Nuns and laypeople attend an outdoor Mass in rainy conditions during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin June 13. (Paul Haring/CNS)

Catholics from the Diocese of Phoenix joined thousands of pilgrims from around the world at the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland, June 10-17.

Fr. Kilian McCaffrey, a native of Dublin and pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale,  led the local group of 37 Catholics.

“For me, the Masses were the highlight,” Fr. McCaffrey said. “You’re concelebrating Mass with thousands of priests. It’s phenomenal. I’d say at the final Mass there were maybe 2,000-3,000 priests.”

With such a tremendous crowd, there wasn’t a hotel room to be had in Dublin, according to Fr. McCaffrey, as congress attendees, in addition to the usual summer tourist traffic, inundated the city. Ireland’s national stadium, 3Park, which holds 80,000 people, was filled to capacity for the congress.

“It was an amazing event, but for me it was the joy of people,” Fr. McCaffrey said. “There was a sense of joy that was transcendental. The people were just thrilled to be there.”

Betsy Sherf, coordinator of the Katzin classical music program for the Diocese of Phoenix, was one of the pilgrims who traveled in Fr. McCaffrey’s group. She noted the bonds of friendship that were developed over the course of the trip and was also deeply moved by the celebration of Mass.

“We were very uplifted by the profound homilies that were given at each of the daily Masses and the novenas that were packed with Catholics from all over the world,” Sherf said. “The beautiful music is still in my ears — ‘Though we are many, we are one body.’ That is one of the lovely footnotes to being on the pilgrimage — we are one family in Christ.”

Sherf lauded the leadership of Fr. McCaffrey throughout the pilgrimage.

“He is not only a devout Marian priest from Dublin, but he has the unique charm of being so gregarious that he does not know a stranger,” Sherf said. “He was a magnet for people… the conversations were so upbeat and they were so glad to find someone who so clearly projected his faith.”

The international eucharistic congress, held in a different country every four years, featured an array of prominent speakers, including Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; Patriarch Fouad Twal of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Cardinal André Vingt Trois, the Archbishop of Paris; and Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríquez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Brooklyn Bishop Frank Caggiano asked young people at the congress to be the voice of Christ in a world wrapped up in social media and the Internet.

“I ask you to be present in this virtual world as witnesses of the Lord Jesus,” Bishop Caggiano said. “For it seems to me that many people, especially young people, are searching in the electronic world for a word of hope in their troubles, a word of consolation in their fears, a word of welcome in their loneliness.”