NEP Day 6: Out of the Church and into the Streets

This article was posted on: April 29, 2024

Father Sebastian Kolodziejczyk is no stranger to eucharistic processions like the one scheduled to stop in Wausau at St. Matthew Parish on Wednesday, June 12.

A ‘hidden’ Jesus revealed to all at St. Matthew Parish in Wausau

Father Sebastian Kolodziejczyk is no stranger to eucharistic processions like the one scheduled to stop in Wausau at St. Matthew Parish on Wednesday, June 12. In his native Poland, Corpus Christi is the greatest feast day of the Church. “Every town and every parish in Poland has a eucharistic procession,” he says. “It’s a national holiday. Everyone has off from work, and it’s broadcast live on television.”

Sacred Tradition

Since processions are much less culturally prolific here, Father Sebastian is happy his parish is hosting this remarkable event. Associate pastor Father Isaac Pecha is also thrilled that this holy tradition will have a prominent place here publicly in Wausau. “This eucharistic procession will take the holy sacrament out of the Church and into the streets,” he says. “It’s a good reminder to us of the sacred. People have two temptations,” he continues, reflecting on an address from Cardinal Sarah, “to deny the sacred totally or to fall into the idea that everything is sacred because God is everywhere. And while it’s certainly true that God’s power is everywhere in the Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity—it’s a different kind of sacred than the kind of sacredness that’s everywhere by virtue of God’s power being everywhere.”

This is a dynamic statement about our humanity and free will. As Catholics or as agnostics, God never imposes upon our will but instead, like a patient father, awaits our decision to open our hearts to greater possibilities. Faith, by definition, is the realization of what we hope for, and evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1) The hope for the Catholic community is for more people, either fallen away or skeptical, to view this host in procession, in all its reverence and sacredness, to unite themselves with Christ and deepen their understanding of the Eucharist. “The host is always the same Jesus,” explains Father Isaac, “but for it to be literally the same host moving through the towns and cities, it’s a cool reminder of the oneness of our faith: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. We’re all worshipping the same thing—Jesus, not merely the different instances. This speaks to something very tactile about us and more clearly physically expresses what is always true sacramentally.”

Several vetted perpetual pilgrim leaders under 30 years of age will travel with the Eucharist on this Northern Route. St. Matthew Parish is looking forward to this stop of honor by hosting a  Hispanic youth Mass on Wednesday morning. Of course, all ages are invited to walk with the pilgrims in the processions from one church location to the next and to participate in the Masses and activities at each parish.

Hispanic Catholics by Culture

Mariela Patino, her husband Ramiro and their tween daughter Aryella are active Catholic Hispanic parishioners looking forward to this devotion to the real presence of Jesus. They are also eager to participate in the unique practice and reverence established in their culture. “We have Jesus hidden in our churches,” Mariela says. “He should come out because all people need to see Him. “If anyone here (in Wausau) sees the host and they are exposed to Jesus, they may have a faith-filled experience as well,” says Mariela with assurance.

The Patinos were born in Mexico and migrated to the U.S. with their families whenthey were young teenagers. Ramiro reflects on their youth when the seeds of their faith were planted. “We went to Church because our parents told us to go. But often, they did not go for various reasons.” Both Ramiro and Mariela grew up with vivid memories of reverence for the Catholic Faith and the Eucharist. “I remember each day when the Church bells rang out to announce that Mass was starting,” shares Ramiro with excitement. “Every single person in the streets would remove their hat, kneel (genuflect) and make the sign of the cross.”

Mariela shared that her strongest faith memory is linked with her grandfather. Her mother told her that her grandfather’s parents died when he was a child, and so he was sent to a local seminary where priests raised him. “He wanted to become a priest, too, but it was not what God wanted,” she laughs. “He married and taught each of his 15 children to attend Mass and pray the rosary.” Mariela also explains that her grandfather was the director and organizer for the town’s re-enactment of the Way of the Cross. “He practiced with the people and was in charge of the costumes. During the three days of Christ’s Passion, my grandpa would fast. He wouldn’t even drink water,” she says with amazement and pride. Because of their witness of strong Catholic family members, the Patinos believe that this eucharistic procession and outward celebration can similarly affect people in Wausau. “People are going to see Catholics worshipping Jesus in the Eucharist and feel like they can do this as well.”

Knowledge Is (Grace) Power

Rosalba Perez, along with her husband Uziel and their two young sons, Uzziel and Dominic, are Catholic Hispanic parishioners of St. Matthew’s. Rosalba says the National Eucharistic Revival will bring knowledge to the people. “In Mexico, we are Catholics by culture. But how can we be Catholics by culture in the U.S.?” she asks rhetorically. “Hispanic ministry is really serving us to know God. The Mass in Spanish helps them to be in union with God and contemplate the Gospel and the homily word by word.” Rosalba grew up in Mexico and moved to the U.S. with her family when she was about 13 years old.

“When I was a child, my family used to attend processions and vigils. I remember not wanting to be there,” she laughs. “It was so late, I would get tired and didn’t appreciate it at that time, but there were graces. Now, as an adult, I can feel and see those graces. They were still present when I was a kid, but I just didn’t realize them back then.” Rosalba emphasizes the importance of educating people about Jesus. “When we have knowledge of our Faith, it leads to love, devotion and service. If we don’t know God, how can we love Him? The more we know and serve God, the more we can love Him and defend the Church’s teachings.” She continues with passion, “As we were once innocent like little kids, we can now sense the presence of the Blessed Mother of Jesus.”

The Perez family is thrilled that the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will visit Wausau, as it will provide people with knowledge about faith. Rosalba believes that this National Eucharistic Revival and Pilgrimage will help young people to understand Jesus in the Eucharist better, and it will be a sweet and warm experience for them. She predicts that this will lead to an epiphany of faith for them.

Physical Reverence

In the spirit of renewal, another unique tradition has returned to St. Matthew’s by Father Sebastian’s suggestion and the parishioners’ support. “We brought back the Communion rails because of the National Eucharistic Revival,” he says. “We thought it was a good idea to enhance peoples’ reverence. Father Sebastian explains that some people prefer to kneel when receiving the Eucharist, and the rails serve as an aid for those who may need support to do so. He also states that those who cannot kneel or choose not to kneel can stand in front of the rails to receive. The design of the rails was intentionally chosen to fit with the modern décor of the church, and Father Isaac emphasizes that it is a practical aid rather than an architectural divider. “You can get there and pray before the priest comes around. Then you have a few more seconds after,” he says. “It allows for little moments of silence.”

The eucharistic procession will continue east from Wausau to the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion near Green Bay. Then, just like pieces of a puzzle coming together to form a larger picture, the procession routes will converge in Indianapolis to gather as a greater corporate body of Jesus. When you gaze upon the Eucharist anywhere during this revival, what will you see?

Story by Marcy Stenstrom
Published in the May/June 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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