Nearly 10,000 clergy members and believers are visiting Auriesville this weekend and the Shrine of the North American Martyrs for the Eucharistic Congress. It's a celebration of Catholics' belief in the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ.

“We believe that Jesus is present in what we call the mystical body of Christ, his church and particularly through this sacrament of the Eucharist, in which we believe Jesus is really, really present,” said Albany Bishop Edward Sharfenberger.

The significance of the event happening in this hamlet west of Albany traces back to the 17th century with the introduction of Catholicism in the state. According to Sharfenberger, “possibly the first Mass, the first Eucharist, was celebrated on these grounds or in this region, because they came over, the Jesuit martyrs, most of them French, I think all of them French, came over here and brought their faith, and most probably celebrated the first Eucharist in New York state right here on these grounds.”

Scharfenberger understands many dioceses around the nation are fragile and fractured right now, in large part due to the sexual abuse scandals.

“We actually have a team that is there to listen and to hear the stories," he said. "Just the best thing I think we can do is to be open to hear the stories of pain and sin and brokenness. And what we do is we have gatherings and sometimes in Mass in which we invite survivors, their families, their friends to come. And our homily is specifically geared towards addressing the pain, the woundedness, the brokenness and most of all, to listening, because after that mass, we invite anybody who comes to speak with us."

Scharfenbeger understands his role is to help heal.

“Trust is something, once it's broken, it takes time and patience, and I will say sacrifice, in order to be reinvigorated. I have to bear those wounds, too. It's not a matter of whether I committed them or not. I mean, Jesus himself did not commit a sin, and yet look how he was wounded. So we are, we believe we're the body of we share the wounds and the hurt of those among us who have been hurt," Scharfenberger said.

Asked if the diocese is moving in the right direction despite its recent filing for bankruptcy, joining several others across the state, the bishop said, “Well, I do see Chapter 11, as we call it, as an opportunity for full accounting in such a way so that there will be no hidden corners.”

As worshippers gather in upstate New York this weekend, leaders and lay people are meeting for the Synod of Synodality in Rome, discussing several topics.

The role of women in church and the church's willingness to accept all people have been significant topics for years. While Pope Francis is the ultimate leader of the church and Catholics await his word, Scharfenberger said he leads individuals and wants to hear their stories.

“We encounter people, one-on-one, person-to-person, family-to-family. You know, we're much more granular than you know. So yes, we do. Well, our faith believes every human being is called to a place in Heaven. Every human being is loved by God, every human being and God wants to say. Now, are there things that we can do that stand in the way of our salvation? I'm not going to name all of this, but, you know, racist attitudes, sexist attitudes, gender is added to all of the isms, you know, which at times their ideological, their attitude. And, you know, and we have to cut through that. We're more than any group. We're a part of any society. We're children of God, each and every one of us.”