LOS ANGELES (OSV News) — With the Blessed Sacrament held high, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles led more than 1,000 Catholics carrying flags, rosaries and an abundance of spirit out of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel and onto the streets of the San Gabriel Valley March 25.
The Saturday morning event was unlike any other in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ history, planned as part of the National Eucharistic Revival underway at the prompting of the country’s bishops.
“Hey, Christ is alive!” called out Teodora Magluyan, a parishioner of St. Luke the Evangelist Church, Temple City. “The power of God is so amazing. … This is my opportunity to tell the world.”
Dozens of priests, sisters, and seminarians helped lead the procession, which traveled three miles east to St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Temple City and then back to the historic mission. Among them was Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Marc V. Trudeau.
Along the tree-lined streets of the San Gabriel Valley, walkers trailed the monstrance that was transported on a trailer filled with white and yellow roses. A second trailer carried musicians who led the crowd in song. Residents came outside to peek at the spectacle; some waved, some prayed, some just stared. And that’s exactly what organizers wanted.
“Many people are going to see us that don’t come to church, that may not be Catholic, that don’t know anything about this,” said Father Juan Ochoa, director of the Office for Divine Worship for the archdiocese, before the event. “Hopefully that will create a curiosity … what are they doing?”
The day, which coincided with the annual feast of the Annunciation, started with Mass in the mission chapel. The crowd was so large, some worshippers had to stand outside. During his homily, Archbishop Gomez noted that it was Mary who made the first Eucharistic procession when she carried Jesus in her womb. An event like today’s, he told the crowd, was an opportunity to renew their “amazement” at the extraordinary gift of the holy Eucharist.
“Let us give our lives to Jesus, as he gave his life for us,” said Archbishop Gomez. “And as he changes the bread and wine into his body and blood, let us allow Jesus to change our hearts and to give us new zeal to announce him to people of our times.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began to plan the three-year-long revival following concern about a 2019 Pew Research Study that found that most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the host and wine used in the Eucharist. Additionally, the bishops recognized that COVID-19 closures left some Catholics feeling disconnected from their church. Israel Miranda was one of them.
“During the pandemic, I kind of lost my faith since everything was closed down,” acknowledged Miranda, a parishioner of St. Clare of Assisi Church in Santa Clarita. “After the world opened back up, I realized how much we needed Christ in our everyday lives so I wanted to come out and celebrate that.
“The revival has brought my faith to a higher level,” he added.
Also being celebrated at the event was the late Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell, who helped oversee this part of the archdiocese for seven years until he was killed in his Hacienda Heights home Feb. 18. Staff from his San Gabriel Pastoral Region office carried a banner with his picture as they walked through the region he once oversaw. Nancy Juarez, the bishop’s receptionist of more than six years said the procession would have made him happy.
“This was his passion,” explained Juarez as she touched the memorial button on her shirt. “He loved Our Lord and he loved being in front of the Blessed Sacrament. … I’m sure he’s smiling up in heaven.”
During the stop at St. Luke’s, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed as the pilgrims knelt, prayed, and sang in the parish parking lot. Some in the crowd participated in perpetual adoration, taking turns during the day and night at their respective parishes to adore the Eucharist. For Ruben Lopez, the practice has become the source of his faith — and his sobriety.
“Something was always pushing me to get closer and closer to the Lord,” said Ruben Lopez with his daughter Yeraldi translating. “By focusing on the Eucharist I was able to let go of my drinking problem. … I built my faith on the Eucharist and that’s why I’m here.”
For Mayra Rodarte, the day was about giving her daughter something she herself never had growing up: a strong religious foundation. The pair, dressed in matching outfits, became Catholics within the last few years.
“I didn’t grow up in a faith like this and I want to make sure she does,” said Rodarte, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Hawthorne, told Angelus, the archdiocesan news outlet. “I want her to have hope and purpose … so many young people don’t.”
The event signals the wind down of the revival’s first year, which officially ends in June. Father Ochoa said its results have been “mixed”: Those who attended events were “happy and spiritually nourished,” but he’d like to see wider participation.
While the first year of the initiative emphasizes participation at the diocesan level, the second focuses on the parish. The Office for Divine Worship is asking every church in the archdiocese to hold a eucharistic procession for the feast of Corpus Christi on June 8. The third and final year concludes with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, Indiana.
When the procession and Benediction were over, volunteers at St. Luke packed up leftover bottled waters and sliced oranges. Luis Valdez, confirmation coordinator at the parish, felt invigorated about the goals of the revival.
“It makes me want to go out and tell other Catholics … this is not make-believe! It’s the actual body and blood of Christ and it’s the center of our faith.”
Natalie Romano is a freelance writer for Angelus, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.