Following the French Revolution, belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist began to wane and many priests and lay people wanted to revive this Catholic teaching among the faithful.
One of the strongest advocates for reviving this belief was a laywoman, Marie-Marthe-Baptistine Tamisier. She was a devout disciple of St. Peter Julian Eymard, who spent most of his priesthood teaching others how they can an increase their devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist.
Tamisier was not content with keeping this belief to herself, and began to petition the local bishops to hold a Eucharistic Congress, where priests and lay people would convene and focus on this Catholic teaching.
Her efforts finally paid-off and the first Eucharistic Congress was held in Lille, France, on June 21, 1881.
It was a surprising success and became an annual event in France, soon spreading to other parts of Europe.
Eucharistic Congress in the United States
The first Eucharistic Congress in the United States was held in Chicago from June 20-24, 1926. Roughly 400,000 people attended the opening Mass at Soldier Field and a reported 800,000 attended a procession held at the newly established St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.
A significant Eucharistic Congress was held in 1976, when Cardinal Karol Wojytla (the future St. John Paul II) gave a prophetic address to all gathered there.
The next international Eucharistic Congress will be held September 5-12, 2021, in Budapest, Hungary, while the bishops in the United States are planning a National Eucharistic Congressto be held in 2024.
Wherever it is convened, the Eucharistic Congress is a way to remind Catholics of the central belief in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist and to give honor and glory to God for such a marvelous gift.