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Men for Christ: Annual Eucharistic Procession Through Downtown Cincinnati Unites Men in Public Prayer

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by Bonny Van

When more than 500 men – fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, religious and faithful – gather in downtown Cincinnati on Sat., Oct. 17, they will be walking with Jesus in the lead for the sixth annual Men’s Holy Name Society Eucharistic Procession. The event, which began in 2015, is a resurrected version of a parade of prayerful men through Cincinnati from the 1940s until the 1960s, sponsored by a similarly named group.

David Willig, a parishioner at St. Antonius Church in Cincinnati, said a group of fellow parishioners used the Men’s Holy Name Society from the earlier era as a model for their own newly formed organization and recreated the parade one year after their formation, in 2015. Willig said the inspiration for reviving the public Eucharistic procession came from Father Al Lauer, former pastor of Old St. Mary’s Church in Cincinnati, who spoke about “re-establishing strong Catholic traditions that have discontinued.”

“Father Lauer mentioned the Men’s Holy Name Society Parade where men from every parish in the archdiocese came together and marched through downtown Cincinnati and ended up with benediction at Crosley Field,” said Willig, who along with fellow parishioner Doug Jaeger, organized the event.

Following Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains, the Eucharist procession begins at 9 a.m. from the basilica, led by Father Jon-Paul Bevak, pastor of Old St. Mary’s Church. According to Willig, Father Bevak will be followed “by the brothers from the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Mt. St. Mary’s seminarians, Dominican novices from St. Gertrude Church, Knights of Columbus, the Order of Hibernian and our Catholic men.”

The first stop is District One of the Cincinnati Police Department with benediction and special prayers. “We’ve been doing that for years,” said Willig. “We stop at the police headquarters and pray for all of our police, emergency workers, firefighters, and we pray for their protection and the end of violence in our cities.”

The next stop is St. Francis Seraph Church for benediction and more prayers for the church’s ministries. Besides a church parish, St. Francis Seraph has a school and provides nutritional programs for residents in the neighborhood. Brother Tim Sucher, OFM, of St. Francis Church, said the church’s meal program provides 200 meals for breakfast and 200 meals in the evening for those in need. Brother Sucher, a native of Cincinnati, remembered the Holy Name Procession when he was growing up.

“That was just a great symbol of people of faith and kind of publicly professing that, and I think that’s what this is as well,” said Brother Sucher. “It’s a public display of an expression of faith. And, so it’s not just the people in the procession, but I think it’s everybody who sees it when it goes by. It’s a powerful public symbol.”

The final destination is Old St. Mary’s Church with benediction and prayers, ending at 11 a.m.

“You know, it really brings the faith back because it’s a very prayerful,” said Willig. “We’re singing very powerful hymns; we’re praying the Rosary all the time; we’re praying the litany; we’re walking through some very difficult parts of this city where people are blaspheming Christ and other people are kneeling down and genuflecting before the Eucharist.

“And then we go down Main Street and all these kids are taking pictures with their iPhones, so it’s pretty a marvelous experience, being part of it. And toward the end, people were saying, ‘I’m coming next year and I’m bringing 10 men with me.’ ”

The theme for this year’s Catholic Men’s Eucharistic Procession is “Take Courage, It is I, Do Not Be Afraid” (Mt 14:27), a reference to Jesus calming the apostles during the storm. Willig said that message is reflected in the “storms” facing Catholic men today with attacks on the Church, religious freedom, marriage, family and the unborn.

“I think it has a lot more significance this year, certainly to not be afraid, especially since nationwide our Church is under attack, with the burning at the Santa Barbara church and defacing statues and decapitating the Blessed Mother. It’s a time where Catholic men need to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we’re Catholic and we’ll defend our Church if we need to,’ ” said Willig.

“I think it’s really important that we come out with our faith especially with all the things that are going on in our neighborhood,” said Brother Sucher. “Earlier this year, we had a number of people out, protesting against police violence and injustices and the like, recently we had 10 people shot just a block away from here. Two people were killed in that shooting. So there’s a lot of unrest here as well, so I think it’s a great opportunity to pray publicly for all of that.”

This article appeared in the October edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

The Monstrance is carried through the streets during the 5th Annual Eucharistic Procession in Cincinnati Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. More than 400 men made the two mile walk from the cathedral to Old St. Mary’s Church. (CT PHOTO/E.L. HUBBARD)
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