More than a decade ago, Sean McBride recalls participating in local Corpus Christi processions.
The events, the spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend says, were a tradition at St. Peter and at St. Charles Borromeo parishes in Fort Wayne. But then, for unknown reasons, they fell into disuse.
But on Sunday, McBride says, the celebration of Corpus Christi, which stresses the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the church, will be revived locally, with a nod to its special significance among Hispanic Catholics.
Several parishes are joining an effort to carry a consecrated Eucharistic wafer in a gleaming holder called a monstrance from church to church before an afternoon fiesta with food and music at Queen of Angels Catholic Church, 1500 W. State Blvd.
McBride says the event is an outgrowth of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ longtime interest in ministry to Hispanics. A similar event took place last year in South Bend, he says.
“He has a special devotion to Hispanic ministry,” McBride says. “He speaks fluent Spanish, and when you look at his (bishop’s) crest, it has roses on it representing St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe,” who is revered as a protectress of the Mexican people and patroness of the Americas.
The Rev. L. Sam Cunningham, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church, home to many of Fort Wayne’s Hispanic Catholics, says adoration of the Eucharistic wafer through prayer in front of it and procession are both important parts of Latin American Catholic culture.
“Most processions are centered around an important devotional celebration or feast of a saint,” he says.
During Holy Week, people often process in costume to mark the Stations of the Cross, and on the feast day of a parish, an image of its patron saint is carried throughout the town, Cunningham says.
Corpus Christi, which means “body of Christ,” represents the culmination of the season that includes Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, he says.
“It’s a sharing of everything that happened in the life, death and resurrection of Christ and his presence in the church,” Cunningham says.
Because Catholics believe the consecrated host “is the actual presence of Jesus,” he says, processing is a way of physically demonstrating what it means to follow Christ.
McBride says 200 to 300 people are expected for the event, which will begin at the conclusion of the 11:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The procession will then move along a 2.7-mile route to Headwaters Park, Most Precious Blood Catholic Church at 1515 Barthold St. and Queen of Angels. There will be a special blessing at each stop.
A police escort will accompany participants and a shuttle bus will run between 3 to 5 p.m. to allow participants to pick up their cars. McBride says.
Traditionally, participants in Corpus Christi celebrations sing hymns and pray as they walk. Many times, children who have recently made their First Communion wear their attire from that day.
In Mexico City, children bring baskets of fruit to church to be blessed and celebrate after Mass with tiny, fruit-filled tamales.
McBride says anyone interested is invited to attend, and organizers hope the procession’s visibility will take Corpus Christi beyond the Hispanic community.
“Bishop Rhoades is … making it more of a diocesan event,” McBride says. “I think the intent is to alternate the tradition between here and South Bend and make it an annual thing.”