The Eucharistic Procession heads up North Detroit Street (Ind. 15) from Sacred Heart Church, after a stop at Central Park, to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
The Eucharistic Procession heads up North Detroit Street (Ind. 15) from Sacred Heart Church, after a stop at Central Park, to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Thousands of people acrosss the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend participated in the Eucharistic Procession and Festival in Warsaw Saturday.

The event, held on Corpus Christi Sunday, kicked off the three-year Eucharistic Revival for the Catholic Church in the United States, according to a news release from the diocese. A Eucharistic procession is a traditional public witness of veneration to the Blessed Sacrament, which Catholics believe to be the living person of Jesus Christ - body, blood, soul and divinity - conducted through public streets.

“So basically, we’re gathering together and bringing Jesus through the streets of Warsaw. We believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist,” Katie Owen, communication director at Sacred Heart, said Sunday.

Originally, 3,000 people from throughout the diocese were expected to walk the procession Sunday, but the number went up to 5,000. Warsaw was picked for Sunday’s event because it is the center of the diocese.

Owen said Sacred Heart participated in the event because it’s one of two Catholic churches in Warsaw, with the other being Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The procession started at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and made the approximately 2.8-mile journey to Central Park and to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish with a benediction. The procession was led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

Father Jonathan Norton, at the beginning of the procession, said the procession was a great public witness of “our faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ and the most blessed sacrament (of the Eucharist). And with the support of the city of Warsaw, we today have the unique privilege of” processing between the two Catholic churches in Warsaw.

Norton said there were to be songs throughout the procession between the two churches.

“I hope people have a greater love of the Eucharist and Jesus and the community of Christ,” Owen said about what she hopes people get out of participating in the Eucharistic Procession and Festival.

“We are all doing this to walk with Jesus downtown to show everybody we believe this is Jesus that’s walking with us,” said Tom Edsall, Warsaw. He said he planned on walking the entire procession and participating in some of the festival at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Edsall said after “what we’ve been told” about what  practicing Catholics actually believe, he thinks it needs to be reiterated the sacrament of the Eucharist is Jesus Christ.

Edsall referenced a 2019 Pew Research Center survey that found most people that identified as Catholics don’t believe the core teaching the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Nearly seven in 10 Catholics say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus,” according to the Pew Research Center website.

Edsall said the sacrament is not a symbol and “that’s what we believe.” He said the sacrament is important because “that’s what our faith is based on.”

Sister Joan of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Mishawaka, said her community has sisters praying in front of the blessed sacrament and it was their desire for everyone in the world to know Jesus’ love for them. One of “the most beautiful ways to do that” is to honor Jesus with processions. She said she thought it’s beautiful the diocese was having the procession that was focused on Jesus and the Eucharist.

“It’s our first participation of Heaven here on earth is through the Eucharist, so we just want to bring our word to as many people as possible,” she said.

This is not the first procession Sister Joan has participated in, but it is the first one she’s participated in in Warsaw. She said she receives joy in seeing so many people following Jesus and grow closer to Jesus.

The Eucharistic procession was a point of unity for Christians, especially Catholics, to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist, said Molly Crummey, Fort Wayne. “We are going to process through the streets to proclaim for our love of Christ.”

She said the Eucharist is important to the Catholic faith because “it the source and summit of our faith is what the catechism of the Catholic Church says.” It is the gift Jesus left “us is his very self in the Eucharist.”

Katie Baca, Plymouth, said she was participating in the procession Saturday because she loved Jesus and any opportunity she can to adore Jesus with her family and her spiritual family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is always appealing to her. She said the Eucharistic procession was important because any exposure that can be given to others about the presence of Jesus Christ and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist should be done at all times.