A first-class Eucharistic pilgrimage to Chicago

by Neil Sayer, Archdiocesan Archivist

As we prepare to welcome thousands of visitors to 'Adoremus', the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress taking place in Liverpool in September, the archives have turned up a memento of a similar congress long ago and far away.
In June 1926 Archbishop Keating (1921–28) led a party of pilgrims to the International Eucharistic Congress. This was the first such congress staged in the United States and it was held in Chicago. The Archbishop kept a diary of his visit which survives among his papers in the Archdiocesan archives. It's a reminder of a time when travel was often luxurious, and when the technology we take for granted was in its infancy. The Archbishop records the events of the Congress, such as the attendance of a million Catholics at one of the open-air Masses, and he is in awe at the means of broadcasting events to such huge crowds. He stays with a local family, the McCormicks, and is amazed by their ability to follow proceedings on their 'radio' in the drawing-room. 'It is a self-contained machine,' he notes, 'and can be carried easily from room to room.' In a very American touch, the Chicago newspapers reported that the hundreds of thousands of worshippers at Soldier Field ate their way through ten tonnes of hot dogs.
The Liverpool party were at the Congress for less than a week, and the diary is as much concerned with the journey there and back, which took even longer. They sailed from Liverpool to Quebec, took a train overland, and came back via New York. Their White Star liner on the outbound journey, the SS Doric, included 500 emigrants as steerage passengers, and the Archbishop and his accompanying priests tried to minister to the spiritual welfare of the Catholics among them. Entertainments were also arranged, at least for those in the tourist quarters, and the souvenirs of the voyage that survive with the diary include menus and programmes for these events, together with postcards and photographs. The Archbishop even celebrated his 67th birthday in mid-Atlantic, and though we don't have the 'briar pipe and ashtray' presented to him, we do have the loyal address signed by all the pilgrims.
This diary is available for research, along with all the Archbishop's papers, at the Archdiocesan Archives; anyone is welcome to visit by appointment.