By ALEXANDER BROWN, Special to the Bulletin | Published July 6, 2023
ATLANTA—On Sunday, June 11, St. Paul of the Cross Church hosted one of many eucharistic processions the weekend of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ for the parish year of the National Eucharistic Revival.
Upon entering the church, one can immediately recognize the beautiful diversity of the parish. Lined along the left side of the nave stand the various banners used by different ministries and at past Eucharistic Congresses, a witness of Christ the members give to their community. The parish membership includes many Hispanic, African and African American families, each bringing the gift of their identity and culture.
The members of each community had worked to prepare for the procession.
“The rain tried to stop it, but the Holy Spirit had other plans,” said Uche Anikpe, a parishioner at St. Paul of the Cross.
The original schedule included celebration of Mass outdoors followed by an extensive procession around the front grounds of the church, ending with a time of food and fellowship. It involved acquiring security officers to help with traffic flow and other plans to ensure safety and success.
Instead, this Sunday, the priests, deacons, and servers carried Jesus around the inside of the church with incense and song allowing the faithful to adore Christ after receiving the Eucharist.
“It is wonderful to see all of the people who share the same belief—people just like me reverencing and worshiping God,” Anikpe said.
“We had much bigger plans” but it was beautiful that “the communities joined together to celebrate this year,” said Edith Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, a parishioner for 12 years, became more active in other ministries after her personal involvement in the Cursillo retreat eight years ago. Now, she serves as a lector, extraordinary minister and in other ways. She is excited to see more events like this in the future, including before the end of the summer when they will re-attempt the procession as originally scheduled.
“There was no energy wasted,” said Father Jerome McKenna, CP, the pastor at St. Paul for the last 14 years.
He also shared some of the ways that the community already practices devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The church holds regular Holy Hours as well as a monthly first Friday exposition and Benediction. He hopes collaborations like these will become more frequent as the parish continues growing and the opportunities to work together increase.
The bilingual Mass celebrated was a visible example of the joining of the two communities. Father Patrick Daugherty, CP started with an introduction first in Spanish and then echoed in English; the Gloria was sung and the first reading proclaimed in Spanish; the Psalm was sung with organ accompaniment followed by the second reading in English; finally, the Gospel in both English and Spanish, a sign of the unity in diversity of God’s people.
Themes of the homilies, given in Spanish by Father Luis Lopez Galarza and in English by Father McKenna, included that all are members of the Body of Christ, and we also receive him sacramentally and become like him. We must therefore go out and share his joy and his love in our communities bringing the Good News to those who need it.
Ifeanyi Anikpe, husband of Uche, was especially moved by Father McKenna’s message delivered without notes.
His take-aways included that “we are all one regardless of what you think you are–no matter what part of the world you come from, your status in life, without God you are nothing. You have to eat his body and drink his blood to have food for everlasting life–we should start now spending time with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be ready to be with God forever in heaven.”
It is this perfect communion of love that is exemplified in Christ’s revelation and gift to the world, his continued presence in his Sacrament, his Word, his priests and his people.