Pontiac parishioners take faith to the world during Corpus Christi procession

Father Adam Cesarek, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Pontiac, carries a monstrace containing the Blessed Sacrament through the city's town square during a Corpus Christi procession on June 19. It is estimated that as many as 250 people walked or rode golf carts and a trolley to take part in the celebration. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

PONTIAC – In talking about the tangible parts of the Catholic faith, Father Adam Cesarek told his parishioners at St. Mary Church on Sunday that the Eucharist is the greatest gift God has given to us and makes us one with him.

“It doesn’t get more real than that,” he said in his homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is also known as Corpus Christi.

After he placed the monstrance containing the Eucharist on one of the devotional altars in Pontiac’s town square, Father Adam Cesarek uses incense to bless it. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

At the end of the liturgy, he placed the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance and then led those who filled St. Mary Church out the front door to share their faith with the world as they made their way around the center of town. Even on a relatively quiet Sunday, the procession drew the attention of motorists and passersby, some of whom asked, “What is this?”

Singing eucharistic hymns as they walked, an estimated 250 people stopped at four devotional altars for a brief reflection and took time for adoration. Then they returned to St. Mary Church for Benediction.

They were among Catholic parishes around the Diocese of Peoria, as well as the world, that celebrated the feast day on June 19 with Corpus Christi processions and celebrations. In the United States, it marked the beginning of a National Eucharistic Revival that is to last three years and culminate with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July 2024.

Megan Lauritsen, director of evangelization and youth ministry at the Pontiac church, said the eucharistic procession is something Father Cesarek, pastor, had wanted to do for several years but COVID-19 caused a delay.

“How wonderful that the year that we were finally able to do it is with the eucharistic revival,” she told The Catholic Post.

EUCHARIST IS ‘EVERYTHING’

Among those in attendance were Mark and Tricia Stoeckel of Odell, who had been planning to go to their grandchildren’s dance recital over the weekend.

Steve Smith kneels as he adores the Blessed Sacrament during a Corpus Christi procession in Pontiac’s town square on June 19. The procession started and ended at St. Mary Church. (The Catholic Post)

“Father has been talking about this for months,” Mark Stoeckel told The Post. “We’ve grown very close to Father Adam and his family, so we changed our plans to be here, to help.”

He said the Eucharist is very important to him.

“This is Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity,” Stoeckel said. “Growing up, religion was just another class. It wasn’t until I was older that I started realizing what the Eucharist really, truly is.”

“It’s everything,” Lauritsen said simply.

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, she said, “It’s the ‘source and summit’ of our faith, and it is what gives me life. To have the Eucharist and to be able to receive Jesus – how humbling that is to me.”

Lauritsen called the procession “a beautiful witness of tangible faith.”

So often people keep their faith and their relationship with the Lord close to their hearts, and that’s good, she said.

“But to be able to take that out in a way that isn’t the norm and have such a public witness to your faith and say, ‘Yes! This is what I believe and that’s Jesus right there!’ is so incredible,” Lauritsen explained.

IT TAKES EVERYONE

To enable as many people as possible to participate in the Corpus Christi procession in Pontiac, the organizing committee at St. Mary Church arranged to have golf carts available, as well as the Department of Tourism’s Jolly Trolley, to assist those who would could not walk the half-mile distance. Families were encouraged to bring strollers and plenty of water for little ones.

Lauritsen said the Liturgy Committee worked on getting the devotional altars set up, and the Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard.

Carrying a new canopy over Father Cesarek and the Blessed Sacrament were Mick Lauritsen, Craig Cramer, Jeff Gray, and Chris Frauli. A large group of altar servers, led by seminarian Ryan Mann, assisted.

The reflections, many of them penned by St. Josemaria Escriva, were read by Ray White, Margo Law, Mick Peterson and Lisa Martin.

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