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PHOENIX — Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted led more than 400 Catholics in a eucharistic procession of adoration, prayer, hymn singing and silent reflection Sunday morning.

The eucharistic procession on June 6, Corpus Christi Sunday, followed Bishop Olmsted’s recent Apostolic Exhortation “Veneremur Cernui – Down in Adoration Falling,” in which he called on parish pastors to lead such a procession annually to promote a deeper understanding and love of the Eucharist.

Read Bishop Olmsted’s Apostolic Exhortation

Coming two weeks before Father’s Day, the procession also highlighted the unique role of men in leading their families through the faith, including adoration of the Eucharist. It was one of over a dozen being held this month nationwide as part of Catholic Father’s Day, a movement coordinated by Catholic Men’s Fellowship. The national organization, with a branch in Phoenix, promotes a deepening of faith and relationship to Jesus Christ among Catholic men, primarily through parish fellowship groups.

2021 also is the Year of St. Joseph, the earthly father of the Holy Family.

The procession, which began at 6 a.m., took participants along a 3-mile route from the Diocesan Pastoral Center on Monroe Street to Mater Misericordiae Church and Wesley Bolin Plaza – the offices and chambers of the Arizona State Legislature — before returning to the pastoral center. The procession stopped at Mater Misericordiae and several other points for prayer. Many participants took to their knees as the Blessed Sacrament was held aloft and displayed.

“Yeah, I definitely felt the Spirit; so many voices raised in prayer and song. It was good to pray for our families and our city… a sacrifice getting up early with the family, but it was a wonderful morning,” said Zach Weisse, who attends Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix and brought his wife and children.

“We had a great showing today; hundreds and hundreds of people. This whole community saw the message that Christ is alive; He is in the Eucharist, and that God is love,” said Ed Steele, who traveled from All Saints Parish in Mesa.

“I believe today was very much like Christ’s words to Nicodemus,” said Mike Phelan, director of the Diocese’s Office of Marriage and Respect Life. “The Holy Spirit was active in many hearts. One joy-filled friend afterward said, ‘So, we are doing this every month, right?!’ And you could just see the movement of the heart. I’m grateful to our bishop for leading us out, helping us in a new way to follow Jesus.”

‘Come, let us adore Him’

During the first stop, Bishop Olmsted said that Jesus was being brought to the heart of the city, reminding worshippers His presence teaches not only love, but love through suffering.

“In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood, together with the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ — and therefore, the whole Christ — is truly, really and substantially present. Jesus has taught us how to offer up suffering as an expression of love; how to deal with a pandemic,” the bishop said.

“My friends in Christ, the same Jesus who walked the countryside of Palestine, the same Jesus who taught in the synagogues and on the mountainside, cured the sick and raised the dead; the same Jesus who suffered, died and rose, is truly present in us, here, in the Eucharist and every step of this procession. Indeed, our Lord is always near to us as our Savior and our friend. Together, with the magi, let us say, ‘Come, let us adore Him,’” the bishop concluded.

During subsequent stops, others prayed for victims of violence, the homeless, and for future priests to replenish the diocesan supply.

“Heavenly Father, we ask you to move the hearts of those called, move them with courage and strength in the name of Jesus, protect them from fear or doubt. Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, in this very place, we ask for reparation for any violence against any… we ask in our culture, in our society, in our families and in our church (for) freedom from the sin of wrath. We ask there be an authentic and true peace that comes only from knowing you,” prayed Fr. Paul Sullivan, the diocese’s director of vocations.

Fr. Fernando Camou, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, prayed for families to remain pure and strong in the face of a world that brings temptation and evil.

“Deliver our families from all worldliness… that they might be beacons of hope in… the darkness, and like Mary and Joseph, welcome you,” he prayed.

Fatherhood in danger

Those words resonated with fathers and grandfathers.

“(Fatherhood) is under vicious attack by Satan. We know the final battle will be for the soul of the family. If there is no male patriarchy, that will collapse the whole family. That’s the building block of a good society, a just society and a moral society. Once we lose that, we will lose everything. That is why we are here,” said Ed Steele from All Saints Parish.

Indeed, surveys and statistics point to the increased challenges of being a father today.

An October 2020 Pew Research Center report stated that nearly half the fathers surveyed (48 percent) said they spend too little time with their children. Yet, seven years earlier, Pew reported a survey found almost six in 10 Americans (58 percent), said it is “extremely important” for a father to provide values and morals to his children. Forty-one percent in the same 2013 survey of 1,004 American adults said providing income for one’s children is among a father’s most important responsibilities.

One of the fundamental areas a father is seen influencing his child is through the Catholic teaching on life.

See more photos of the procession on Facebook

A week after the Phoenix procession and even as similar gatherings occur in other cities, a number of Catholic and faith-based organizations are sponsoring a first-ever nationwide Men’s March against abortion.

The Men’s March is scheduled in Washington D.C., Saturday, June 12. Catholic Family Men is among the sponsors. Participants are asked not to bring signs or banners, and observe a professional dress code.

Other organizations sponsoring Catholic Father’s Day include EWTN; Exodus 90; Hard As Nails; Heroic Men; Men of Christ; Rosary Coast to Coast; United States Grace Force, and Women of Christ.