250 join four-mile eucharistic procession from Hampton to Rapids City churches
After walking four miles in a eucharistic procession, helping to hoist a canopy over the Blessed Sacrament for one of them, Gene Dennhardt was more fired up than tired out.
“To be in the presence of the Lord all the way? I mean, that’s awesome,” said Dennhardt, one of 250 participants in a procession on Saturday morning that began at St. Mary Church in Hampton and followed a bike path northward along the Mississippi River to St. John the Baptist Parish in Rapids City.
“I never thought I’d be able to be a part of anything like this,” continued Dennhardt who, like his wife Beri — parish secretary at St. John the Baptist — wore a t-shirt specially designed for the day bearing the image of a monstrance and the words “Come Let Us Adore Him.”
“It brought tears to my eyes to see that many people come together,” he said.
The day brought joy to the heart of Father Glenn Harris, pastor of the two parishes along with St. Anne in East Moline. Inspired by last fall’s Emmaus Procession bridging the Mississippi River that attracted nearly 1,000 participants from the dioceses of Peoria and Davenport, Father Harris made plans for a “Visitation Eucharistic Procession” between the historically linked Hampton and Rapids City churches, both located along Illinois Route 84. .
“This is done as part of the National Eucharistic Revival the bishops of the United States have called for,” he explained to a packed assembly prior to a Mass that began the day at St. Mary Church. The procession was also part of the parishes’ annual 40 Hours of Divine Mercy observance.
A DAY OF MANY BLESSINGS
The day was blessed in multiple ways. The weather was perfect: sunny and a temperature around 70 degrees. Dozens of volunteers came forward to help in roles ranging from altar servers to those willing to carry one of four statues of Mary. Multiple golf carts had to be secured for those unable to walk the four-mile route, volunteers handed out water at several stops along the way, and many contributed to a luncheon that was shared in the Rapids City parish hall following the walk. Sixteen volunteers were canopy bearers — four for each mile of the route.
And there was an unexpected blessing connecting the event to every parish in the diocese.
“It just so happens, not part of my planning, that we have with us the traveling monstrance going from parish-to-parish as a way of showing our solidarity with all Catholics of the diocese,” said Father Harris.
He was the first of four clergy to carry the Blessed Sacrament reserved in that monstrance. As the procession left St. Mary Church following an 8 a.m. Mass, the pilgrims were led for the first few blocks by members of the Black Hawk Pipes and Drums of the Quad Cities. The walkers then arrived at the bike path, which winds past campgrounds and through neighborhoods, across railroad tracks and near wildflower patches, bordered by the Mississippi River to the west and Route 84 to the east.
Those in procession would stop for prayer at four temporary altars set up along the way. Songs and litanies were sung or recited in both English and Spanish. Police assisted as the long line crossed the busy highway twice.
“SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD”
For every step, Megan Ziegler carried her 3-month-old son Peter in a sling. No problem, she told The Catholic Post.
“It’s what I do every day anyway,” said the mother of 12 and member of St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island who also attends Holy Family Church in Davenport with her husband Adam and their children.
Why did the entire family come out for the procession?
“Because we love Jesus and wanted to do something beautiful for God,” said Megan.
Preaching the homily at the Mass preceding the walk was Father Thomas Szydlik, administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish in Clinton and Sacred Heart in Farmer City.
Father Szydlik said that the Visitation theme for the procession was a good one. The Gospel recalled Mary’s journey to the home of her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. The Sept. 9 procession with Jesus, both he and Father Harris noted, began at a church under Mary’s patronage and led to one dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
While Christians face significant battles in our time, Father Szydlik reminded attendees that, just as in the procession, “we bring our greatest weapon, the Lord himself.” As they walked and prayed for perhaps serious causes, Father Szydlik urged them to do so with joy.
“We know that at the end of things, the resurrection of Christ has the final say,” he told the group. “The pilgrimage of life ends not in Rapids City but, please God, in heaven.”
In addition to Father Harris and Father Szydlik, others carrying the monstrance during the procession were Deacon Bob DePauw of the Hampton and Rapids City parishes and Father Nicholas Akindele, pastor of Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parishes in Davenport. Participants came from area parishes on both sides of the river.
Catholics in the Quad Cities region will have an opportunity for a similar experience on Saturday, Oct. 7, when the second Emmaus Procession takes place on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. That procession begins with a Mass at 8 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church in Moline and ends with Benediction at about noon at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bettendorf, Iowa.
EDITOR’S NOTE: More images and a video of the Visitation Eucharistic Procession have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.