With hundreds of faithful following behind, Bishop John Noonan carried the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament through the Holy Doors of Mercy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando, May 29 to begin the Corpus Christi procession. Overhead, a canopy protecting the Real Presence was carried by seminarians as the Knights of Columbus led the way. Altars of Repose from the Haitian, Filipino, Brazilian, Hispanic, Korean, Ukrainian, Polish, Vietnamese, and African communities, lined the route, reflecting the rich faith expressions of the universal Church and the cultural diversity of the faithful in the Diocese of Orlando. Bishop Noonan rested the monstrance at each Altar as he knelt to offer prayers and blessings, while the respective community played songs of adoration on native instruments and sang in their own language.
Prior to the procession, Bishop Noonan presided at the Mass of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. In his homily, Bishop Noonan said, “We are all searching for a miracle, but we experience one each time we come to Mass. May we be one in the Lord Jesus Christ because of the Word and the Eucharist.”
Dating back to the 13th century, Eucharistic processions offer the faithful the opportunity for adoration as one body, regardless of language or culture, and to witness, outside the walls of the church, belief in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
“This means a lot to us,” says Marie Delius of Our Lady of Fatima, a Haitian mission in Orlando. “In Haiti, they go all in the streets, as Jesus went through the community, to show that He wants to be one with us. Like He was on Calvary, He sees the misery of His people. You miss something if you don’t know Him.”
Father Akalue, a native of Nigeria, gathered people from several African nations to be a part of the celebration. “The Eucharist is integral to African Catholic identity. It is the center of our personal relationship with Christ,” says Father Emmanuel Akalue, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Palm Bay. “Through Exposition, Adoration, and Benediction, we feel intimately connected with Jesus; the love and center of our lives,” he says.
Each community prepared an Altar of Repose with fabrics, icons, and other expressions of the faith from their culture. Catholic Filipinos from different parishes throughout the Diocese of Orlando collaborated to prepare their Altar and music for the procession. “Every year, we are excited to take part in this. It is a team effort,” says Mila Ecle, a parishioner from Sts. Peter and Paul in Winter Park. “This (procession) represents our true religion; our devotion and faith in honoring the Body of Christ.”
Along with honoring Christ, some Altars showed diversity in devotion to the Virgin Mary, with icons such as of Our Lady of Czestochowa of Poland, Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Haiti, and Our Lady of Aparecida of Brazil. Maria and Shawn Williams from Most Precious Blood in Oviedo brought their 6 homeschooled children to participate. Shawn and Marie’s son Adam, made his first Holy Communion just weeks before, making this Eucharistic feast day even more special for them as a family. “We wanted them to be a part of the heritage and practice of the Catholic faith,” says Shawn. “This was our first time at a processional like this, and we wouldn’t have missed it; to see the diverse cultures was really wonderful.”