ROCHESTER — Motorists driving by St. Stanislaus Kostka Church early in the afternoon on June 3 likely noticed area sidewalks teeming with people of all ages, the sound of hymns filling the air and the scent of incense floating on the breeze.
Hundreds had gathered at the church to participate in a Mass and eucharistic procession marking not only the feast of Corpus Christi — the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ — but also the concluding celebration of the diocesan Year of the Eucharist, which Bishop Salvatore R. Matano had declared for June 18, 2017, through June 3, 2018.
Yet the culmination of this yearlong celebration, presented in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Rochester, does not mean that Catholics now should shift their focus away from the Eucharist, Bishop Matano told those gathered at St. Stanislaus June 3.
“During this declared Year of the Eucharist I have prayed that we would grow stronger and stronger in our faith, and while today we officially conclude this declared Year of the Eucharist, let me be very, very clear: There is no conclusion to the Year of the Eucharist, which is at the heart and center of all that we do,” he said.
Over the past 12 months, many parishes throughout the diocese used the Year of the Eucharist as an opportunity to reintroduce or extend existing hours of eucharistic adoration, teach parishioners about the Eucharist, and renew their focus on the proper celebration of Mass and the careful instruction of those who serve at Mass in various capacities. There is no need for these activities to cease now that the declared Year of the Eucharist is coming to a close, the bishop said.
“Throughout our entire diocese, these initiatives should continue and be ongoing, making every day, every moment, every month, every year, the Year of the Eucharist,” Bishop Matano said.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Eucharist, the bishop noted.
“In this august sacrifice, we on earth catch a glimpse of heaven, and heaven and earth are united in this moment as the very Christ of the cross, the Christ of the resurrection, the Christ of the ascension, now dwells among us. It is Bethlehem all over again. Bethlehem, where Jesus came among us in the marvel of the incarnation. That incarnation repeats itself at every Mass with those words: ‘This is my body, this is my blood,’” he said.
During a eucharistic procession near the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Matano held the Blessed Sacrament aloft in a monstrance that had been given to the Diocese of Rochester by the Discalced Carmelite Sisters of Rochester. A handful of children, including five who recently celebrated their first Communion, preceded the bishop in the procession, sprinkling flower petals on the ground, and a color guard of fourth-degree Knights of Columbus in full regalia gave an air of solemnity to the procession.
St. Stanislaus’ robed choir led more than 100 participants in song as the procession traveled to four large altars that had been erected on the church grounds. The historically Polish parish presents a eucharistic procession each year on the feast of Corpus Christi, but the bishop’s presence and the Year of the Eucharist made this year’s event even more special, remarked parishioner Malgorzata Gan.
The Gan family treasures this longstanding tradition, she said, noting that her husband, Rafal Gan, was very involved in constructing the outdoor altars. Her children, Adam, Leon and Maja — who made her first Communion this spring — were excited to scatter flower petals before the Blessed Sacrament during the procession, she added.
St. Stanislaus was honored to host the procession and welcome the bishop, as well as participants from various parishes throughout the diocese, according to Dorothy Styk, president of the parish’s pastoral council. Parishioners come together each year for the procession because they believe in the centrality of the Eucharist, she added.
“That’s the foundation of our faith,” Styk said.
“The Eucharist is the center of life,” added fellow parishioner Mike Bidzerkowny. “Without that, there is no life.”