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TYLER, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Joseph Strickland led more than 200 faithful in a procession through the streets of Tyler, Texas, with a relic of St. Tarcisius, the Roman boy-martyr who died for the Eucharist.

The procession took place on Sunday, June 9, and was organized in conjunction with the National Eucharistic Revival in which the Blessed Sacrament is being carried in solemn procession through various cities throughout the United States, leading up to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis later this summer. Since the southern route of the Eucharistic Revival did not pass through Tyler, the faithful organized a local procession.

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Bishop Strickland led the procession with the relics of three Eucharistic saints: St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars who would spend hours daily on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament; St. Tarcisius, the Roman boy-martyr who died defending the Blessed Sacrament from the hands of unbelievers; and St. Matthew the Apostle, who recounts the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper in his Gospel. St. Tarcisius was chosen as patron saint of the event.

The procession began at a local park and stopped at five houses of the faithful. At each house, which was designated as a Eucharistic station, after of reading from Scripture, Bishop Strickland offered a short sermon and led a decade of the Rosary. A schola choir also sang for the procession.

The Eucharistic stations for the procession were as follows: the Passover in Egypt, the Manna in the Desert, the Multiplication of the Loaves, the Last Supper, and the Road to Emmaus.

Faithful of all ages participated on a hot Sunday afternoon despite the heat of a Texas Sunday afternoon in June. The procession lasted 2½ hours and covered 2½ miles with police escort.

A prayer card for the pilgrimage read:

We walk in this pilgrimage to honor the True Presence of Jesus Christ in our midst: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. We walk under the patronage of St. Tarcisius, boy-martyr of the Eucharist, who died at the age of twelve taking the Eucharist to prisoners. St. Tarcisius, pray for us to bravely proclaim the Eucharist and help bring others to faith.

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Commenting on the inspiration for the procession, Sheryl Collmer, who organized the event, told LifeSiteNews, “The National Eucharistic Revival envisioned by the U.S. bishops was meant to reach all Catholics, including the 70% who do not know or believe the reality of the Real Presence. That means innovative, unusual means must be used to captivate those who would not ordinarily attend a study group, procession or video series, and give them ways to understand the true joy of the Eucharist.”

Since the National Pilgrimage route passes well south of Tyler, it was essential to give people a way to participate in the Revival locally. When your body gets out and walks a pilgrimage personally, it’s a whole different experience than reading about it.

Though our route was short (about 2.5 miles), each pilgrim received a scallop shell, like the pilgrims who walk to Santiago. The shell has become a symbol of all holy pilgrimages. The pilgrims also received a prayer card of St. Tarcisius and a ring rosary. (picture attached). It was great to see the line of pilgrims, all with scallop shells around their necks. We had a popsicle party at the end, which greatly cheered everyone, especially the kids!

The mementos were meant to help imprint the experience on people’s hearts.

The feedback from the pilgrims has been effusively positive. My best estimate was 220 pilgrims, with children all the way down to infants. Despite the heat and humidity of a summer afternoon in Texas, hills along the route, and the debris of last week’s storm still present on some of the streets, people were cheerful and prayerful. I think the activity of walking in a community agrees with the human spirit. We thought of it as “presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.” (Romans 12).

Christina Smith, one of the Catholic faithful who attended, told LifeSiteNews in comments on the event, “I love how Bishop Strickland honors Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Right now we have a President who doesn’t. Bishop Strickland is the opposite of that. He loves Our Lord in the Eucharist. And he knows his flock by name and is with them.”

Christina Cartin, executive director of the Sanctity of Life Action Committee in Tyler, Texas, also told LifeSite: “The weather in Texas is already hot, but it was no deterrent to an outdoor procession with Bishop Strickland. Bishop Strickland has been and continues to be a real example of a true shepherd of the Church. I love witnessing his adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

I remember well seeing him kneeling on the cold, marble slab in the early mornings every Friday at the cathedral when he was still bishop. I would set my alarm and wake up early to pray with him in Adoration before he would say Mass. Bishop Strickland knows his sheep by name and isn’t afraid to walk alongside us, leading us on the path towards Our Heavenly Maker.

I wish more bishops would follow his lead. I wish more bishops would show the faithful by their example the beauty of the Eucharist. I feel so blessed to still see Bishop Strickland every now and again and still feel inspired by his courageous example and virtuous nature.


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