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New York State Eucharistic Congress SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF MARTYRS IN AURIESVILLE, NY. OCTOBER 20-22, 2023

Story by Gina Capellazzi/Photos by Jeff Witherow

Scenes from the New York State Eucharistic Congress at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y.

AURIESVILLE — Though they had been up since 6 a.m., Joe Hall, Julia Brown, Rose Cornelius, Annette Larrabee, Barbara Walker and Katie Gillio were ready and excited for the day ahead when they arrived in Auriesville just before 10 a.m.

“I just want to learn more about Jesus in the Eucharist,” Hall said.

“I just want to have a closer relationship with Jesus,” Walker added.

Above: Joe Hall and Barbara Walker of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County gather with fellow parishioners outside the coliseum at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs Oct. 21. At left: Clergy greet each other ahead of Mass Oct. 21.

The six, who had traveled by bus from Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County, were among more than 8,000 people from across New York state who descended on the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville Oct. 21 for the second day of the New York State Eucharistic Congress.

The three-day event was organized by the New York State Catholic Conference and was part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year campaign launched in 2022 by the U.S. bishops to increase Catholics’ understanding of and devotion to Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.

The revival opened June, 19, 2022, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, and it will conclude with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024.

The coliseum at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs Oct. 21.

Buses from the Diocese of Rochester travel to Congress

Buses from the Diocese of Rochester traveled to the state congress for the day Oct. 21. A bus that departed from Honeoye in Ontario County transported 45 people from various parishes throughout the diocese.

“We had people as far away as Prattsburgh and as far north as Webster,” said Maureen McCarron, a member of the Eucharistic Revival team at Honeoye’s St. Mary Church and organizer of the pilgrimage from Honeoye. “We kind of spanned the whole diocese.”

Father Steven Lewis, parochial vicar of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick in Owego, organized the pilgrimage from the Southern Tier.

“It (the bus trip) was fantastic,” Gillio said, noting that riders on the bus prayed the rosary as they traveled to the shrine.

At left: Maureen McCarron of St. Mary Church in Honeoye holds a sign for her parish outside of the coliseum. At right: Father Steven Lewis of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Owego speaks to deacons ahead of Mass.
"When you are with other faith-filled people that feel the same, think the same as you do, there's an incredible power and energy that it gives you." — Leonor Rivera, St. John of Rochester, Fairport
Above: The Book of the Gospels is carried into Mass. At left: Deacon Michael Kristan processes into the coliseum.
Above and at right: Fathers Steven Lewis and Daniel White process into the coliseum.
Bishop Salvatore R. Matano processes into Mass.
Above: Pilgrims stand during Mass. At left: Bishop Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg celebrates Mass.
Carmen Hernandez of the Archdiocese of New York kneels in prayer during Mass.
"The Eucharistic Revival must be all about that encounter with Jesus." — Bishop Terry LaValley, Diocese of Odgensburg

Mass included clergy from around the state

Many of the pilgrims who traveled to the congress came for the principal Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. In total, 260 bishops, priests, deacons and seminarians took part in the Mass. Among them was Rochester Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.

“It was an extraordinary experience to see so many of the faithful come together in prayer, especially the prayer that is the church’s most preferred prayer, the celebration of Holy Mass, where we become one with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, his very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, his person becomes one with our person,” Bishop Matano said.

At top: Bishop LaValley elevates the Eucharist. Bottom left: Marie Noel of the Archdiocese of New York stands during Mass. Bottom center: Deacon Ed Knauf distributes Communion. Bottom right: Colleen and Casey McEwen of the Diocese of Syracuse kneel after receiving Communion.

Leonor Rivera of St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport observed that the Mass was extremely powerful.

“You are there seeing people who all believe in the real presence of Christ, participating together and in all different languages,” remarked Rivera, who traveled on the bus from Honeoye. “The power of us all joining together from all different places, it felt like a true pilgrimage.”

