Behind the June 19, 2022 Corpus Christi procession at St. Joseph Parish in Mayfield is seen the remains of the City of Mayfield, Ky., which was devastated during the Dec. 10, 2021 tornadoes that hit western Kentucky and surrounding regions. RILEY GREIF | WKC
On a day of ‘multiple revivals,’ Owensboro diocese kicks off Eucharistic Revival as region continues to recover from tornadoes
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Speaking at the June 19, 2022 Corpus Christi procession at St. Joseph Parish in Mayfield – the site of the Diocese of Owensboro’s kickoff of the National Eucharistic Revival initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – Bishop William F. Medley said that after the day’s celebrations conclude, “this procession must not end.”
In the Eucharist, “we come to be nourished,” said the bishop in a homily inside the church, before beginning the procession that led a large crowd of parishioners and visitors around the parish’s block.
St. Joseph Parish has always hosted a procession for Corpus Christi. This year’s, however, was all the more powerful as the damaged City of Mayfield could be seen during the procession; Mayfield being one of the hardest-hit locations during western Kentucky’s historic Dec. 10, 2021 tornadoes.
St. Joseph lost the top of its bell tower to a tornado, but today scaffolding surrounded the section, indicating that reconstruction efforts were well underway. A brand-new awning was also at the entryway of the church, replacing the one destroyed by the storms.
Bishop Medley said that in being sustained by the Body and Blood of Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine, Catholics are called to take that love of Jesus out into the rest of society.
This “gives a message to the world” that what happens in Catholic Churches “is not just a private devotion,” and that “not only we, but the world, can be transformed” by Jesus in the Eucharist, he said.
“Our Blessed Lady is the world’s first monstrance, when she bore the Christ for nine months in her womb,” he said to the standing-room-only crowd. “Like Mary, we seek to bear Christ to the world.”
The bishop referenced St. Teresa of Calcutta’s advice to seek Jesus in the “disguise” of the poor.
“How do we find the poor? By opening our eyes,” he said. “We could recite a veritable litany of the poor around the world – or even in our own homes where someone feels unappreciated, or where someone feels unloved.”
As the procession began, St. Joseph’s pastor, Fr. Eric Riley, led the faithful in singing Suzanne Toolan’s “I Am the Bread of Life” in alternating English and Spanish verses.
Children who had made their First Holy Communion that morning were part of the procession and several girls were given baskets filled with flower petals to scatter during the procession.
Tapetes de aserrin, constructed by members of the parish, decorated the pathways leading to the three altars. A traditional devotion in many Latin American cultures, tapetes de aserrin are “carpets” of colorful sawdust that depict various religious imagery for celebrations like Corpus Christi, Holy Week and Día de Muertos.
As the procession walked to the first altar, which had been made by parishioners of St. Leo in Murray, Fr. Riley led the people in a bilingual Litany of the Sacred Heart. The procession then stopped at the altar for prayer and benediction led by Bishop Medley.
In processing to the second altar, which had been made by parishioners of St. John the Evangelist in Paducah, the faithful prayed a bilingual Litany of the Precious Blood of Jesus. There, too, Bishop Medley blessed the crowds with the Eucharist in a gleaming monstrance.
Together, praying a bilingual Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, all processed to the third and final altar, made by the parishioners of St. Joseph. After benediction, the procession continued back to the church while praying a bilingual Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
After the final benediction and reposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Riley stood at the ambo to thank all who had participated in the day’s celebrations.
“We are so happy you are here, Bishop Medley; thank you so much for coming to be with us and bringing so many of your diocesan staff,” he said. Fr. Riley also thanked his brother priests and religious, the Knights of Columbus, the servers, the First Communicants, and the parishes who visited and built altars for the procession.
He encouraged the people “to continue to pray for all those affected by any disaster – especially war. Pray, pray, pray that we will come to respect the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death,” said Fr. Riley.
Among out-of-town visitors that day was Larena Lawson, a parishioner of St. Lawrence in eastern Daviess County, who had driven more than two hours to participate in the procession.
“Ever since the tornadoes tore through Kentucky, my heart has been deeply moved by how devastating it must be for all the people who were affected by the severe damage that they caused,” said Lawson. “When I heard that Bishop Medley was planning to have a Corpus Christi procession in Mayfield, I thought it would be a great way to be able to go and be with the people there and pray with them.”
Lawson said several processions were taking place at parishes closer to her home, but she decided to drive the extra miles to attend the diocese’s kickoff of the Eucharistic Revival. She considered it a “revival” for the diocese itself to be able to come together in a large gathering after the two years of limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another significant aspect of this year’s solemnity was that on this day Bishop Medley had reinstated the distribution of Holy Communion under both species and had lifted the suspension of Communion received on the tongue.
Lawson said that “being able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ again under both species on this Corpus Christi feast was also a glorious gift to us all! It was a day of multiple revivals!”
Tom Johnson, who will take on the role of Kentucky state deputy for the Knights of Columbus on July 1, attended the procession as well. He attended both to participate in the solemnity’s celebrations but also to finally meet in-person with the leadership of St. Joseph Parish, with whom the Knights have been partnering to help tornado survivors.
“I am happy to be able to participate in this (kickoff of) the Eucharistic Revival,” he said. Plus, “it’s been wonderful just to talk to Fr. Riley.”
Johnson said Fr. Riley and Christie Scarbrough, St. Joseph’s business manager who has also been leading local assistance efforts, “have been very helpful” during the joint endeavor.
Johnson said the Kentucky Knights of Columbus have collected more than $430,000 for those impacted by the tornadoes, and have distributed about $350,000 “so far.” He added that they have been working with other parishes around Kentucky, too, to help funds reach those in need.
Learn more about the National Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Owensboro at https://owensborodiocese.org/eucharistic-revival.