Corpus Christi Procession and Mass Witness to Christ in Home of Mayo Clinic

Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage continues in Diocese of Winona-Rochester.

The faithful process behind the Blessed Sacrament across a bridge after leaving the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, June 2.
The faithful process behind the Blessed Sacrament across a bridge after leaving the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, June 2. (photo: Nick Reller, Winona-Rochester Diocese)

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Dressed impeccably in white, Harrison and Anthonia Nwaife and their two daughters were a visual witness of faith and joy in the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday during a Corpus Christi Mass at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, that was part of the Eucharistic Revival’s Marian pilgrimage route.

“It is a celebration of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ,” Anthonia told the Register. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything.” 

She noted the beauty of the Mass, at which Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron presided and which was held between two Eucharistic processions through the center of the city, passing a number of sites connected to the world-famous Mayo Clinic. The Blessed Sacrament, Anthonia said, “revives me, renews me every day.”

The Nigerian natives who settled in Rochester five years ago seeking treatment for their older daughter’s brain tumor, noted the solemnity’s great importance in their home country. “It is obligatory for us as Catholics to observe this day, honoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the Church,” Harrison said.

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Harrison and Anthonia Nwaife and their daughters from Rochester, Minnesota(Photo: Susan Klemond)

The Nwaifes were among about 1,300 faithful from the southeastern Minnesota diocese and elsewhere who filled many of the Civic Center’s bleachers at the Mass. The family also participated in the first half of the Eucharistic procession to the Civic Center from the co-Cathedral St. John the Evangelist during which Bishop Barron held the monstrance. The second half of the Eucharistic procession took place after the Mass and proceeded to St. Francis of Assisi parish.

The diocese “bookended” the Mass with two Eucharistic processions, each under a mile, to encourage greater participation and so another parish could host a stop on the route, said Zach Rawson, diocesan director of youth ministry and faith formation, who was responsible for the Eucharistic event. 

During the Mass, Bishop Barron spoke of the importance of blood for the forgiveness of sins in ancient Israelite’s animal sacrifice and how Jesus’ own blood, which is both human and divine, takes away the sins of the whole world. 

“Jesus willingly says to all of humanity up and down the ages: ‘Put your sins on me. Let my death be a sign of your sorrow, your reparation before the Lord. I will be the scapegoat. Put your sins on me,’” said Bishop Barron, founder of Word on Fire, which uses media to proclaim Christ to the culture. 

The Eucharist isn’t just about admiring what Jesus did for our salvation, Bishop Barron said. “We’re going to ingest what Jesus did,” he said. “We’re going to become, thereby, other Christs. If he’s the one in whom the sins of the world are forgiven, we who eat his Body and drink his Blood, we go forth into the world as other Christs, bearing that salvation to the world.”

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Bishop Robert Barron celebrates the Consecration during the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass at the Mayo Civic Center on June 2.(Photo: Nick Reller, Winona-Rochester Diocese)


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The faithful adore Christ at the Mayo Civic Center on June 2.(Photo: Nick Reller, Winona-Rochester Diocese)

Following the Mass, the smaller group who continued on the final part of the Rochester pilgrimage to St. Francis of Assisi parish included Matthew Heidenreich, one of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims” who are accompanying the Blessed Sacrament on the Marian pilgrimage that began on May 17 near the Mississippi River headwaters in Bemidji, Minnesota, on their way to Indianapolis for the Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17-21.

“Every time we enter into a new community, it’s beautiful — just to enter into the life,” said Heidenreich, who, during the first part of the procession, carried a wooden box of prayer requests collected in the diocese that he was bringing to the Mass.

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‘Perpetual Pilgrim’ Matthew Heidenreich with box of petitions from those attending events in the diocese(Photo: Susan Klemond)

“I’ve been very blessed to be able to see a little bit of the city and experience a little bit of the culture here, especially with Mayo Clinic, visiting some of the chapels around the area and learning about the culture here.” 

