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)

(This story was updated June 29.)

PONTIAC — In talking about the tangible parts of the Catholic faith, Father Adam Cesarek told his parishioners at St. Mary Church on June 19 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 their Livingston County community 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 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 parish, said the eucharistic procession is something Father Cesarek had wanted to do for several years.

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

FOLLOW THE CHURCH

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)

The Pontiac parish was one of the first to start perpetual adoration nearly 40 years ago, according to Father Cesarek. That long history was interrupted by COVID-19, but adoration has resumed five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“So there’s a long touted understanding that the Eucharist is important here,” he told The Catholic Post. “It’s the work of pastors before me who have put all that in place. . . . I just kind of carry the torch.”

Father Cesarek said the idea of bringing Jesus to the town square in Pontiac had been germinating for about four years and it was “God’s providential timing” that made it possible now.

The beauty of processions like this is the way they mirror the church, he said.

“You might lose sight of the Eucharist, but if you don’t see Jesus anymore what do you do? You follow the church, you follow the other people,” he explained.

EUCHARIST IS ‘EVERYTHING’

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

“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.”

Father Cesarek lifts the monstrance containing the Eucharist in blessing over the people taking part in the Corpus Christi procession through downtown Pontiac on June 19, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

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.

Father Cesarek said he had no idea how many people were participating in the procession until they returned to church for Benediction and was overwhelmed by the response.

“It will keep me pretty excited and lit up my faith,” he told The Post. “The faith of the people helped my faith be increased for sure.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the Corpus Christi procession in Pontiac have been posted to an album on The Catholic Post’s Facebook site.

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