By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Demonstrating their love for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, a large contingent of first communicants and their families joined Cardinal Justin Rigali in an outdoor eucharistic procession in the streets around the perimeter of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on the feast of Corpus Christi Sunday, June 14.

Youngsters from the regional vicariates of Chester County, Delaware County and Philadelphia-South, who earlier this year made their first holy Communion, were invited by the Cardinal to participate in the Mass and procession.

It was a sight to behold, as the children adored the Blessed Sacrament dressed in their first Communion finery – girls in white dresses and veils, boys in suits.

“I welcome the boys and girls who recently received their first holy Communion,” the Cardinal said in his homily at the 2 p.m. Mass he celebrated in the Cathedral prior to the procession. “The joy of that occasion continues even today, as we thank Jesus for coming into your hearts.” (To read the full text of Cardinal Rigali’s homily, click here.)

The observance of Corpus Christi provides the opportunity to give public witness to the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, said the Cardinal. “What a beautiful tribute this is to Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament,” Cardinal Rigali said.

Danny Dwyer, who just finished second grade at Holy Saviour-St. John Fisher School in Linwood, Delaware County, chose the Corpus Christi procession over playing in a championship baseball game.

“I had to choose this because it’s more important than baseball,” said 8-year-old Danny, who belongs to St. John Fisher Parish in Boothwyn.

Although he could play baseball all his life, “I could only meet him once,” Danny said of the Cardinal.

Eight-year-old Maura Kelly also chose Benediction over baseball. She gave away her ticket to that afternoon’s Phillies game.

It was well worth the sacrifice, said Maura, who just completed second grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Morton, Delaware County.

Receiving Communion at the Cathedral was the highlight of the celebration to 8-year-old Antonina Klimowicz, who also just completed second grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Classmate Patricia Lacey said she was honored to be in the presence of the Cardinal and the many priests of the Archdiocese.

Anthony Leo, who recently completed third grade at Sacred Heart School in Oxford, Chester County, said the significance of the sacrament is that “you’re welcomed into Jesus’ heart.”

“It’s a big honor to be here because … Communion is a big deal,” said 9-year-old Theresa Hamilton, who just completed third grade at St. Richard School in South Philadelphia.

Theresa was also thankful she had another sacred occasion to wear her first Communion dress.

Matthew Young, who just completed second grade at St. Patrick School in Kennett Square, Chester County, marveled at the monstrance that held the Eucharist. “I thought it was pretty nice that people got to see Jesus [in the Blessed Sacrament] walking around the block.”

From the Cathedral at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the procession wound north on 18th Street, east on Vine Street, south on 17th Street and west on Race Street before its return to 18th Street.

Spiritual hymns sung throughout the procession countered car horns and other noise generated by the typical hustle-and-bustle of a big city.

Prayers were said and the Blessed Sacrament was incensed by the Cardinal at the Cathedral altar and during the procession’s outdoor stations of Eucharistic Benediction.

The first station was behind the Cathedral at the front steps of the Archdiocesan Office Center at 222 N. 17th St. The second station was at the front steps of the Cathedral, where the Cardinal administered the final blessing and dismissal.

The Cardinal thanked the parents and guardians for all they do in leading their children to Jesus and for teaching them about the holy Eucharist.

“As we process with Jesus outside the Cathedral, may we pledge anew our desire to follow Him in the way we live, that we may live with Him forever in the next world,” he said.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or cchicoin@adphila.org.