As the gathering sang out Alleluia, the sun shone intensely through the stained glass windows, filtering rainbows throughout Sacred Heart Church in Moline, Illinois. The Oct. 7 Mass drew a standing-room-only crowd of Catholics from the Diocese of Peoria (Illinois) and Diocese of Davenport. The liturgy preceded an Emmaus Procession from Sacred Heart to St. Mary Church in Moline and across the Mississippi River to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bettendorf.
Sacred Heart Pastor Father Mark DeSutter welcomed the group to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and the procession’s start. He read a letter from Bishop Louis Tylka of the Peoria Diocese, who could not be present because of the unexpected death of a fellow bishop, Auxiliary Bishop Kevin M. Birmingham, 51, of Chicago, whose funeral Mass he attended.
Father DeSutter presided at the Mass in Moline, which several priests concelebrated and several deacons assisted with, all from the Peoria Diocese. In his homily, Father DeSutter focused on the dismissal rite, which calls the faithful to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” He said, “Our lives point to the Eucharist. Our lives flow out of the Mass.”
To illustrate his point, he told the story of a priest he met, Father Ralph Beiting of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, who served in the Appalachian region. Catholic bigotry was a challenge in the area he chose to serve. Undaunted, he shared Christ with others by feeding the hungry, working for decent housing, starting schools and summer camps. He used the phonebook to call strangers for donations. He drove his pickup truck into town to preach with a portable pulpit and sound system. He walked up to businesses, asking to plug in his sound system to their electricity. Some obliged but most looked away. Father Beiting preached to anyone who would listen, receiving insults but no conversions. “He was admired for his convictions and bravery,” for taking the Mass to the streets to proclaim the Gospel, Father DeSutter said.
The Emmaus Procession is an example of evangelization, the priest believes. During the procession, participants read aloud Scripture, particularly Luke’s Gospel story of the Road to Emmaus, recited the rosary and sang.
As they arrived outside St. Mary Church, a parish choir sang in Spanish. Silence fell over the group as they prayed, following by Scripture readings in Spanish and English. The group processed through downtown Moline and across the Interstate 74 Bridge to Lourdes in Bettendorf. There, Father Jason Crossen, the pastor, led the gathering inside for benediction. Afterwards, the Lourdes Knights of Columbus offered a lunch to benefit the future St. Joan of Arc Catholic School.
Taryn Watkins, the procession’s organizer, estimated 500 people participated in the Mass and/or procession. Some people joined at different stops along the way. “It was powerful,” she said, “to cross the I-74 Bridge and see the two cities was amazing. It was great to be with the Lord and see the beauty.”
Hieu Nguyen, youth animator for Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parishes in Davenport, described the event as “amazing and beautiful.” Next year he hopes more youths attend. Nick Erickson, a participant in the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) at Christ the King Parish in Moline, described the procession as “unifying for all the Quad-City parishes. We let the whole community know we are here.” Jerome Reyes of Christ the King said it was a blessing to attend the Mass and procession. “It was a unifying experience.”