By Frank Kelly
MUSCATINE – More than 200 people, most of them members of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, participated in a procession on city streets June 10 to observe the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, formerly called the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Participants walked from St. Mathias Church at Eighth and Pine Street to Iowa Avenue to Sixth Street and then back to the church for prayer and fellowship.
“We had a very large turnout, even though the weather was very warm,” said Father Joseph Sia, parochial vicar. “I think many parishioners considered this to be a good way of bringing public attention to the Fortnight for Freedom that will end on Independence Day.”
The national Fortnight for Freedom is sponsored by U.S. Catholic bishops in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that would require most religious employers to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage even if it is contrary to their beliefs. Such coverage would include abortion-inducing drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization procedures, all of which the Church opposes.
In his homily at 10 a.m. Mass on June 10, Fr. Sia, a native of the Philippines, said he never thought he would be concerned about religious freedom when he moved to the United States. “But this is a concern,” he said.
Parish materials said the procession is a way of taking “the sum and substance of our faith into the streets of the world we live in.”
“We tend to hide our faith in church buildings and express it in the privacy of our homes,” Fr. Sia said in his Sunday homilies. “But we’re supposed to live it publicly through the respect we have for others and the service we render to them.”
Corpus Christi, which is Latin for “Body of Christ,” is a feast day that Catholics observed with processions until the 1960s, the parish materials explained. Corpus Christi processions have become more popular in recent times.
The Muscatine Catholic community includes about 1,250 families, according to parish records.