Some 400 faithful processed through the streets of New Haven, Conn., in celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, June 6. Knights of San Salvador Council 1 helped to coordinate the event and held the canopy over the monstrance, which was carried by Dominican Father John Paul Walker, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and council chaplain.
Onlookers paused in wonder as the Blessed Sacrament was processed a mile from St. Mary’s Church, the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus and resting place of its founder, Blessed Michael McGivney. The procession concluded at St. Joseph’s Church, which is part of St. Mary’s Parish and located in the East Rock neighborhood of New Haven.
“Support for the Corpus Christi procession is one of the capstone events of the Knights at St. Mary’s every year,” said Daniel Isabel, grand knight of Council 1. “We’re proud to support the parish, while spreading devotion to Father McGivney and promoting the central importance of the Eucharist in our faith.”
In years past, smaller processions were held just around the perimeter of St. Mary’s Church, . That’s when decided to stretch the procession between the two churches, ending with a parish picnic next to . This tradition continued until last year when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the procession from taking place, but this year it was back as the pandemic restrictions are lifting.
“It was extraordinary — a profound witness of faith,” Father Walker said.
Corpus Christi in Latin means “body of Christ,” referring to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The central belief that Christ is fully and actually present under the appearance of bread and wine should inspire the faithful to share the Gospel, Father Walker explained.
“The Eucharist is the most important gift we’ve been given,” he said. “It’s a gift beyond measure that is central to our lives as Catholics, and this central mystery ought to fill our hearts with such love and joy that we want to proclaim this mystery to the world.”
In his homily during the 10 a.m. Mass, which preceded the Corpus Christi procession, Father Walker further explained, “With the gift of the priesthood, the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist — the true presence, the real presence, the actual presence of the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — would be with us until the end of time.”
Gratitude for this gift is what motivated members of the parish to walk the milelong stretch in 86-degree weather. And neighbors took notice. As the procession began, firefighters had just finished responding to a call in the neighborhood. Seeing the procession, they respectfully stood at attention.
Young girls of the parish walked at the head of the procession, dressed in white, scattering rose petals along their path. The Blessed Sacrament, carried by Father Walker, followed behind. This year, for the first time, a first-class relic of Blessed Michael McGivney was also carried in the procession. In addition to holding the canopy, Knights carried banners and a statue of Father McGivney.
While the annual Corpus Christi procession is perhaps the parish’s most visible display of eucharistic devotion, it’s far from the only one.
“It’s the capstone part of a much larger devotion to the Eucharist that we are cultivating here,” Father Walker said.
The parish provides opportunities for eucharistic adoration each week, and, since December 2020, Council 1 has organized a special Mass and all-night adoration on the first Friday of each month.
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