The day started rainy, gloomy and cold, but the unfavorable weather did not put a damper on those who gathered at Saint Patrick Catholic on Sunday, Nov. 1 for the Solemnity of All Saints and a Eucharistic Procession in downtown Harrisburg. Those 200 gathered for the Mass exited the Cathedral at the beginning of the Procession to find no rain and at least another 400 of the faithful gathered. More than 600 strong, Catholic and non-Catholic alike processed one mile around the Capitol building, before reciting the Rosary on the Capitol steps.
Mark Burket, one of the coordinators of the event, said the idea behind the Procession was the need to show support for our good and holy priests and to pray for unity in our nation.
“This was a way to show support of our commanding officers, so to say,” Burket said in referencing the clergy, who have faced significant challenges during the past several years. “We also wanted to try and dissolve the bitterness in our culture and even the infighting among Catholics. We wanted to get everyone involved to show what it means to be Catholic.”
Prior to leading the Procession, Most Rev. Ronald W. Gainer, Bishop of Harrisburg, celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of All Saints.
“Peace be with you. My brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great Solemnity of All the Saints, we gather on this Lord’s Day to celebrate the most holy Eucharist. We do so this day with a particular intention,” said Bishop Gainer at the start of the Mass. “The bishop is able to greet the congregation with the words I just did, peace be with you. We gather today praying for the peace and unity of our nation at a time when we’ve seen such discord and violence in our communities. We pray for the Prince of Peace and all the angels and saints to guide us into a time of peace and mutual respect.”
Bishop Gainer added during his homily that processions are an ancient tradition in the Church.
“In times of sickness, in times of civil discord and contention, to take our Eucharistic Lord into the streets, and to pray that the Prince of Peace will restore health, will restore harmony and peace among all our citizens. This is our prayer today as we gather. This is our prayer as we walk behind the Lord in procession.”
This prayer for peace and witnessing her faith were some of the reasons that lead Gigi Luto to participate in the procession. A Harrisburg native and member of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque parish, Luto said participating in the procession is a public witness to how seriously she takes her faith.
“Jesus asks us to make sacrifices; to pick up our cross and follow Him. It was not enough for me to stay in the comfort of my home and watch someone else carry my cross. I needed to be there to give witness to my Faith, my beliefs, my God,” said Luto. “Public affirmation of my beliefs shows that I am serious about them. Supporting what our Bishop has called us to do in proclaiming the Kingdom, praying for peace and conversion of hearts is the crux of the matter.”
With the anger, discord and violence shown this election season, Luto said it was important to “show the other side of the coin – peace, patience, and tolerance,” and also show support for issues related to life, family and religious freedom.
“Secularism is becoming the de facto religion of our country. There is no longer civil conversation and debate but only the “me” attitude of I am right, and you are wrong if you disagree with me. The “pursuit of happiness” is taken literally as the license to do whatever makes “me” happy. The evil fallen angel has made evil just as enticing as he did with that apple. Evil is now good; good is now evil. The only way to combat this evil is by prayers, good works, and sacrifices. The procession demonstrated that people want what is good, holy, and just,” Luto added.
“This (the procession) simply came out of wanting to live within God’s will,” said Burket.
“Given all the riots and violence during the last few months of demonstrations, the Eucharistic procession was completely the opposite. It was prayerful, peace-filled, and respectful. Everyone wore masks and tried to distance themselves, which was difficult at times. The amazing thing was that despite it being publicized, there was no one there to heckle the group, or protest against us. Those that drove by, slowed down to see what was happening but that was it. Mary was covering us with her mantle,” said Luto. “I feel we were able to show how to practice what we preach – peace, forgiveness, humility, and involvement in a respectful manner – all the time giving glory and honor to God. I am proud of our Bishop for taking this initiative and others to help keep our Faith community connected in these difficult times of COVID-19 and the campaign.”
Burket added the planning committee expected between 200 to 300 participants and they were very pleased with the turn out.
“I think it went very well. My family and I were at the back of the procession and the comments we were receiving were encouraging, grateful and thankful. This procession provided a sense of peace for 600 starving souls,” said Burket. “The glory of God was everywhere. There was not one unhappy soul.”
And that rain?
“It stopped about 30 minutes before the procession and then (the clouds) opened up 10 minutes after we finished,” said Burket, adding that several of those gathered were praying to Our Lady of Fatima to help with the weather.
The procession was part of the nationwide movement Unite Our Nation, which is prayerful, non-political and family-friendly. It was designed to help bring peace and prayer to the state of Pennsylvania and healing to our nation.
After the procession, Bishop Gainer led those gathered in reciting the Rosary on the steps of the capitol building, before returning to the Cathedral for Benediction.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness