Nearly 1,000 pilgrims follow Jesus for Emmaus Procession through Quad Cities

Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, carries the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament over the Mississippi River on Government (Arsenal) Bridge from Davenport to Rock Island in Illinois. Because the Emmaus Procession had to become narrow for this leg of the walk, Bishop Zinkula asked that the canopy be lowered as he carried the monstrance as high as he could to make certain it could be seen by as many people as possible. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

MOLINE — Jesus had two companions on the walk to Emmaus, but he was accompanied by as many as 1,000 people Oct. 8 as they traveled from Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa, to St. Mary Church in Moline as part of the first-ever Emmaus Procession through the Quad Cities.

Carrying the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament for the five-mile walk were Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Diocese of Davenport, who was the principal celebrant for the opening Mass, and Bishop Louis Tylka of the Diocese of Peoria, who led Benediction. Also taking turns were priests from both dioceses.

Traveling the entire distance behind her Son, was a statue of Mary, provided and carried with great love by members of St. Mary, Moline.

Having arrived on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, Bishop Louis Tylka prepares to carry the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament as part of the Emmaus Procession on Oct. 8.(The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Bishop Tylka said that just as the disciples in St. Luke’s Gospel recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the Emmaus Procession provided another opportunity for pilgrims to witness how we recognize Jesus in our lives, especially in the Eucharist.

“But really, the challenge for us is each and every day and each and every moment to be able to recognize that Jesus is present to us,” he said.

“Jesus is always present to us. He is always walking with us,” Bishop Tylka explained. “So our whole life is an experience of Emmaus, walking with the presence of Jesus and knowing that he is faithfully there lifting us up, giving us courage, offering us direction, and above all, showing us God’s love and mercy.”

Going forth, he said, “let us recognize Jesus in our lives, in our hearts, and especially in the gift of the Eucharist.”

The Emmaus Procession was something Taryn Watkins of Peoria had been thinking about since before the pandemic. At Easter this year she shared the idea with priests in both dioceses, and eventually a committee came together to help with planning and making sure people were taken care of along the way.


At the opening Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, which was filled to overflowing with pilgrims from both sides of the Mississippi River, Bishop Zinkula reminded them that Jesus would not just be present in the Blessed Sacrament that would be carried in a monstrance, but in the tabernacles and monstrances of their bodies.

Pilgrims continue to leave Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa, as the Emmaus Procession begins on Oct. 8. Between 850 and 1,000 people followed Jesus from Davenport across the Mississippi River to Rock Island and finally Moline as part of the first-ever inter-diocese event. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“So what is the purpose of our journey with and as the body of Christ? We won’t simply be traveling from one place to another. Our procession won’t be primarily about us,” he said.

“When Jesus was made known to the two disciples in the breaking of the bread, they had a need, they were compelled to share that experience with others, to tell folks that the Lord has been truly raised, and rushed back to Jerusalem,” Bishop Zinkula said. “Our eucharistic procession will be an announcement to everyone along the way that we have experienced the Risen Christ. We can’t keep Jesus’ sacrament to ourselves.”

It is not only a duty, but a joy for baptized disciples of Jesus Christ to share our Christian faith with everyone we meet on our journey,” he said.

As the Emmaus Procession traveled from Sacred Heart Cathedral to St. Anthony Church in Davenport, crossed the Mississippi River on Government (Arsenal) Bridge, and continued to St. Mary and Sacred Heart in Rock Island, and finally St. Mary in Moline, people prayed the rosary in English and Spanish, and sang traditional and contemporary hymns. Watkins read passages from Scripture, including the account of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), and the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:22-71).

People joined and left the procession as they needed to due to physical strength or family demands.

Shaunnessy Shaw, religious education coordinator at St. Pius X in Rock Island, participated by offering bottled water to people as they made the long trek up a hill on the way to Moline. She was assisted by her son, Owen.

“We knew that this would be a way to show our support and be here for Jesus,” she told The Catholic Post.

Others, like Jill Rodts, also of St. Pius X, handed out Miraculous Medals and information about what a eucharistic procession is, as she walked. In addition, the pilgrims waved to those who looked on from the street, as well as windows the windows above them.


The Black Hawk Pipes and Drums of the Quad Cities accompanied the procession from St. Mary in Rock Island to nearby Sacred Heart, where pilgrims were serenaded by a Burmese choir. As the Emmaus Procession approached St. Mary in Moline, they were led to Benediction by girls in white dresses and men on horseback.

Father Nicholas Akindele of Holy Family and St. Alphonsus in Davenport, Iowa, and adjutant judicial vicar for the Diocese of Davenport, prays before the Eucharist at an altar set up outside St. Anthony Church there on the first stop of the Emmaus Procession Oct. 8. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

For the last leg of the journey, the monstrance was carried by Father Antonio Dittmer, pastor. He has some experience lifting it — it belongs to the parish.

A fiesta followed, with food made by members of the Moline parish, and plenty of music.

As the festivities began, Bishop Tylka said he was happy to participate in the Emmaus Procession because it came from the people of God.

“It’s an expression of the faith of the people. Anytime we can have that witness of our faith in such a public way, it’s really a great opportunity,” he said.

It also provided an opportunity to bring two dioceses in two states together and remember that “we’re one people, one faith,” Bishop Tylka said.

While “moments” like these are special, he explained that what took place that morning has meaning beyond this one moment.

“We are a eucharistic people,” the bishop said. “It’s a way of life.”

Maggie Schoonmaker of St. Mary in Rock Island and a member of the planning committee, said she found the day to be filled with “so much hope.” Her hope was not just that people would come and walk with Jesus, but that people would know that God hasn’t forgotten them.

“That God wants to leave a building and come into their world — isn’t that hopeful? Praise God, right?” she said.

“I don’t even think we can fathom what he has done today. Little seeds being planted,” said Robin Heiar of Mary, Our Lady of Peace in Orion.

The planning committee is getting together this week to talk about next year’s Emmaus Procession.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the Emmaus Procession have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.


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