By Rose O’Connor|Correspondent
For parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, the first day of summer introduced a first-ever celebration of their own.
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To commemorate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, showed their devotion to the Eucharist during a procession on the parish grounds.
“It’s about bringing the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ to the people so they too can experience Christ,” Father Joe Noche, pastor, explained. “It’s about bringing Christ directly to the people in the street.”
Parishioners eager to take part in this tradition filled the church with the overflow crowd gathering outdoors where folding chairs had been set up in preparation for the procession.
The celebration began June 21 with the 4:30 p.m. Vigil Mass, followed by the procession which included participation by the parish’s most recent First Communicants, as well as representatives of the various parish organizations and parishioners. Father Noche held the monstrance that contained the Blessed Sacrament as he reverently walked under a canopy that was carried by members of the Knights of Columbus.
The procession traveled the parish grounds, making stops at four altars where Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament occurred. At each altar, Gospel readings were proclaimed and prayers for the parish organizations were offered. Each altar was beautifully decorated with statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Patrick and florals. The congregation joined in the singing of the Latin hymn, Tantum Ergo and Pange Lingua.
The procession is an ancient tradition of the Church, one that Father Noche was glad to introduce to his parishioners.
While the procession was contained to parish grounds, it was certainly visible to the many vehicles that passed on the busy Marne Highway where the Hainesport parish is located.
The procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi is an ancient tradition that created a “big buzz and brought lots of excitement for the parish community,” Deacon Leo Zito shared as he spoke fondly of the parish community that is often referred to as “the little white church with a big heart.”
Fred and Etta McCarthy, Lumberton, were thrilled to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in conjunction with the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
“It was lovely. I loved the procession and bringing back the old traditions of the Church,” Etta McCarthy said, noting how glad she was that she could share the beautiful event with her family.
Stan Blackburn, Westhampton, who served as the emcee of the procession, was pleased to participate in the procession with his wife, Dana, and their two children.
"It’s important to model faith for our children,” he said.
Dana Blackburn agreed, saying, “It was important to support our parish, this was the first time we had something like this so we wanted to show them [the children] what it was all about.”
Parishioners appreciated the brining back of an ancient tradition of the Church to a community of people eager to experience the presence of Christ in a new and meaningful way.
“This is really something,” Wally Gilbert, a resident of Mount Laurel and member of the Knights of Columbus, said as he surveyed the parishioners in attendance.
“This is really great,” he said.