by Ellie Melero
Special to The Leaven
EMPORIA — Some Corpus Christi processions take longer than others.
But St. Catherine Church in Emporia might have set a record for its June 14 celebration: Five hours!
Amanda Rodriguez was excited when she saw Father Daniel Coronado get out of the van in front of her house on Corpus Christi Sunday.
That morning, she and her mother had set up a small altar outside their home. They created it from a small card table that they draped with a tablecloth and decorated with a picture of Jesus, a statue of Mary, a candle and flowers.
The altar was now ready for Father Coronado when he arrived. Now it was time for her to receive the body of Christ.
Her pastor, Father Coronado of St. Catherine, spent some five hours going from house to house to celebrate the Eucharist with almost 80 families in a unique, socially distanced eucharistic procession.
Like the Rodriguezes, each family set up and decorated altars in front of their houses and waited for Father Coronado to arrive and give them Communion.
“It was an amazing experience,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve never had anything like this before. You can’t even put it into words how beautiful and amazing it was.
“Just to have your priest come to your house and do that? It was very emotional. I think it was good for the community to have that, especially during this COVID time.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced churches around the country to close in March, and St. Catherine adapted by hosting Mass via Facebook Live. Although churches in Kansas have been allowed to begin reopening, St. Catherine hasn’t been operating at full capacity.
Instead, parishioners are split into groups alphabetically by last name. One group comes one Sunday, and the next group comes the next weekend and so on.
While many parishioners are thankful to be able to attend Mass again, the pandemic has still put a strain on many people’s lives. Father Coronado bringing the Eucharist to people’s houses was a reminder that the Lord is with people during times of struggle.
“We needed it,” said parishioner Armida Martinez. “We needed to see Father [Coronado], we needed to be blessed, we needed for Our Lord to come to our house. And he came to our house and made a visit like, ‘I’m still here. I walk with you.’
“It was like that was one of the Gospels. ‘Did you not see me? I was here, I was walking with you.’ So, that was kind of also a physical reminder.”
Martinez was too late to sign up to have Father Coronado bring Communion to her house, but she wanted to participate anyway. She went to the church at the beginning of the procession and was invited to join the Benedictine Sisters at their altar. After receiving Communion, Martinez watched the rest of the procession on Facebook Live.
Spiritual morale isn’t the only reason Martinez appreciated the procession. For many at St. Catherine, church is about community as well as faith. Watching the livestream gave Martinez an opportunity to see the faces of many people she hadn’t been able to see since before the pandemic, and she was thankful for the opportunity.
“It felt like you had been to Mass,” Martinez said. “On Facebook, it’s not the same. You miss your church family, and this way you kind of got to see everybody again. . . . It’s not that you forget them. You just miss them because you don’t get to see them anymore.”
Rodriguez and her fellow catechism teachers came up with the idea for the procession, originally thinking it would be a nice event for the families of the teachers. They discussed the idea with Sister Guadalupe, OSB, and Father Coronado, and then they decided all parishioners should be given an opportunity to participate.
The parishioners responded with enthusiasm. A sign-up list went out, and parishioners provided their addresses to Sister Guadalupe. Some people doubled up and had more than one family at one house.
Sister Guadalupe helped Father Coronado organize the procession, planning the route they would drive and giving updates on the livestream so families would know when he would arrive. She said one of her favorite parts of the procession was seeing the altars.
The altars varied in size and style, some much more elaborate than others. But they were all beautiful and made with love.
Processions like this are common in some Central and South American countries, but it was the first of its kind at St. Catherine. Sister Guadalupe said many people have asked if there will be another. She said neither she nor Father Coronado are opposed to the idea, but they would need to do some more planning in the future if they decide to bring it back.
“It was a beautiful experience because of people’s faith in Jesus, the Eucharist and how happily they were waiting,” Sister Guadalupe said. “It was a joy to share with and be with each family and be messengers.
“That Jesus went to visit people in their homes has been a huge blessing.”
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