Eucharistic Congress was magnet to these ‘seasoned’ Catholics

Special to Catholic Times

The once in a lifetime opportunity that was the Eucharistic Congress held Oct. 28 in downtown Springfield was too much to miss for a retired Macoupin County nurse and a similarly retired Morgan County businessman.

Betsy Hemann

Faith journey

“My mother was the inspiration — she was devoted to Catholicism and loved the Blessed Mother,” said Betsy Hemann, 71, of Staunton. “I always went with her to everything she attended in our parish church. I fell in love with the Blessed Virgin and have always had a close relationship with her.” 

“Mother had been a convert from a Protestant church and was a very good Catholic,” Ed Berschneider of Franklin said. The former grain elevator operator recounted his blessings by saying he is the oldest of nine children and the father of nine children, all steeped heavily in the Catholic Church. “I don’t know that I had anything to do with that. God’s grace did that,” said Bergschneider.

Elaborating on his faith journey, Bergschneider cited more than 40 years participation in Quincy Cursillo where he has sponsored between 10 and 15 people at its weekend gatherings. “I think that’s deepened my faith more than just a little bit,” Bergschneider said. He also mentioned the importance to him of Cursillo’s longtime spiritual advisor Father Chuck Edwards’ service to Cursillo and that then-Bishop George Lucas (now Archbishop of the Diocese of Omaha) attended one of the Cursillos he attended.

With normal pastoral duties on hold that Saturday, most priests were able to attend the Eucharistic Congress. Seeing all the clergy, Hemann recalled her former parish priest, Father George Radosevich, as “totally devoted to being a priest; very much devoted to taking care of his parishioners and that kept me so very strong.”

Ed Bergschneider

Journey to Springfield

At 88, Bergschneider, a lifelong Catholic, saw the Eucharistic Congress announcements in his Sacred Heart Church bulletin and was particularly drawn to hear the message of one of the headlined speakers Dr. Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian who now teaches at one of the nation’s premiere Catholic universities.

Emphasizing the revival of the Eucharist is a movement endorsed by bishops nationwide and culminates in the national Eucharist Congress next summer in Indianapolis, Ind. The diocesan Congress coincided with the centennial anniversary of the transfer of the diocesan See from Alton to Springfield. 

“Oh my, my faith journey had to be all of it,” said Hemann on the reason she traveled from Staunton and her home parish of St. Michael the Archangel to the all-day event at the BOS Center. “The Eucharist is definitely the source and summit of my life. I just could not, not come.

“It is the true faith,” said Hemann. “Today is a highlight of what I believe the Eucharist is, and to have it grow to this magnitude, to give the people of our diocese the opportunity to evangelize and witness once we leave here on a much stronger path to reach other people.”

As about 5,000 people swelled the BOS Center, Bergschneider recalled another event two decades ago when then Bishop Lucas celebrated Mass before thousands of Catholic pilgrims in the grandstand during the Jubilee 2003 celebration at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. “I remember the scene receiving the Eucharist from up in the grandstand. I enjoyed that, as I look forward to receiving the Eucharist today,” said Bergschneider. 

Scott Mulford is the former editor of Catholic Times.