The firsts of the 51st IEC

By: Jobers R. Bersales February 04,2016 - 12:22 AM

First off, let me thank everyone who made the 51st International Eucharistic Congress an overwhelming success and an unforgettable experience for 15,000 delegates, many of whom came from other parts of the Philippines and from at last 75 other countries.

Except for the kinks with registration, I would venture to say that all the delegates went home with happy memories of the IEC in Cebu.

There were many firsts in this IEC, after all, the most notable being:

1. This was the first time in the long history of the IEC that meals and snacks were provided, and for free at that, to all IEC delegates and participants, other than the 5,000 volunteers.

2. This was also the first time that buses and coasters were made available for free to all delegates.

3. This was also the first time that a daily newspaper, the CBCP Monitor, and the 51st IEC Bulletin, were printed and released free of charge to all delegates. In fact, this was the only time in the history of the IEC, if I’m not mistaken, that a daily publication was issued throughout the eight days of the event.

4. This was also the first time where not just one but two surviving first communicants from a previous IEC held in the same country were present in another IEC First Communion Mass. The first of the two is Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Cebu’s Archbishop Emeritus, who was the main celebrant at the First Communion Mass for 5,000 kids last Saturday. The second is Mrs. Rosita Arcenas, former head of the Sugbuanon Rural Bank and wife of the late Dr. Ramon Arcenas. Both were first communicants when the IEC was held in Manila, which was the 33rd IEC way back in 1937 and,  by the grace of God, were able to grace the same kind of Mass 79 years later.

Amid these firsts, I share the joy of Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma and his auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Dennis Villarojo, the secretary general of the congress, that Cebu was able to successfully host the 51st IEC. Except for a few who somehow did not comprehend the momentous and historical nature of the IEC for Cebu, kudos and praises are due the Cebuano people, including non-Catholics, who patiently persevered and brought out the best face of Cebu during the congress.

Cebu has also shown that it does not need a Papal presence to gather the crowds.  It would have been doubly honored if Pope Francis took some precious time out to be with the estimated one million Catholics who gathered at the Statio Orbis Mass at the Calungsod Templete, for example. But as events have shown Pope or no Pope, Catholic devotion to the Holy Eucharist is unassailable and unquestionable. People from different stations in life, rich or poor, flocked to the public venues even if no single well-known personality was present other than the pope’s representative, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo.

Indeed, without doubt, it was the Cebuano faith in Jesus Christ himself that brought out the hundreds and hundreds of thousands into the streets during the Holy Eucharist Mass and procession and in the concluding Statio Orbis Mass.

What is next, therefore, after the IEC? Well, at the most immediate, as co-chair of the Documentation Committee (with Fr. Jojo de Aquino as my co-chair), the delegates expect the 240-page 51st IEC Commemorative Book to come out by the end of the month. Given this narrow timeframe, one can just imagine the task before us. With photos from the team of Joey Enario and his staff as well as from Sammy Navaja and contributors, the task is less daunting.

For those who wish to order copies of the upcoming souvenir book, kindly e-mail Ms. Cheryl Judilla, the 51st IEC advertising and marketing head at [email protected] or at [email protected] It was, by the way, Cheryl’s birthday yesterday and I’d like to greet her a “Happy Birthday” and thank her also for her work gathering advertisers to help finance the publication of the 51st IEC Program Guide and the aforementioned book.

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