by Joe Holden
An estimated 45 to 50 thousand faithful from all over the Philadelphia region participated in the Eucharistic Candlelight Procession on Sunday. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia, called those present, his brothers and sisters, to take the message of charity home with them and share it with their neighbors. The procession, which began at 5:30 p.m., was held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Center City.
The festivities began with a 1,000-voice choir setting a prayerful atmosphere at 4 p.m. The choir was made up of members from Archdiocesan-wide choirs and high schools. A 200-piece band accompanied the choir. While hymns were resonating off of the many old historic buildings on the Parkway from the choir, the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Boys’ Choir gave a prelude performance inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, located at 18th Street and the Parkway.
With the regal herald of trumpets, the Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated bread that becomes the body of Christ, left the cathedral in a monstrance, which is a sacred vessel to carry the Eucharist.
The Blessed Sacrament was transported on a flatbed truck that was converted into a float with Bevilacqua and an escort of approximately 4,000 people. The escort was made up of two members from each of the Archdiocese’s nearly 200 parishes, priests, seminarians, dignitaries and religious. The float was decorated with an abundance of yellow, red, white and orange chrysanthemums and trimmed with gold and silver fabric that reflected the multitude of candles along the route.
The float made its way out of Logan Circle and down the inbound lane of the Parkway and around Eakins Oval where the choir and band were positioned and continued past thousands of people who raised their lit candles out of respect to the Blessed Sacrament.
“It was amazing to see that many people and all of the candles,” Emil Pilacik said. Pilacik, 45 and orchestra director at Saint Maria Goretti High School, South Philadelphia played trumpet with the band, which has been working and practicing for the occasion since the beginning of the school year. “There was just this mob of people. It was wonderful to see that many participating in the procession,” Pilacik said. The people gathered on the Parkway took part in responses and hymns. There were three stations set up at various points along the Parkway for the readings. Bevilacqua delivered a short sermon at each.
“The entire experience was very invigorating,” Pilacik said. “It says a lot about the Catholic Church. The people present weren’t embarrassed or ashamed to be there.”
This event marks the climax of the observance of the Jubilee Year, the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ. The archdiocese has sponsored numerous events, this being the culmination of the events.