‘Christ is coming to meet us’

By Joe Pisani

BRIDGEPORT – Two thousand years ago, when Jesus walked the earth through Galilee and Judea, crowds would rush to meet him, hoping for healing or teaching or miracles or just to have his shadow pass over them.

Today, Father Luke Suarez, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford, says, “Christ is coming to meet us” in the Diocese of Bridgeport. And he will travel through the towns and cities and parishes of Fairfield County during a diocesan Eucharistic Procession, which is part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Father Suarez was asked by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano to coordinate the planning for the procession, which will pass through eight cities and towns and some 19 parishes, beginning  May 19, eventually making its way across the country to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress. The diocesan events will culminate with a Mass of Thanksgiving at Fairfield University on June 1.

“This procession is to spark prayer, a sense of hope and devotion to the Holy Eucharist and bring an awareness and public statement of our faith as Catholics and our beliefs,” Father Suarez said.

The National Eucharistic Congress was inspired by several surveys that showed a lack of faith in the True Presence of Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—in the Blessed Sacrament, he said. And this procession, which is one of a number throughout the country, will be a public expression of our belief.

Father Suarez urges the faithful to join the procession and take part in many of the events planned throughout the diocese, including Masses of Thanksgiving, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary processions, Holy Hours and Vespers.

“I urge people to come with an open mind and heart to the experience, which is going to be very culturally diverse and also reflect our unity and diversity as Catholics,” he said. “The really beautiful part of this procession is that every parish is planning their liturgies according to their traditions and customs. Some will be Hispanic, African-American, Haitian, Polish and even in Latin. We’ve incorporated each of the various ethnic communities in our diocese.”

At Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport, where the diocesan procession will begin, there will be Hispanic and African-American expressions of faith, while at SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish there is a Latin Mass community, which has scheduled vespers in Latin, and at St. Michael the Archangel Parish there will be devotions according to Polish customs.

“People who are participating in the events will see the diversity of our diocese, which is united in our belief and devotion to the Eucharist,” Father Suarez said. The procession will also
send a message to the larger secular society, as it proceeds from Bridgeport to Fairfield, Ridgefield, Westport, Norwalk, Darien, Stamford and Greenwich.

“We, as Catholics, have the answer to the question, ‘Where is God in the world?” Father Suarez said. “He’s here…with us. He’s here in our diversity and in our call towards greater unity. We are united as sons and daughters of God in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, just like the many grains of wheat that need to be crushed and combined and pushed together to make a loaf of bread. We’re like those grains of wheat, united in the Eucharist.”

Father Suarez said one of the highlights he looks forward to is seeing the Resurrected Christ carried through St. John Cemetery in Norwalk.

“We who believe in the resurrection will have the actual Body of Christ being carried through the cemetery, among the graves where those who lay in rest will come back and rise again,” he said. “We will be united in prayer, saying the rosary to the Blessed Mother.”

Planning for the procession began over a year ago when Bishop Caggiano approached Father Suarez and asked him to form a team to plan the procession, which is an expression of Bishop Caggiano’s theme of The One by providing opportunities for the faithful to encounter the Lord through truth, beauty and goodness.

Father Suarez expressed his gratitude to everyone who has worked to bring Bishop Caggiano’s vision to fruition, including the parishes, the pastors, their communities, and Steven Filizzola, special assistant to the bishop.

“There have been many, many people throughout the diocese who are stepping up heroically to make this a success,” he said. “It’s been fun being part of the team. There were a lot of hands coming together to make it work while staying focused on the Eucharist.”