by Catherine Halbmaier
Special to The Leaven
ATCHISON — Fourth Street homeowners knelt on their front porches as a procession of clergy, altar servers, and parishioners passed by. They knelt not for any of these groups, but for the eucharistic Lord, carried in a monstrance at the head of the crowd.
The April 16 procession began at St. Benedict’s Church and traveled with the Blessed Sacrament down Fourth Street to Veterans Memorial Park at the Missouri riverfront. There, adorers prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and listened to a Gospel reading from Jn 6:51-58. Following a homily by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and a Holy Hour, the congregation was invited to socialize.
Representatives from multiple parishes in the region joined the procession of some 850 faithful. Many sported banners and flags, as did Maur Hill-Mount Academy and Benedictine College, both of Atchison.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann preached on the life-changing power of faith in the Blessed Sacrament.
“Many have come to our faith because of the Eucharist, because they saw that the Eucharist was the center,” said the archbishop.
He also emphasized in his homily the literal presence — or the Real Presence — of Christ in the Eucharist. And in conclusion, Archbishop Naumann thanked the crowd of adorers, calling on them to “realize the miracle in which we are engaged.”
“May we adore the eucharistic Lord,” Archbishop Naumann said. “May we thank Him for this gift.”
Father Jeremy Heppler, OSB, in an interview before the event, provided background on the origin of the procession.
“As a way to celebrate the archdiocesan year of the nationwide Eucharistic Revival, the archbishop suggested that each of the regions within the archdiocese host a eucharistic procession,” he said.
Father Jeremy, pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish, described the collaboration between regional parishes to organize the event.
“The priests of the Atchison Region heard about processions in a couple of other regions, and we thought that we should host one,” he continued. “Working with Rick Cheek, the archdiocesan representation, we gathered representatives from each of the 13 parishes in the region, Benedictine College, and Maur Hill-Mount Academy to begin planning for this event.”
Through this procession, Father Jeremy expressed not only the hope to bring Catholics together, but to bring Christ to others along the way.
“Our hope for the day is to unite Catholics from throughout the region and beyond to adore our eucharistic Lord,” he said. “By bringing him to the streets and eventually to the riverfront, we also want to provide an opportunity for others to have an encounter with Jesus.”
Father Jeremy concluded with his hopes for the procession’s outcomes.
“Hopefully, this time of adoration will lead us as individuals, a community, and a region to a deeper love for the One from whom divine mercy flows forth,” he said.
As representatives from 13 parishes, Benedictine College, Maur Hill-Mount Academy, and the archdiocese gathered together, some were no doubt inspired by that deeper love, and by the strength of the community. Archbishop Naumann was one of them.
“It’s beautiful,” said Archbishop Naumann. “It’s really for me very inspiring to see so many people from so many different parishes in the Atchison region come together.”
And he hinted at the possibility of more processions like this in the future.
“So many of them were saying, ‘We’d like to do this every year,’” said Archbishop Naumann. “I told them, there’s no reason we can’t.”
In closing, the archbishop praised the event’s turnout, saying he was “inspired and edified by the faith of the people.”
For a full album of photos from the procession, click here.