"It was impressive, the crowd." — Maureen McCarron, St. Mary Church, Honeoye
The eucharistic procession reaches to the first station.

Thousands take part in eucharistic procession

At top: A eucharistic procession took place at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs. Bottom left: Father Sean Hagerty, SJ, of Manhattan gives a blessing with the Blessed Sacrament during the eucharistic procession. Bottom center: A woman prays the rosary during the procession. Bottom right: Maureen McCarron of St. Mary Church in Honeoye holds up a sign during the eucharistic procession.

In addition to the Mass, another high point of the congress’ second day was a eucharistic procession around the property of the Shrine of the North American Martyrs. Although the forecast predicted rain during the procession, there was only a light drizzle as Father Michael Connolly and Jesuit Father Sean P. Hagerty of the Archdiocese of New York, and Father Bryan Stitt of the Diocese of Ogdensburg alternated carrying a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament uphill on unpaved paths.

The procession was led by members of various religious orders, priests, deacons and bishops. The thousands gathered followed the Blessed Sacrament as it stopped at three altars around the shrine grounds for Gospel readings and hymns. As the monstrance passed by, the faithful reverently knelt on the wet, cold ground.

McCarron stood along the route, holding her St. Mary Church of Honeoye sign, as the Blessed Sacrament passed.

“That (the eucharistic procession) was the highlight for me,” said McCarron, who noted she hasn’t participated in a eucharistic procession since her college days. “It was very nice to participate in that.”

Top left: Priests walk in the eucharistic procession. Top center: A woman carries a banner during the procession. Top right: The Blessed Sacrament is placed on the third altar. Bottom left: Altar servers stop at the third station. Bottom right: Priests walk in the eucharistic procession.

Fostering eucharistic love within the family

Saturday’s events concluded with two talks. One was on fostering eucharistic love within the family, presented by Katie Prejean McGrady, host of the "Katie McGrady Show" on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio.

McGrady spoke about how she and her husband, Tommy, a high-school science teacher who previously worked in youth ministry, are trying to help their two daughters — 6-year-old Rose and 3-year-old Clare — understand the Catholic faith. She said they realized, early on as parents that passing on the faith often happens during simple, almost passive moments.

Katie Prejean McGrady gives a keynote address Oct. 21.

One of those simple moments, McGrady said, was during the family’s morning drive to school, which involves passing a Catholic church. Rose noticed that Katie would make the sign of the cross when passing by the church. When Katie explained to Rose that she made the sign of the cross because Jesus was inside the tabernacle in the church, Rose started saying, “Hi Jesus,” every morning they passed by the church.

“I realized this familarity was growing with Jesus, kind of unbeknownst to me,” McGrady said. “It wasn’t like I was telling her to say hi to Jesus. It was just this understanding that slowly developed in her little head, that he (Jesus) was in there and we could say hi to him.”

McGrady also shared that in September, her younger sister, Laura, entered the Sisters of Life postulancy. McGrady noted that her girls knew their aunt — whom they call WaWa — would be far away and it would be quite some time before they would see her again. On the day Laura left for the postulancy, when the McGradys passed by church, Clare shouted, “Don’t be sad, Jesus.” When McGrady questioned the remark, Clare responded because "WaWa is gone." When McGrady explained that WaWa was going to see Jesus, Clare shouted, "Be happy, Jesus, WaWa is coming to see you!" And Rose responds, in a quiet voice, "Tell her we said hi, Jesus."

“My daughter, all 6 years old of her, understood that Jesus could tell her ‘hello’ for us and that we could say ‘hi’ to her through him, not that he’s this carrier pigeon, but that there is this connection, that there is this Eucharistic unity,” McGrady said.

McGrady said she didn’t read the summa or the catechesism to her children to explain this to them.

“You know what I did do, I took them to church,” she remarked.

McGrady said that growing Catholic families is the key to having a revival in this country.

