Thousands of people gathered together Sunday to participate in the Diocese of Fort-Wayne South Bend’s Eucharistic Procession and Festival in Warsaw, Indiana.
The event, held on Corpus Christi Sunday, kicked off the Eucharistic Revival, a three-year focus on revitalizing Eucharistic belief and practice in the United States.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to begin the three-year Revival than this great public demonstration of our faith in Jesus in the Eucharist,” said Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who also serves on the Revival’s Bishops Advisory Group.
The procession was held in Warsaw, a town of 16,000 about an hour drive from both South Bend to the northwest and Fort Wayne to the southeast, in order to maximize diocesan-wide participation. An estimated 5,000 people were able to participate.
The afternoon began at Sacred Heart parish in Warsaw, with prayer and music sung in English, Spanish, Latin, Filipino, Burmese and Vietnamese, led by choirs from across the diocese. Participants followed the Blessed Sacrament carried in a monstrance by Bishop Rhoades and shaded by a canopy carried by the Knights of Columbus. Priests and seminarians of the diocese followed with incense.
The procession made its way through city streets and down State Road 15, which was blocked off by local authorities to allow the procession to pass. The group paused halfway through the 2.8-mile walk at Central Park for a prayer and Eucharistic blessing, accompanied by hymns sung in the Igbo language of southeast Nigeria.
The procession concluded at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, with Benediction and devotional hymns sung in Spanish and English. A Eucharistic festival immediately followed at Our Lady of Guadalupe, featuring live music, food for sale from many different ethnic cultures, local artists and vendors, a kid zone, information booths, and a “Eucharistic Miracles” exhibit.
Diocesan organizers were intentional about incorporating the Eucharistic devotions of different cultures within the Church.
“The multiethnic dimension is beautiful,” said Bishop Rhoades. “It showed the universality, the catholicity of the Church in our diocese.”
As Christian, a participant from South Bend, remarked, “This is how people worship across the world, but also, this is how people worship in our diocese.”
Many participants sported matching T-shirts designating their parish or carried banners. Other groups were distinguished by richly colored traditional dress. Priests and seminarians in cassocks and women religious in habits, often capped off with sun visors, were interspersed with parents pushing strollers and pulling wagons.
Music ministers led songs near the front of the procession, but a great diversity of smaller devotions sprang up spontaneously throughout the blocks-long crowd. Small groups prayed the Rosary or sang hymns in several languages, joined by those around them. Warsaw residents gathered on lawns and porches to watch the procession pass by.
“We came on a bus from Rome City,” said Sharon, a parishioner at St. Gaspar del Bufalo. “There were 19 of us. There was even more enthusiasm in the parish [even though] many couldn’t come. We have an older parish, so I’m probably one of the oldest that came. I had to get on a golf cart, and they brought me here. But I walked quite a ways.”
‘A Public Witness’
In the context of the nationwide Eucharistic Revival, the procession provided a way for Catholics across the diocese to give “a public witness to our faith and our love, giving thanks to the Lord for this sacrament of love,” said Bishop Rhoades.
Julie, a Notre Dame theology student who traveled from South Bend to participate in the procession, is writing her dissertation on the practice of Eucharistic adoration.
“Often when we think about adoration, we think about it as something that we do privately,” she said. “But [a Eucharistic procession] is done in community. The Church is seen in this devotion. I think it’s really beautiful, this gathering of the Church around the Eucharist, not just in the Mass, but in a way that we’re all participating in bringing the Lord to the world.
“The symbolism, I think, is really beautiful, too, of bringing the Eucharist out. It’s not just something that you’re doing by yourself in front of the Lord — which is great — but that translates to our daily lives, to the cities that we live in, to the streets that we walk on, and we walked on those streets today.”
The three-year Revival began Sunday with the kickoff of the “Diocesan Year” and will be followed by a “Parish Year” beginning on Corpus Christi Sunday 2023. In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the Revival will include intentional catechesis on the Eucharist.
“I’ll be giving some of those personally; it’s a priority,” said Bishop Rhoades, who was instrumental in introducing the Eucharistic Revival across the country.
The Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years, taking place July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis, and will be followed by a year of going out on mission “for the life of the world.”
As Bishop Rhoades said, “It really is about how we’re called to bring Jesus, whom we receive in the Eucharist, into our life and into the world.”
Madeline Johnson reported from Warsaw, Indiana.
Communion in Action: Indiana Procession Highlights Universal, Missionary Dimensions of Eucharistic Faith