adults during adoration at the Friday night “Revive” track.
Photo by Ben Vigil

June 16-17, 2006

For the young participants having fun is an essential part of the KidTrack.

eleventh congress

The 2006 Congress, themed “Until He Comes,” coincided with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Atlanta. With over 20,000 attendees, this year’s Congress had about as many people as the entire Catholic population of the new diocese in 1956. Underscoring how much had changed in 50 years, the first Eucharistic Congress podcast was hosted by Rosary Army.

Photo: Children having some fun at the KidTrack.
Photo by Ben Vigil

June 8-9, 2007

twelfth congress

“The Food that Endures for Eternal Life” was the theme of the 2007 Congress, which continued to focus on the diversity within the archdiocese. A variety of speakers shared their stories, including former Major League Baseball player and Catholic convert, Darrell Miller, and survivor of genocide in Rwanda, Immaculée Ilibagiza. At the closing Mass, eleven blessed images of Our Lady of Guadalupe were presented, marking a Marian renewal for the archdiocese. Coinciding with catechetical sessions, the images would travel around the archdiocese, culminating with its re-consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in December.

Photo: Musicians from the Archbishop James P. Lyke Memorial Mass Choir play during the closing Mass.
Photo by Thomas Spink

June 20-21, 2008

thirteenth congress

The Eucharistic Congress returned in 2008 with the theme, “I am the Living Bread.” In his opening homily, Archbishop Gregory spoke of the cultural and spiritual importance of bread: “This common substance that exists in many and varied forms throughout the human community was chosen to serve as a symbol of God’s bounty and his compassion for his people.” On Saturday, attendees heard from Hispanic and Vietnamese bishops, a law professor, a best-selling author, and rounding things out at the Kid Track, The Donut Man. Speaking to children at the Kid Track, Archbishop Gregory said, “Life without Jesus is like a doughnut; there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”

Photo: Young people enjoy some down time on the grounds of the GICC.

June 12-13, 2009

fourteenth congress

With the theme “As Grain Once Scattered,” the 2009 Congress brought together a diverse crowd of people as one. This theme was especially evident in the Spanish Track, where a roll call highlighted attendees’ many native countries. Speakers throughout the Congress talked about how new media has the opportunity to connect people, while also warning of the potential dangers inherent in the internet and social networking. At the English Track, Frederick Berretta described his experience on board US Airways Flight 1549, whose pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger famously (and successfully) crash-landed in the Hudson River. Barretta said the harrowing plunge into the river left him feeling “baptized again.”

Photo: Dr. Bill Eyzaguirre prays over a woman during the Friday healing service.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 4-5, 2010

fifteenth congress

Falling within the Year of Priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI, the 2010 Congress was given the theme “To Sanctify the Christian People” from the prayer of priestly ordination. The Congress expanded again this year with new tracks in French and Portuguese. Echoing some of the ideas behind the Year of Priests, attendees at the new tracks emphasized the importance of clergy in the archdiocese that speak their language, saying that newcomers to the area are more likely to remain connected to the Catholic Church when they have a community to engage with.

Photo: Quoi Le beats the ceremonial drum to announce the approaching procession.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 24-25, 2011

sixteenth congress

The focus of the 2011 Congress was vocations, with Archbishop Gregory choosing the theme “The Harvest is Abundant.” Information tables occupied by religious communities serving in the archdiocese, seminarians, and lay groups were set up in the GICC. Marriage Encounter couples handed out pamphlets on the upcoming Encounter Weekend retreat. The overall success of the Eucharistic Congress led Saturday morning homilist Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York to proclaim Atlanta as “the Orvieto of America,” referencing the Italian city where Pope Urban IV first celebrated the worldwide feast of Corpus Christi in 1264.

Photo: Julie Pardo, left, prays with a group of people attending the opening Mass and healing service.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 8-9, 2012

seventeenth congress

After the Saturday morning procession into the GICC, the 17th Eucharistic Congress included a photo and video display in honor of Archbishop John F. Donoghue, who passed away the previous November. With the theme “We Though Many Are One Body in Christ,” this year’s Congress focused on the unity of Catholics through the Eucharist and how that propels people into the world to serve those in need. Missionary groups and volunteer organizations shared service opportunities amid the usual talks, prayers, and activities.

Photo: Worshippers lift their hands in praise as Father Jack Durkin brings the Blessed Sacrament off the altar and to the congregation.
Photo by Michael Alexander

May 31-June 1, 2013

eighteenth congress

Coinciding with the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, the 2013 Congress got underway with the theme “Do Whatever He Tells You,” a reference to the Virgin Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding of Cana. Speakers at the Congress focused on following and listening to Christ, and the joy of Jesus in the Eucharist. Winners of a Year of Faith video contest were announced, with two entries receiving the grand prize of a trip to Rome, Italy.

