In the tradition of publicly celebrating Corpus Christi, Cardinal Rigali led a procession and stopped at three outdoor altars to offer prayers and a eucharistic blessing.

Earlier in the day, the congregation that packed the pews of the main church for Mass heard Cardinal Rigali speak about the importance of understanding that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.

The Cardinal pointed to the eight verses in Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus made it clear that the bread and wine He blessed were in fact His body and blood, as He urged His apostles to follow His example.

Cardinal Rigali reminded the congregation that everything Jesus did on earth – including the breaking of the bread – was meant to prepare the apostles to carry on His mission after His ascension.

“He promised that He would never leave us; He would never abandon us,” instead, He would send the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, the Cardinal said.

He told the parents of the communicants that just as they gave life to their children, they set an example of faith by giving their children spiritual life through the sacrament of the Eucharist. “That is why the Church is so proud to have the children come back to celebrate this wonderful gift,” he said.

Hannah Bone, 9, of Coatesville, said the chance to attend Mass at the invitation of the Cardinal was “really nice,” and it gave more meaning to receiving holy Communion.

An elderly man sat on a bench outside the visitors’ center, sipped water from a plastic bottle and reflected on the Eucharist.

“This kind of [event] reminds us what keeps us in the Church, and that is the meaning of Communion,” he said. “It’s not a memorial; it’s really Jesus.”

But for Beata Tusciora and her husband Peter, frequent visitors to the shrine, the Corpus Christi liturgies were a goodbye.

The Tuscioras have lived in Queens, N.Y., for 10 years, visiting Czestochowa because of their devotion to the Blessed Mother and to Blessed Pope John Paul II. But this week, the couple and their children, Lauren, 17 months, and Victoria, 5, will return permanently to their homeland, Poland.

“We wanted to be here for Corpus Christi because it’s our farewell visit,” she said. “We’re going back for good, and our children will get to experience Poland and our family there. But we’ll miss being here.”

In his remarks after the procession, Cardinal Rigali expressed his hope and belief that the Eucharist will serve to renew the lives of the children and their families.

Public celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi began in Belgium in 1246. In 1264 Pope Urban IV established the feast day for the Church worldwide.

Elizabeth Fisher is a freelance journalist and member of St. Mark Parish in Bristol.