This article was contributed by Tara Meleones, art teacher at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School.
As an inter-parochial school, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Long Beach, Mississippi has the benefit of many parishes and pastors. In May of 2016, Fr. Mike Austin of Holy Family Parish wanted to introduce the students to a ritual of the Catholic Church, a Eucharist Procession – a first for many in the community.
Prior to the Eucharistic Procession, the second graders were honored during Friday school Mass. As it was the first time they all received Holy Communion as a class, they were presented with banners made for them by the 6th graders. Following these events, Fr. Mike described the Eucharistic Procession. He told those present that this was a ritual that has been around since ancient times, and he was glad that St. Vincent dePaul students were going to be able to experience such an amazing ceremony. Fr. Mike explained that this procession was to be in honor of the Feast of Corpus Christi; however, the last day of school was before the Feast day, so the procession was held a few weeks early.
In the morning, three altars were set-up on the school grounds. The first represented the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the second represented the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the third represented the Holy Spirit. The 6th grade class created tile mosaics to decorate the altars while the set-up was supervised by parents and the school’s maintenance supervisor constructed the altars.
The procession left the church with everyone joyfully singing “This is Jesus,” and then walked to the first altar. The congregation proceeded first followed by the candle bearers, bell ringers and torch bearers. Finally Fr. Mike, carrying the Blessed Sacrament, was surrounded by several altar servers who walked under a canopy made by a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle. Everyone sang and prayed before moving from alter to altar. At the last altar, prayers to the Holy Spirit were offered by the 6th grade class and Fr. Mike led a closing prayer. The procession then proceeded back to the church for benediction. Finally, everyone enjoyed a feast prepared by the Knights of Columbus and school parents.
After this beautiful day, Fr. Mike Austin, the students, faculty and parents are already looking forward to continuing this new tradition at St. Vincent dePaul Catholic School next year!