Eucharistic processions increase in the Fort Worth Diocese

North Texas Catholic
(Jun 27, 2024) Local

On June 2, 2024, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, St. Mary Parish in Gainesville held a Eucharistic Procession, led by first Communicants. (NTC/Tom Otto)

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In anticipation of the coming Eucharistic Revival and the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages, an increased number of parishes across the diocese participated in Eucharistic processions for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Many parishes were doing so for the first time.

“We need a revival of the faith,” said Father John Martin at St. Peter Parish in Lindsay. “When we walk through those doors, when that procession begins, heaven comes down and commingles with Earth. We’re taken out of this world and into the heavenly realm. I think we need to bring about a sense of that again in the minds of people.”

The faithful at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grapevine celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi with a Eucharistic Procession on Saturday, June 1. (NTC/Scott Wagner)

“We have a lot of visitors who come, and one of the greatest things they say about our parish is the families that are here,” Deacon Ralph Lira said of St. Peter. “That family tradition has been passed on and told to the children of how important it is, and that’s why this procession has carried on for as long as it has.”

St. Peter has hosted Eucharistic processions “since anybody can remember,” Fr. Martin stated, noting the large German population in Lindsay has kept the tradition alive.

Some of the Church’s first Eucharistic processions were recorded in Cologne, Germany, between 1265 and 1277 in response to a challenge of transubstantiation by French theologian Berengarius of Tours.

Shortly after St. Peter completed their Corpus Christi procession, their procession canopy then went to St. Mary in Gainesville for the parish’s first ever procession, held on June 2. 

In the streets

“I hope that more parishes start having a Corpus Christi procession to show the importance of the true presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity [of Jesus],” said Marsha Dill, director of religious education at St. Mary. “It’s a triumphant liturgical procession and the focus is on the sacrament. It’s Christ Himself and He left that sacrament for us.

“It’s a living, redeeming, sacrificial memorial,” she continued. “If everyone truly understood the true Presence of Him, nobody would fit in the church because they’d be standing in the streets waiting to get in.”

The Catholic Campus Center at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls held its first Eucharistic procession on April 28, 2024. (courtesy photo)

Like St. Mary, Aledo’s Holy Redeemer Parish borrowed a canopy for what may possibly have been the first procession in the parish’s history. It all came to be, when about a year ago, Monsignor Publius Xuereb, pastor at Holy Redeemer, first proposed to host a Blessed Carlo Acutis exhibit on Corpus Christi weekend.

“During that planning, we realized no one could remember ever having a Eucharistic Procession,” Deacon Steve Dixon said. “The Eucharist is not something we take for granted, but sometimes it’s like the best-kept secret. The procession is a way of taking Jesus out into the world.”

St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills, too, is keeping their tradition after starting a Corpus Christi procession last year.

“We’re hoping it will become one of those parish events like our fall festival, where people expect it to happen,” parishioner Paul Epperly said. “We’re literally showing as many people as we can that this is our faith, and we believe that Jesus truly resides in the Body and Blood.”

The procession not only offers the opportunity to show their faith to others, but to venerate Jesus in a “way that Jesus deserves, in a regal procession,” Epperly said.

“It’s a chance to say, ‘I don’t believe it’s a symbol,’” he continued. “If I’m going to take the time to go outside in the humidity and heat just to walk around our campus to show that devotion, it gives people another level of commitment to the Eucharist.”

He sees the event as a celebration of a gift God gives His children.

“The greatest gift anyone could ever get,” Epperly stressed. “It’s like you got a bike for Christmas, and you just rode it around your garage. We need to take Him out, and especially today, the way it seems our world is going. People need to see.”

On June 2, 2024, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, St. Mary Parish in Gainesville held a Eucharistic Procession. (NTC/Tom Otto)

Escorting the King of Kings

The Knights of Columbus played an integral role in coordinating the processions at many of the parishes. Fourth degree Knight Victor Kocks is a frequent participant of the multiple Eucharistic processions led by Father Joseph Moreno held at the Burkburnett, Electra, and Iowa Park parishes.

“If you were a secret service agent and you got to escort the President around, it’s a great thing, but if you think about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, how much better can you get than that?” Kocks pondered.

Many Knights are ex-military, he said. Their experience helps them carry an even deeper value as they serve in the procession.

“We escort the priest, usually four of us,” Kocks shared. “You could say we’re guarding the Eucharist. I think those of us doing it feel how important it is to our faith.”

One thing is clear: the parishes emphasize the feasibility of holding processions, regardless of immediate knowledge or resources. Whether holding their hundredth or first, the parishes communicated with and helped one another with the planning and supplies.

“Don’t make it complicated,” Dcn. Dixon of Holy Redeemer emphasized. “Get as many people involved as you can because the more people are involved, the more hearts can be touched. This is a tangible way for the Church to say, ‘This is Who we have: Jesus in true presence. Come and join us.’ It’s the reality of Jesus in the world and that’s what’s exciting about it.”

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