On a trail of red and white rose petals, hundreds of people took to the streets of Milaca June 6. From newborn babies to 90-year-olds, the Corpus Christi procession meandered about two miles throughout the town, passing City Hall and the police station, stopping at homes, the school and the Life Choices Center, all while participants sang and prayed along the way.
This year, the Four Pillars in Faith Area Catholic Community, which includes the parishes of St. Mary, Milaca; St. Kathryn, Ogilvie; St. Mary, Mora; and St. Louis, Foreston, gathered together for the event.
“We want to bring Jesus into the streets as a sign of our faith,” said Vicky Gruba, one of the event’s organizers. “With everything that is happening in our world right now, we want to show our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We hope to restore, renew and revive our own beliefs as well as to bless the whole community as we walk through the town.”
Father Derek Wiechmann, pastor of Four Pillars, took turns leading the procession with visiting priest Father Sebastian Nzabhayanga from the Diocese of Kigoma, Tanzania. Youth, seminarians, deacons and lay people accompanied the procession and carried the canopy under which the monstrance with the Body of Christ was carried.
“Jesus desires to be with his people,” Father Wiechmann said. “This is evident by the fact that he gave us himself in the Eucharist. It always amazes me how vulnerable Jesus has made himself to us, in the form of humble bread. I want to bring Jesus to all people of my Area Catholic Community. What better way than to have a procession through the streets of Milaca? We specifically chose the school, our pro-life clinic and the police department [along the route] as they are in much need of prayer. At each stop, we [prayed] for all people of this ACC.”
People from all the parishes in the ACC attended the event and some from even further away. Amanda Eich, who had never attended a Corpus Christi procession before, traveled from Braham with her family.
“I just wanted to take part in bringing Jesus out into the world,” she said. “The Eucharist is very special, it is everything. When we were walking, I thought how happy Jesus must be that he is not alone. We are all with him. And for my kids to see that this is what we are supposed to do — to bring Jesus out into the world — it was just beautiful.”
One of the stops along the way was at the home of Milaca parishioners Al and Vicky Gruba. Al equated the experience to what it must have felt like for Zacchaeus, who, in the Bible, was eager to meet Jesus, who later came to his home.
“Jesus is coming to our house today,” Al said. “What could be more special?”
For Roxie Chmiel of St. Mary’s in Mora, this was her first Corpus Christi procession, which she said reminded her of processions she had seen happening in Rome and other places.
“I came today because, in my lifetime, I’ve never done this before. It’s a good opportunity to show that we are followers of Jesus Christ,” she said. “What I enjoyed the most was that we were going to ordinary places that people had made into holy places where you could stop and pay homage to the Eucharist. Almost everyone kneeled, even on the hot cement. I was just impressed with how reverent everyone was. It reminded me of when the people were leaving Egypt, singing and praying as they were walking.”
The event concluded with Benediction at the church followed by an ice cream social.
Dale Gagner of St. Kathryn’s in Ogilvie said he came to build his faith and to gain more hope for the future.
“To share this experience with others and to see their faith, enlivened my faith,” he said. “I think seeing the number of people who came — families, older couples and young people — and hearing the human interaction, was no different than when Jesus was on earth. Crowds were following him and interacting with one another just like they are today. We are still seeking. Gathering together like this gives me hope for the future.”
What is a eucharistic procession?
A eucharistic procession is a public witness of veneration toward the most Holy Eucharist, carried through public streets. It takes place in this way: a consecrated host — the real and substantial presence of Jesus Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity — is placed within a monstrance, which is then lifted and carried by a priest who leads the faithful in procession. This earthly journey reminds the Catholic faithful of their spiritual journey toward eternal life with God. The public procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi (which means the Body and Blood of Christ) is one time when our Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament, is exposed not just to faithful Catholics, but to all the world.