“And the way we want them to grow is that we develop a familiarity with the Lord, that the Eucharist becomes familiar to us,” she said.

Katie Prejean McGrady gives a keynote address.

Following McGrady’s talk, Franciscan Father Malachy Napier spoke on St. Francis of Assisi and the furnace of charity.

Above: A statue depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus is seen outside of the coliseum. At right: A woman kneels in adoration at the end of the second day.
Above: Pilgrims raise their hands during a musical performance. At left: The music group Franciscan Friars of the Renewal performs during a musical interlude.
Above: Scott Davis and Emily Sarazyn of Rochester's Cathedral Community listen to the music of Franciscan Friars of Renewal. At left: A crucifix is seen on the shrine grounds.

The eucharist in the lives of female American saints

The agenda for the congress’ final day included three more keynote talks, including one by Lisa Lickona, an assistant professor of systematic theology at Pittsford’s St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. She discussed the Eucharist’s role in the lives of American female saints.

Lickona focused her talk on three American women saints — St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk/Algonquin convert born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, which is now the site of the Our Lady of the Martyrs Shrine; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded the first U.S. community for women religious and established Catholic education in the United States; and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, known as “Mother Cabrini,” who came to the U.S. as a missionary and founded institutions to care for the poor, sick, abandoned and uneducated.

Lisa Lickona, an assistant professor of systematic theology at Pittsford’s St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, gives her keynote presentation Oct. 22.

During her presentation, Lickona gave a brief biography of each saint and how the Eucharist played a role in her life. She also noted for those in attendance what could be learned from these three saints.

“Kateri wants to teach us to follow the Lord. She wants to tell us that she loves us and will remain our friend, and she is here with us, even now,” Lickona said.

“Elizabeth wants to teach us to pray to place all our longings before him. She wants to tell us that Jesus wants to console us in heart-to-heart conversation — that he is our true security and our true liberator, our defense and shield, and strength, and salvation,” she continued.

“And Frances Xavier Cabrini wants to teach us to experience ourselves as beloved by him. Loved from before we could remember it. She wants to teach us to immerse our hearts in his heart, that our hearts may becomes hearts that love. Hearts that love as vast as the universe.”

Following Lickona’s talk, Sister of Life Mary Grace Langrell spoke about eucharistic intimacy. Paulist Father David Dwyer wrapped up the day’s keynote talks by discussing active and prayerful participation in the Mass.

The congress concluded with Mass for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time celebrated by Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany.

Although the New York State Eucharistic Congress now has ended, the National Eucharistic Revival continues into 2024, culminating with the National Eucharistic Congress at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium in July.

The event will be the first national eucharistic congress in 83 years.

Scenes from Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville

Above: The original shrine chapel, built in 1885. At right: Stations of the Cross lead to the Hill of Prayer.
Above and at right: The St. Kateri Tekakwitha Chapel.
Above and at left: Statues of saints sit in the valley at the end of the ravine where St. René Goupil was buried.
Map of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs

The New York State Eucharistic Congress took place on the grounds of the Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville Oct. 20-22.

The shrine sits on the 17th century Mohawk village of Ossernenon where three Jesuit missionaries were martyred for the faith during the 1640s. Jesuit Father Issac Jogues and two lay Jesuits, René Goupil and John Lalande, had traveled from France to the New World to evangelize the indigenous people.

In 1930, the church canonized Father Jogues, Goupil and Lalande, together with five Jesuit priests who had been martyred in Canada as the eight North American Martyrs. They are the first and only martyred saints of North America.

The same Mohawk village also was the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk/Algonquin woman born in 1656. The St. Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine and Historical Center is located in Fonda, about 6 miles from the Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine.

Guided video tour of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine

Before leaving the New York State Eucharistic Congress Oct. 22, staff members from the Catholic Courier received a tour, recorded in this video, of the grounds of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine, along with the Saints of Auriesville Museum.