Outside of Christmas and Easter, few liturgical events can draw a crowd like the Soleminity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Patronal feast days might bring in large groups of parishioners, but it is Corpus Christi Sunday that provides the public opportunity for the faithful to proclaim the sacramental beauty of Jesus made flesh in the bread and wine. The act of walking the streets with the Eucharist, with hundreds—sometimes thousands—following along, is a wonderful way of witnessing to our faith, and of making known Jesus’ words, ‘I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).
Several dioceses across Australia held Eucharistic processions that lined the streets of the country's capital cities. In Melbourne, Corpus Christi College, the regional seminary of the dioceses in Victoria and Tasmania, hosted a string of events across the weekend under the theme: ‘Bringing Christ to the Streets’. The activities included an outreach to the homeless, an open lunch for the neighbourhood, a visit to Justin Villa to spend time with retired priests, reflections by past students on the Eucharist, and a Solemn Mass and Eucharistic procession on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s Eucharistic celebration was attended by more than 700 people, filling Sacred Heart Church, with more joining the procession that followed. Several bystanders were visibly puzzled by the overtly public display of religion, but thankfully several who participated in the walk stopped to share the significance of the event.
As one seminarian shared, Sunday’s gathering was the first time since the COVID pandemic that so many had gathered in the Carlton church.
‘It was awesome,’ says fifth-year student Ian Vergel. ‘It has been a while since Sacred Heart Church has been filled like that. It brings a great sense of joy to my vocation and a great sense of excitement that I could one day serve the people of God in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.’
Ian was joined by fellow fifth-year seminarian John Vespa during their outreach to some of Melbourne’s homeless. ‘We walked parts of Fitzroy and Collingwood, chatting to the homeless, listening to their stories and assisting them with food and drinks if they wanted,’ says John.
‘We came across a man who had no roof to sleep in the night before,’ says Ian. ‘It was a real privilege to meet this man. We got to know him and his unfortunate circumstances. He also said he doesn’t get to talk to many people. Many people often walk past him and he thanked us for having a conversation with him and for noticing him on the streets.’
Another seminarian, Rhys Lowther, says he was pleasantly surprised at the crowd gathered. ‘The feast of Corpus Christi is very dear to me because the most holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Seeing this hunger for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and a desire to bring the King of Kings to the streets was a source of encouragement and hope.’
‘As a seminarian in formation to the priesthood, nothing gives me greater joy than to see Christ known and loved!’