Deacon John Zak of St. Peter Parish holds the Blessed Sacrament aloft for the faithful to adore while Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, also of St. Peter Parish, incenses the monstrance. Participants in the parish’s annual Corpus Christi procession had stopped at the second temporary altar in Hanscom Park along their route from Our Lady of Lourdes Church to St. Peter Church, all in Omaha. DAN ROSSINI/STAFF

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Proclaiming Christ to the world: Public witness to the Real Presence

Several hundred Catholics took to the streets of Omaha to witness publicly to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as St. Peter Parish in Omaha conducted its annual Corpus Christi procession June 6, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

The two-hour event began with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in south Omaha. From there, the Sacred Host was carried by priests and deacons in a monstrance under a canopy in a long procession of the faithful that at times exceeded two blocks.

The throng wended its way through Hansom Park, stopping at two temporary altars for Scripture reading, the singing of the “Tantum Ergo,” prayer and benediction. More chants, hymns and mysteries of the Rosary – in both Spanish and English to accommodate the bilingual parish – held the attention of participants along the mile-and-a-half route.

Fireworks, balloons, ribbons and cries of “Viva Cristo Rey” (“Long Live Christ the King”) greeted the Blessed Sacrament as it arrived at its destination, St. Peter Church near downtown Omaha. Father John Broheimer, pastor, then led the faithful in a final benediction and reposition.

Participants welcomed the mostly cloudy skies, wind and warm temperatures that made an almost perfect day for the procession. They were grateful for the event’s return after a two-year hiatus. Last year’s procession was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in 2019 it became a Holy Hour because of inclement weather.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi (“Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ”) was established by Pope Urban IV in 1264, following the visions of an Augustinian nun, Julianna of Liège, indicating that an annual celebration devoted to the Body of Christ should be added to the Church’s calendar.

The rise of processions and other eucharistic devotions seem also to date from the 12th and 13th centuries. These devotions responded to several things, including a greater appreciation of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and a desire to express this truth outwardly.