June 16, 2006

160 years and counting: Eucharistic procession marks Corpus Christi celebration

By Mary Ann Wyand

OLDENBURG—The historic street marker tells the story of Holy Family Parish’s tradition of celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi with a eucharistic procession through the Village of Spires for 160 consecutive years.

The reverent ceremony honors the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, which is June 18 this year, and draws several hundred participants who pray the rosary during the one-mile procession every year.

On June 11, about 25 Knights and Ladies of St. John from Oldenburg and Louisville served as the honor guard for the Blessed Sacrament.

First Communicants walked in front of the priest as he carried the monstrance, and the children dropped flower petals on the streets all along the route.

Several men in the parish even fired a salvo of gunshots into the air as a salute to the Eucharistic King when the Blessed Sacrament was elevated by the priest at the outdoor shrines or chapels.

“The annual devotion honors the Blessed Sacrament on the ninth Sunday after Easter,” the street marker explains. “It was first celebrated here in 1846, but originated in 13th-century Germany. The solemn and colorful march follows a one-mile route through woods, meadow and village streets.”

The origin of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ dates back to France in 1246 and was extended throughout the Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264.

The tradition of carrying the Eucharist in an outdoor procession enabled the people, who rarely received Communion at Mass during the 13th century, to see the Blessed Sacrament and pay homage to Christ.

Franciscan Father Frank Jasper, the temporary administrator of the Batesville Deanery parish since last September, concluded his ministry there on June 11 by celebrating Mass and presiding during Benediction and the eucharistic procession.

The new pastor, Franciscan Father Rock Travnikar, started his ministry at Holy Family Parish in June.

Father Frank began the eucharistic liturgy for the feast of the Holy Trinity with a prayer “that we can come to appreciate more fully the love that Christ shows us in the Eucharist.”

He said “Jesus reassures us of his presence in our midst as we gather together to pray in his name.”

During his homily, Father Frank reminded the parishioners that Christians are called to work to end violence in society.

“Jesus offered his life for us to set us free,” he said, “to give us a new chance.”

The Passover supper on Holy Thursday marked the beginning of the institution of the Eucharist, he said. “Jesus gives himself up for us, and that’s what we celebrate each day with the Eucharist. Each time that we come together, we celebrate Jesus’ salvation for us, what he did for us, offering his body and blood so that you and I can be free. Today … we remember in a very special way that gift to us.”

The living, dynamic presence of Jesus in our midst is made real, Father Frank said, when “we demonstrate for one another the love of Jesus … in the love we show each other.”

When Catholics celebrate the feast day Mass and Corpus Christi procession, he said, “we reaffirm our commitment to the Eucharist. We reaffirm our belief in a loving, saving God. We reaffirm our belief in one another, and support one another in our belief so that we can continue to love one another.

“Every time we gather at the table of the Lord to celebrate the Eucharist,” he said, “Jesus becomes a part of us as we receive his body and blood … and we become a part of him. We have the responsibility and the challenge to make him present to one another. We also have the challenge to allow him to take over our lives more fully so that we are part of him.”

Longtime altar server Heather Slagle, who has participated in the annual Corpus Christi procession for 10 years, graduated from Batesville High School on May 27 then enlisted in the U.S. Army. She leaves Oldenburg on June 20 to train as a Private First Class and motor transportation specialist at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

“It was great [to participate in the procession],” she said, “but it was sad too because I won’t be able to serve at Mass here anymore. But serving in the military is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I felt that as an American I should fulfill my duty to [work for] freedom for our country.”

Holy Family parishioners Mary Gehring and Bob Heidlage coordinated the Corpus Christi procession this year.

“I thank God for the ability that I have to organize the procession,” Gehring said. “That’s a blessing in itself.”

Heidlage was pleased that almost 250 people participated in the 160th annual procession.

Parishioner Eddie Obermeyer, commander of the Knights of St. John of Oldenburg, said he has participated in the procession for 50 years, and was honored to march with the knights and ladies again this year to pay homage to the Lord.

Not everyone walked and prayed as part of the eucharistic procession.

Parishioner Ryan Tekulve watched the procession with his 3-year-old daughter, Faith, on the campus of Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

“It’s an honor to do it every year,” Tekulve said. “It’s pretty well-attended every year regardless of the weather. It’s always great to be a part of it.” †


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