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The Eucharist is carried out from the Civic Center after the Mass for the second half of the Eucharistic procession to St. Francis of Assisi parish in Rochester.(Photo: Susan Klemond)


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The procession exits the Civic Center.(Photo: Nick Reller, Winona-Rochester Diocese)


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The procession on the way to St. Francis of Assisi parish(Photo: Nick Reller, Winona-Rochester Diocese)

This week, the pilgrims will be moving into Wisconsin, eventually making a stop at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion. The pilgrims witness the faith whether walking or traveling by van with the Blessed Sacrament visible to passersby, Heidenreich said.

Lise Paulik was also hoping that the people who saw her and others participating in the first half of the procession would be drawn to the faith. 

“I think it’s very important to other people to do things like this, to witness to our faith,” said Paulik, a retired pharmacist and French native who has lived in the U.S. Midwest for 36 years. “Or so at least they might ask themselves questions, right?”

Paulik, who attended the opening conference at the start of the pilgrimage in Bemidji and who has been involved in other pilgrimage events at her Rochester parish, Pax Christi, said she hopes a similar Eucharistic Revival will be organized in Europe. “Unfortunately,” she added, “the faith seems to be disappearing there more than here.”

The Rochester Eucharistic pilgrimage and Mass were this year’s destination for the Wahls and two other families who once a year seek spiritual enrichment together by organizing their own pilgrimage, said Hank Wahl of Hudson, Wisconsin, who walked with his wife, Anna, and their six children. 

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Hank and Anna Wahl and their six children from Hudson, Wisconsin(Photo: Susan Klemond)

This is the fifth year the three families, who have a combined total of 13 children and all belong to St. Michael parish in Stillwater, Minnesota, have traveled together to shrines, cathedrals, cemeteries and other sites, he said. “We’ve been always trying to instill appreciation for Our Lord, the Blessed Sacrament,” Wahl said. “I think it’s great that [the Eucharistic Revival] is happening, and I’m really praying for those who are spearheading this.”

Delfino Ambriz and Dennis Alejandre and their three daughters also traveled a distance to be part of the procession. The family came from Albert Lea, about an hour way, because the procession and Mass are “the living God,” Ambriz said, noting that his daughters, ages 13, 11 and 2, were also excited about the event. 

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Dennis Alejandre and Delfino Ambriz and their three daughters from Albert Lea, Minnesota (Photo: Susan Klemond)

Walking behind a banner for his Albert Lea parish, St. Theodore, that occasionally lifted in the breeze, John Szymanski said he has been helping some of his parish’s 400 households to move into the next phase of the Revival, going out on mission. “The big theme is find somebody who’s left the Church and bring them back,” he said. “We’re working on catechizing,” he added.  “We’re trying to get them better educated.”

Catholics are the main channels for others to come back to Christ, Bishop Barron said. “You go forth having eaten his Body and drunk his Blood, having been conformed to him, having taken his salvation — go out,” he said. “The first step is to bring people back to this source and summit of the Christian life.”

Taking Our Lord out of the tabernacle and into in the streets has helped focus attention on the Lord, said Father John Sauer, pastor of Pax Christi in Rochester and Sts. Peter and Paul in Mazeppa, Minnesota. Father Sauer was one of about 20 priests who concelebrated at the Corpus Christi Mass and at least seven vested deacons.  

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Walking with Jesus through Rochester(Photo: Nick Reller, Winona-Rochester Diocese)

“Jesus really is already here, present in our tabernacles, on our altar,” said Father Sauer, noting that a Mass and short procession for the pilgrimage were also held at Pax Christi earlier in the weekend. 

“But what [the Revival events] really do is allow us to focus our attention on the reality that’s always there with us,” he said. “You know how sometimes we can take those things for granted. And so this, I think, is just a beautiful way of bringing focus to it, getting us kind of excited and on fire again. I just wait to see the blessings that will come today, and I’m sure there will be many.”