by Andrew Koslosky KGCHS, Contributing Writer

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST (GG) — This was the week that the Lord has made. The long awaited National Eucharistic Revival Pilgrimage arrived in our Diocese of Biloxi. Sunday evening June 9, the group of twelve pilgrims arrived with Jesus in Pass Christian to begin a very special week for all of us.  We would walk with Jesus on our pilgrimage from Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian, to Long Beach, and from Gulfport to Biloxi.

We would make a public statement to the country and the world, that we believe in the true presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  We would begin the road, as Christians, to evangelize and to bring people back home to Jesus Christ. We would begin the road to unite all people by telling the true story of Jesus Christ.

There had been much anticipation, and much work that went into preparing for an event that hasn’t taken place in our country for more than 83 years, a Eucharistic Revival. There is no doubt in my mind, the planners of this event were taking their marching orders from above and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about the last time you had so many organizations working together in harmony to prepare for a single event. Our wonderful Police Departments from Bay St Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi, along with the Sheriff’s department, led by their Chiefs, were committed, caring and with us every step of the way, going above and beyond, to ensure our safety.

Our Ambulance and Fire Departments were with us in case of emergencies and got a chance to prove how valuable they are.  When a few heat exhaustion victims occurred, they were with us in seconds. All were taken care of and are back on their feet thanks to them.

The Gulf Coast Cities and Mayor’s offices all showed huge support, offering all the resources we needed for this event.  The amazing Knights of Columbus and Knights of Peter Claver Organizations, Women’s Auxiliaries, and the many volunteers who worked during the week to ensure participants had plenty of water and snacks, meals and a place to rest. Many of our businesses got into the act with donations, such as Rainbow Spring Water, Mississippi Coast Realty, Pass Christian Yacht Club, Gautier’s at the Harbor, Anthony’s Restaurant and so many others.

All of the Hosting Churches, Eucharistic Revival team members and their coordinators, worked so hard over the year to prepare the events that would unite us with our Lord.

Last but not least, the Eucharistic Revival Team of the Diocese of Biloxi, led by an amazing shepherd, Bishop Louis Kihneman.  This committee, chaired by Ray Lacey and Leo Trahan, planned and coordinated the week, educated and supported the parishes, and will lead our people in taking the energy given us by our walk with Jesus, to the evangelization stage.

Sunday evening the Pilgrims were greeted by Bishop Kihneman and Pastor Michael Austin, with a special dinner at Holy Family Parish in Pass Christian.  Monday was the opening Mass to the local Pilgrimage at Our Lady of the Gulf, in Bay St. Louis, led by Bishop Kihneman and Pastor Michael O’ Connor.

The mass was attended by 500 people along with the Priests and Deacons of the Western Deanery, The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights of Columbus, and parishioners from all over the Diocese. Bishop Kihneman shared in his homily about the special moments he has had as a priest, particularly at the time of consecration in the mass.

That is, the moment the bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ, the “transubstantiation.’ The mass was followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and an introduction of the Pilgrims on National Pilgrimage.  It was then time for a splendid lunch provided by the parishioners and talks from the Right to Life Organizations of the Diocese. Later that evening, there was a Benediction Service in the Church, followed by a social gathering in the Community Center.

Tuesday the day began with 650 people attending mass at Our Lady of the Gulf, followed by what can only be described as a spiritual journey from our hosting Church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Pass Christian. There has never been a more beautiful sight than seeing the swelling crowd, of 750 plus, walking over the Bay bridge.  With a number of rest stops along the way, the procession was energized, as they walked with Jesus across both bridges and into Pass Christian.

Praying the Rosary and meditating to Gregorian Chants, the crowd walked with Jesus, attracting attention from many of the onlookers who had gathered to meet them on Highway 90.  The Procession averaged 30-minute miles, surprising all involved, a pace they were able to keep over the 6-mile route.

Once they arrived at St. Paul’s Chapel it was time for Adoration at the beautiful outdoor altar that had been prepared on the city’s donated stage placed in front of the Chapel. Then it was time for a very special bilingual Rosary. The crowds led by Spanish community leaders, The Youth Program from Holy Family Parish, and Owen Pip Brennan, prayed to Our Blessed Mother.

In a very touching moment, The Youth Program from Holy Family Parish, made a Flower Presentation to the newly renovated Our Lady of Guadalupe statue. It was then time for the Cultural Festival to begin. Spanish music and dancers, Spanish food, and a great time had by all.

