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Father Gregory Carl, then-associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, carries the Eucharist in a monstrance in 2016 during the parish’s annual Corpus Christi procession. Father Carl now is pastor of St. Leonard Parish in Madison.

Corpus Christi processions impact lives

For Jeremy and Kathleen Bowers, members of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, the opportunity to walk alongside their eight children in the church’s annual Corpus Christi procession is the ultimate celebration and declaration of their faith.
 
“It’s an event that we find really instrumental in our spirituality and in teaching our children the reality of the Eucharist,” Jeremy Bowers said. “To actually bring the Eucharist and spiritual power of the Lord’s presence publicly to our city is a very unique opportunity.”
 
Held annually on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi), the processions have been a tradition in the Catholic Church for more than 600 years. The Most Blessed Sacrament – the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of a consecrated Host – is carried by a priest or bishop, held in a monstrance and processed under a protective canopy.
 
Participants join in prayer and song along the route. It’s customary for children who have received their first holy Communion within the past year to lead the procession, dropping flower petals to prepare the way for the Blessed Sacrament.
 
“To stand up and publicly say, ‘Yes, this is the Lord and I’m following him,’ solidifies your own faith – almost evangelizing yourself,” Bowers said. “During the procession, you can see the folks coming out of their homes along the route and just watch out of curiosity because they can see the authenticity of what’s happening.”
 
The Bowers family will be among some 1,200 participants expected to walk in St. Peter’s 13th annual Corpus Christi Procession on Sunday, June 3. Two of the Bowers’ children – Dominic and Eli – will be among those sprinkling flower petals at the front of the 1.4-mile procession, which begins at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Omaha and passes through the Hanscom Park neighborhood on the way to St. Peter Church. 
 
Monica Bowers, 11, said she and her siblings look forward each year to walking in the procession. She particularly enjoys watching a shower of flower petals that are dropped from the roof of St. Peter’s as the procession enters the church.
 
“It’s something beautiful for Jesus,” she said. “It will be a great way to honor our Lord.”
 
Father John Broheimer, pastor of St. Peter Parish, said the beauty and significance of the procession “makes his heart swell,” and it is exhilarating for participants and onlookers. It’s one of the most-anticipated events of the year for St. Peter parishioners.
 
“Through our neighborhood, we’re going out to the world with Christ,” he said. “To do so publicly, it invigorates all of our faith in the Eucharist. It’s one thing to celebrate Christ privately, even in our parishes, but to go publicly challenges us to rise to the level of our faith – to live it openly for others to see.”
 
The impact of the Lord’s presence on the neighborhood can be felt throughout the procession, Father Broheimer said.
 
“The spectacle of it is intriguing to people to begin with,” he said. “People come to their lawns and say, ‘Wow, what is this?’ Of course, the people along the way explain that this is our Lord. This is the Blessed Sacrament. People have converted to the Catholic faith after seeing the Eucharist and public faith of these people. They say, ‘There must be something to this.’ And there is.”
 
Father Anthony Weidner, pastor of St. Michael Parish in South Sioux City, also has experienced the impact of a Corpus Christi procession, both at St. Michael and at St. Peter, where he was associate pastor from 2008 to 2012. Father Weidner said he senses and embraces a renewed appreciation among Catholics for the gift of the Eucharist, whether it be through public procession, adoration or meditation.
 
“The center of our faith is Jesus and we believe our primary access to him in this life is the Eucharist,” he said. “To see the faith of the people and have them celebrating their faith is inspiring.”
 
St. Peter in Omaha, St. Gerald in Ralston, St. Lawrence in Scribner, St. Rose of Lima in Hooper and St. Michael in South Sioux City are among the parishes within the Archdiocese of Omaha planning to hold Corpus Christi processions in June.
 
WANT TO GO?
 
Corpus Christi Processions:
 
St. Peter Parish, Omaha – June 3, 2:30 p.m., from Our Lady of Lourdes Church to St. Peter Church, with post-procession ice cream social.
 
St. Gerald Parish, Ralston – June 2, 6:30 p.m., through neighborhood from the parish’s chapel on Lakeview Street in Ralston.
 
St. Rose of Lima Parish, Hooper – June 2, after the 5 p.m. Mass, with post-procession ice cream social.
 
St. Lawrence Parish, Scribner – June 3, after 9 a.m. Mass, with post-procession ice cream social.
 
St. Michael Parish, South Sioux City – Date and time to be determined.

 

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