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Taking Christ Our Light to the People

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by Matt Hess, photo by Danny Schneible

Luke recounts to his readers that after Jesus’ death, two of His disciples embark on a journey. Jesus draws near to these friends and walks in their midst, though they do not initially recognize Him. They only became aware of His presence among them when they drew near to Him in the Eucharist.

This month, the four national Eucharistic pilgrimages are crisscrossing the U.S. And now, nearly 2,000 years after the disciples’ journey, through travel pilgrims still experience Christ in the Eucharist. Inspired by this journey and desiring to connect their local parishes to the national movement, Christ Our Light Family of Parishes is planning their own Eucharistic Mini-Pilgrimage for July 8-11.

Father Ken Schnipke, C.PP.S., pastor of the Christ Our Light Family of Parishes, which includes eight parishes in southwestern Mercer and eastern Auglaize Counties, recalled Luke’s Emmaus story when discussing the importance of encountering the presence of Christ.

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives. It unites us closer to the Lord,” said Father Schnipke. “It is an opportunity to grow in personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

As did those on the road to Emmaus, pilgrims on the country roads this July will travel and experience the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist during a four-day, 36-mile journey to all eight churches in the family. While smaller than the national one, this pilgrimage is not without challenges, for which the staff and volunteers of Christ Our Light Family of Parishes together formed a committee to plan the pilgrimage.

Deacon Brad Feltz is one staff member who helped and witnessed this come together in an almost miraculously perfect fashion, “We wouldn’t be doing this without the presence of Christ. Christ is the leader of this whole thing.”

By bringing Christ out of the Church and into the streets, the pilgrimage hopes to engage people where they are in their lives. The procession will enter a town and weave its way through the community to the church. “We want to reach out to the homebound and businesses, to stop and do a blessing with the monstrance,” said Deacon Feltz. The parish seeks to include as many people as they can in encountering the Lord.

All of this takes coordination. The committee of 12 has worked hard, including one member calculating the group’s movements to the minute to plan road closures with local law enforcement. The parish coordinated nearly 750 volunteers to accompany the monstrance, drive golf carts or cars and minister at Masses that punctuate some stops.

Chris Wibbenmeyer, communication administrator for the Family of Parishes, praises the parishioners’ work, “The amount of love people are pouring into this is really amazing.” Through each phase of planning the right people always seemed to come their way.

While the committee started planning in late fall, they knew their fellow parishioners might need to prepare for the pilgrimage too. Christ Our Light Family of Parishes began hosting small group discussions on Corpus Christi Sunday to help the community begin deepening their appreciation for the Eucharist. The plan is to follow up with small groups in the fall to continue deepening their relationship with Christ and each other.

“This is another event to unite the Family of Parishes,” said Wibbenmeyer, hoping that participants “see beyond the boundaries of their parish and see that we are the Catholic Church.” Members of Christ Our Light are reaching out and signing up for pilgrimage legs that do not include their home church. “It’s okay to come together and not lose who you are,” says Father Schnipke, who believes this event will help unite the parish family he pastors.

However, this Eucharistic pilgrimage is not just for Christ Our Light Family of Parishes. Anyone can join the Masses and procession for a day or part of a day. It is scheduled after the national pilgrimage leaves the archdiocese and is a perfect way to experience journeying with the Lord, especially for those in the north who might not be able to make the trip south. For more information go to bit.ly/eucharisticrevival to see a schedule of events.

For this community of faith, coming together in this way during a time of Eucharistic revival just makes sense. The Christ Our Light Family hopes to take Christ out into its local community to be a light to those seeking the Lord. While radiating Christ to others, they are also unifying as a parish family around Him. Continuing on their journey of faith, Christ Our Light Family of Parishes can be sure that, like those followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Christ is with them.

This article appeared in the July 2024 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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