On June 17 the week-long Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress concluded with the celebration of the final Mass in Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium. This is one of the largest stadiums in Europe, and it was filled to near capacity, including the playing field. Most of the attendees were Irish, of course, but there was a large and very diverse international representation. Since the previous Sunday, the Congress had been held at the Royal Dublin Society, the city’s large exhibition space and show grounds.During the week people flocked to participate in Masses, liturgical prayers, devotions, and gatherings. Above all they embraced the numerous and richly diversified workshops presented each day. They lined up sometimes for more than an hour to gain admission, and several presentations proved so popular that the presenters agreed to repeat them. Surely the interest in the workshops and the hunger for knowledge and insight into Catholicism exhibited by so many pilgrims must have surprised and delighted the organizers of the Congress. The workshops were further enriched by fairly brief testimonies throughout the week. These dealt with religious life, parish ministry, personal suffering, conversion, reconciliation and healing. Just to give a flavor of the experience, I will mention the man from Northern Ireland who during the Troubles there was blinded as a child of ten. He subsequently found the soldier who fired the rubber bullet and forgave him, and recounted how reconciliation had enriched himself and enabled him to devote his life to helping disabled children.  Masses during the week were celebrated in a wide diversity of languages. The organizers also provided a program for youth, and the Congress was carried to multiple locations throughout Dublin by way of devotions, presentations and informational sessions. In his televised message presented during the final Mass, Pope Benedict invoked the blessing of St. Patrick on Ireland. (My only addition would be to include St. Brigid, the other great national saint.) I had the privilege of celebrating Mass with the pilgrims from Los Angeles in All Hallows Seminary, Dublin, where I was ordained 45 years ago. The whole event involved a massive planning and coordination challenge, and I think anyone who attended would have to be impressed by the organization, foresight and vision that characterized the Congress.The Catholic Church in Ireland has certainly experienced troubled times in recent years. Throughout the Congress, Church leaders focused on themes of sorrow, regret and apology for the abuse of children at the hands of clergy and Church personnel. They also prayed for healing and reconciliation. Surely many people who attended also experienced sorrow, regret, anger and sadness about such sinfulness and tragedy. However, what predominated for this observer was a sense of enthusiasm, good will, kindness and the inevitable Irish good humor.Like Catholics in the United States and elsewhere, Irish Catholics face a multitude of challenges in sustaining and handing on the faith. It will not be an easy task. Yet the enthusiasm of the attendees at the Congress gave witness to the continuing vitality of Catholicism in Ireland. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry is Santa Barbara Regional bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0622/curry/{/gallery}