Photo: Dancers from Saint Matthew Church, Winder, perform outside the GICC prior to the morning procession.
Photo by Thomas Spink

June 20-21, 2014

nineteenth congress

Inspiring attendees to spread the Good News, the theme of the 2014 Congress was “Go and Make Disciples.” Speakers provided criteria for successful evangelization, emphasizing the need for parishioners to get out in the world and share their faith. Others highlighted the benefits that personal spiritual growth can have on making disciples, with author Patty Schneier saying, “The key to evangelization starts with our own heart and hardness of heart. The key to evangelization is when we actually live a Catholic life with joy.”

Photo: Vietnamese choir members provide music during the Saturday morning service.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 5-6, 2015

After serving the day as ushers, Elaine, left, and Edward Darr make their way back to parking lot at the conclusion of the 20th annual Eucharistic Congress at the Georgia International Convention Center, College Park. The Darrs, who will be married 59 years this coming August, attend St. Clare of Assisi Mission in Acworth. Photo By Michael Alexander

twentieth congress

For the 20th Congress, the theme, “I Will Be With You Always,” reflected the original event’s emphasis on the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The speakers highlighted the many ways Christ makes His presence known, both inside and outside the Church. Also celebrating its 20th year was the Life in the Eucharist ministry (LITE), which was founded amid Archbishop Donoghue’s initial call for Eucharistic Renewal. Members of LITE throughout the archdiocese met at the Congress for a reunion, where they shared stories of the ministry’s impact.

Photo: After serving the day as ushers, volunteers Elaine and Edward Darr make their way back to parking lot.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 3-4, 2016

Mary Mattia of Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia, prays fervently during the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Photo By Michael Alexander

twenty-first congress

With Pope Francis calling for a Year of Mercy in 2016, the Eucharistic Congress followed suit with the theme, “Be Merciful Just as Your Father is Merciful.” For the first time, this year’s Congress added the Starve Wars program, sponsored by the archdiocesan Justice and Peace Ministries, Helping Hands, and Catholic Relief Services, whose CEO Dr. Carolyn Woo was a speaker at this year’s English Track. Starve Wars brought together hundreds of volunteers to pack 100,000 simple meals for residents of Burkina Faso.

Photo: Mary Mattia prays fervently during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 16-17, 2017

At the foot of the altar, some healing service attendees kneel before the Blessed Sacrament during a moment of praise and worship. It marked the opening evening of the 22nd annual Eucharistic Congress held June 16-17 at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. Photo By Michael Alexander

twenty-second congress

Openness and family were the focus of the 2017 Congress, taking the theme “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord.” Speakers challenged attendees to not only open their own lives to serving Christ, but to also seek a better understanding of what has driven people away from the Church. At the “Revive” young adult track, Brandon Vogt, content director for Word on Fire ministries, argued that bringing young people back to the Church means listening to why they left: “Nagging breeds resentment. No one has ever come back to the church because they resent it.”

Photo: Healing service attendees kneel before the Blessed Sacrament.
Photo by Michael Alexander

June 1-2, 2018

twenty-third congress

The 2018 Congress theme, “That They May All Be One,” once again emphasized unity. The Saturday morning homilist, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, spoke of how the Eucharist brings people together and makes them responsible for one another: “At the Eucharist, there are to be no rich and no poor. The Eucharist is not a private devotion.” Later, Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, stressed that bringing about unity comes from being active: “If there are things you don’t like in your parish or your archdiocese or your global church, don’t think things will change if you leave… Stay in the church for the church–and that is where we are going to see unity.”

Photo: Volunteer workers at the Starve Wars service project prepare and box meals for people in Burkina Faso.
Photo by Jayna Hoffacker

June 21-22, 2019

twenty-fourth congress

“This is My Body Given Up for You,” the theme for the 24th Congress, focused on sacrifice, giving and service. In his homily at the opening Mass, Father Dennis Dorner urged Catholics to see the Congress a “gift of encounter,” receiving the love of God through the Eucharist while experiencing the diversity of those in attendance. At the Starve Wars program, military veterans joined other volunteers to pack meals for Burkina Faso. At that event, the 10-millionth meal in the Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands program was packed. This Congress also saw the return of the Teen Track after a hiatus of a few years.

Photo: At the American Sign Language track, Anne Greener-Hage, left, serves as a special services provider of tactile interpreting for Kathleen Potter.
Photo by Michael Alexander

Start typing and press Enter to search