Professing His real presence in public procession
About 800 Catholics from three rites – Maronite, Melkite and Roman—took their faith to the streets of western Sydney for the feast of Corpus Christi last week.
It was the first time that St Jerome’s Catholic Church in Punchbowl, St Charbel’s Maronite Church in Punchbowl and St John the Beloved Melkite Church Greenacre joined forces for a candlelit Eucharist procession.
Organiser Norman Bejjani said the event on 20 June was a success thanks to the great collaboration of the three parishes.
“It was an amazing display of the unity of the Church. We are three Rites and three Churches yet we are one Eucharist, one Christ,” he said.
“It was fantastic how many people came out, considering it was so cold and a school night which ruled out some younger families.”
The event began with at St Jerome’s at 6.30pm with Divine Mercy prayers. Outside a police escort and traffic controllers were waiting to guide the Christians and their Eucharistic Lord, displayed in a cross-shaped monstrance, along Punchbowl Road and through back streets to St Charbel’s.
Three rites join to show
They prayed the Rosary and sang hymns accompanied by the Melkite Pipes and Drums Band, while four young rose-bearers cast petals before the path of the monstrance.
Flanked by incense-bearers and lanterns held high and followed by a long line of candle-bearing faithful, the three priests, St Jerome’s Fr Joseph Gedeon, St Charbel’s Fr Maroun Youssef, and St John the Beloved’s Fr Ibrahim Sultan led the way to St Charbel’s where the evening concluded at 8.30pm with Benediction and a Maronite Mass in English. They were assisted by a number of deacons from the Melkite parish and St Mary’s Cathedral.
Fr Gedeon instigated the inaugural suburban procession last year, and said he was inspired to do so by the long and fruitful tradition of Eucharist processions all over the world.
“It’s amazing how reverent the people were. When there was a pause of silence between prayers or hymns no one spoke, all were quiet, it was very beautiful,” he said.
“It was much bigger than last time and I think next year will be even better. We’ve started a tradition here in Sydney’s west that will have an effect in the lives of the faithful and throughout across Australia.”
Fr Sultan said the event which took months to plan, was a “great moment and blessing from God” in which the power of the Lord was brought to streets for an hour and a half.
“Some people we passed venerated the Lord, for others maybe it meant nothing, but this is the way we tell the world we are in love with Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world.”
Mr Bejjani said the response from the public was “amazing” with many a “God bless you” or sign of the cross as the procession went by.
“One man who was stopped in traffic got out of his car and knelt on the road as the Eucharist came past,” he said.