‘Walking together with Christ’

Diocesan Corpus Christi procession takes Jesus into the streets
The diocese’s Corpus Christi procession walks along the streets of downtown Owensboro. (Tina Kasey/WKC)

By Elizabeth Wong Barnstead, The Western Kentucky Catholic

Joe Bland’s initial thoughts at the end of the June 2, 2018 diocesan Corpus Christi procession were, “İBien hecho! Well done!”

Bland, the Diocese of Owensboro’s director of the Office of Evangelization, said he was “pleasantly surprised” at the number of participants.

A Knight of Columbus holds Brescia University’s chapel door open for a family attending the June 2, 2018 Corpus Christi procession, including two children in First Communion garb. (Elizabeth Wong Barnstead/WKC)

“The turnout was wonderful; I was overwhelmed by the response,” said Bland, who had helped spearhead and coordinate the procession as part of the diocese’s four-year “Living as Missionary Disciples” initiative.

Bland said he was glad the diocese had done the procession, which was led by Bishop William F. Medley and traveled across several streets of downtown Owensboro.

The event began at Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel on the campus of Brescia University at 10 a.m.

Charles Hagman, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Hawesville, was one of the Knights of Columbus participating in the procession. 

He told the WKC that he and several brother knights had attended St. Stephen Cathedral’s Corpus Christi procession in 2017.

“It is an honor and a privilege to do this,” he said. “We look forward to being able to assist the bishop.”

Altar servers carrying a crucifix and candles lead the way across Brescia’s campus for the Diocese of Owensboro’s Corpus Christi procession, on June 2, 2018. (Tina Kasey/WKC)

In the dimly lit chapel, which was filled to capacity, the Blessed Sacrament was placed in a monstrance for Bishop Medley to carry. The bishop incensed the monstrance, and then, picking it up, began the procession out of the chapel.

Outside the chapel, colorful sawdust designs – depicting crosses, a monstrance, and other religious imagery – had been assembled on the sidewalks by Latino faithful.

Surrounded by canopy-carrying Knights of Columbus, deacons and altar servers with incense and candles, Bishop Medley led the way to the first altar, which was outside Brescia’s science building.

The faithful walked in a long line behind, singing hymns including “O Food of Exiles Lowly.”

Participants included all ages and many nationalities. A number of girls and boys wore their First Communion dresses and suits, in keeping with the Latino tradition of wearing one’s First Communion garb for a Corpus Christi procession.

Bishop William F. Medley blesses the crowd at the first altar on the June 2, 2018 Corpus Christi procession. (Elizabeth Wong Barnstead/WKC)

Parents pushed strollers and held the hands of toddlers. Many people carried umbrellas or wore hats and sunglasses for protection from the blinding sunshine and the heat, which climbed into the 90s.

The first altar had been decorated with yellow and white flowers and matching tulle by parishioners of St. Stephen Cathedral. The bishop placed the monstrance on the small altar, knelt, incensed the Blessed Sacrament and offered a prayer.

Patricia Gutiérrez, parishioner of St. Michael Parish in Sebree, gave a short reflection, and the bishop blessed the faithful with the monstrance.

Singing the popular Marian hymn “Santa María del Camino,” the people continued the procession, which left Brescia’s campus to cross Frederica Street.

“I am happy to see the Catholics of western Kentucky walking together, praying together, singing together with the bishop,” said Fr. Basilio Az Cuc, associate pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Hopkinsville.

He told the WKC that this procession was “people walking together with Christ.”

“Viva Cristo Rey” reads the second altar on the June 2, 2018 Corpus Christi procession, which was decorated by Holy Name of Jesus Parish. (Tina Kasey/WKC)

The second altar was set up against the back wall of a U.S. Bank location. This altar, which had been decorated by parishioners of Holy Name of Jesus in Henderson, displayed a large, colorful backdrop with the words “Viva Cristo Rey” (Long Live Christ the King).

The bishop led another prayer and blessing, and a reflection was given by Fr. Julio Barrera, associate pastor of SS. Joseph and Paul Parish in Owensboro.

The procession continued along West 7th Street and crossed Locust Street, stopping at the third altar on the front lawn of St. Stephen Cathedral’s rectory.

This altar had been decorated by parishioners of SS. Joseph and Paul in Owensboro. At this location, a sawdust design of colorful flowers, bread and grapes created a pathway for the procession to approach the altar.

A colorful “sawdust carpet” adorns the path to the third altar on the Corpus Christi procession. (Tina Kasey/WKC)

Mariella Lopez, a SS. Joseph and Paul parishioner, told the WKC that she was part of the team that had been assembling the pathway, or “carpet,” since 6:30 a.m.

She said the carpets of colorful sawdust are a typical tradition for Latin American Catholics on special liturgical occasions. This includes Corpus Christi processions.

Lopez explained that creating a carpet for the procession is a way of honoring the Blessed Sacrament being carried along the path. 

She used the example of a red carpet being used for celebrities, but in this case, “we are giving our King welcome.”

In stopping at this third altar, Bishop Medley told the faithful, “It is important that we gather in procession, as we speak to the world of our belief in the Body and Blood of Christ present to us – the Real Presence.”

A family stands outside St. Stephen Cathedral at the end of the Corpus Christi procession. (Elizabeth Wong Barnstead/WKC)

He emphasized, however, that taking Christ into the world, as they did on this day, cannot be something reserved for once a year.

The bishop said people can take Christ to the world “when we wash feet, and bathe wounds, and feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty, and welcome the stranger – we make Christ known to the world.”

“This, my brothers and sisters, this procession foreshadows our procession into the everlasting kingdom of God,” he said.

The procession continued up the stairs of the cathedral, where participants filled the pews and knelt for a final benediction by the bishop.

Click here for a full gallery of photos from the Diocese of Owensboro’s June 2, 2018 Corpus Christi procession.