Later that evening, it was the very special powerful and spiritual Adore Event. The event was a time to be with Jesus in Adoration at the Holy Family Church, with beautiful Music, and an opportunity to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation along with small prayer groups.  The Parish Teams of Our Mother of Mercy and Holy Family worked hard doing an amazing job both Sunday evening and Tuesday.

Wednesday morning it was a 6 am mass at St. Paul’s Chapel and then leg two of the procession to St. Thomas Apostle Parish in Long Beach.  The Procession moved along Scenic Drive with more than 300 people. As we moved to Highway 90, we again caught the attention of many as we proceeded to our place at St. Thomas in Long Beach.

Once arrived, we were welcomed by the beautiful music of the St. Thomas Choir. Adoration began and the crowd stayed in prayer for almost an hour. It was now time to attend the lunch feast the parishioners had prepared.

During the feast, the amazing children of the parish put on a performance for all of us as we sat in the hall. It was such a joy to see the young children so excited about being part of this program.  They sang with joy, and I had no doubt Jesus was smiling. What a wonderful job the team at St. Thomas has done with these youngsters. In the afternoon, there was an outside prayer of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.

The beautiful skies and breeze from the gulf, was Our Blessed Mother’s reaction to the wonderful job done by the people of St, Thomas Apostle Parish. Then it was on to the main event of the evening, Deo Gloria and the very special Blessing of the Sea. After Adoration in the church, the parish walked out of the church in procession.

As the sun went down, Fr. Vincent Ajayi, carrying the Monstrance holding Jesus, followed by hundreds of Pilgrims, crossed highway 90 and walked on to the beach.  It is here where the ancient tradition of The Blessing of the Sea took place. What a beautiful moment seeing the Monstrance carrying the Blessed Sacrament, the very one which has been transported from the start of the Pilgrimage in Brownsville, Texas, processing to and Blessing the seas of the Gulf.

Thursday morning, we begin at St. James Church in Gulfport. It is here where we attend early morning mass and then begin the longest of the routes, 9 miles, to the Cathedral of BVM in Biloxi which will be the largest crowd of the week.

Many Northern Mississippi Christians come to join this route. In the evening, it is back to St. James Church for the XLT event. XLT, which stands for “Exalt”, is a Catholic prayer event that includes praise and worship, a message, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  It’s a night of prayer for the community that can help people deepen their relationship with Jesus.

Friday morning the Pilgrimage moves to St. Alphonsus in Ocean Springs for an early Mass and then a visit to the newly opened Mercy Cross Center for the Homeless in Biloxi. After some work at the center, The Diocesan team will take the National Pilgrims out to lunch at Anthony’s Restaurant and send them on their way to Mobile, Al. and eventually to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, In. with all of our thanks and prayers.

Of course, the same time we here in the south spent walking with Jesus, our brothers and sisters in all four corners of the country experienced the same thing.

The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as he led us across the country toward the National Congress in July.  What a wonderful week. I really was spiritually touched, feeling so close to Jesus.

Then it all hit me…I wonder what He must think looking at the condition of our country right now. We are deeply divided, we have lost our moral compass, we are executing unborns and human trafficking is at an all-time high.  Drug dealing and drug use is at an all-time high, all without consequence, and in some areas of the country one can go shopping in a store without paying, without consequence, as long as their take is under $2000.00.

Many Catholics still do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We are at war in the world, wars that are killing innocents without care. So, is Jesus smiling as he takes this long walk across our Country? The immediate answer that jumps out is, no way.

But upon reflection, I have to say that Jesus walking with his sheep, regardless of their sins, would make Him smile. Further, His love for us is like no other we have ever known. By coming into this world, becoming a man, suffering and ultimately dying by crucifixion on the cross, He opened the door for us to return to Him, despite our flaws.

God loves us and wants us to be reunited with him. Jesus came to earth to reunite us with God through the ultimate sacrifice: his own life. He opened the door to Eternal Life in Heaven, if we chose to follow Him. Jesus thirsts for us.

I have to conclude that Jesus would use His love for us to get us all back on track. That is why this National Eucharistic Pilgrimage provides so much hope. I believe this is an instrument He is using to get us back on the right road.

We walk with Jesus, and we make a public statement of our belief in God. Indeed, I do believe He is smiling at us today. Say a prayer this week for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress. Say a prayer for our country.

Most of all, say a prayer for you and your family. Pray that the experience of walking with Jesus, following Him, will put us all back on the right road. Till next week…Peace my brothers and sisters.