MIDTOWN — Constantine Bowden sat on his bike at the intersection of Broadway and West 50th Street on Oct. 12, watching a joyous procession that carried the Holy Eucharist to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Bowden, 17, wore a fur bomber hat and puffer vest over a sleeveless t-shirt. A bungee cord held a skateboard to his bike’s rear cargo rack. He was among delivery workers on bikes and other cyclists who tried to pedal through the procession but were delayed by an NYPD motorcycle escort.
Exultant hymns sung by clergy, religious sisters, choir singers, and Catholic school students resounded in the air above the intersection. They passed by smiling broadly with the Eucharist, encased in a large monstrance. It was hoisted by a trio of priests who took turns carrying it.
“It’s beautiful,” Bowden said of the event. “What’s going on?”
He listened intently to the explanation that Catholics are taught that the Eucharist is the actual presence of Jesus Christ and that the procession brought the savior to the streets of New York for all to see.
“I’ve always been kind of agnostic,” Bowden said. “My family is very religious, being from Jamaica. For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to find God, going to church every now and then — but I’m not sure.”
When asked if the procession might inspire him to attend a Mass, he said, “Maybe, if I knew more about what was going on.”
Bowden’s curiosity was “mission accomplished” for the procession’s participants.
“I prayed that we might help at least one soul,” said Sister Grace Duc Le, superior general of the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Los Angeles. “People might not know what we’re doing, but questions are the first step to what faith is.”
The procession was part of the 2022 Principled Entrepreneur Conference in Manhattan that was held Oct. 11-12. The conference is sponsored by Irvine, California-based Napa Institute. Some attendees joined the procession.
It stepped off in front of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on West 51st Street in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Next, participants marched through the Theater District and concluded at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown.
Father Roger Landry, Catholic chaplain to Columbia University, coordinated the event.
The Napa Institute was formed in 2011 with a mission to train Catholic leaders in how to defend the faith in an increasingly secular society.
Father Landry described himself as a friend of the Institute and one of its frequent speakers.
Before he became chaplain at Columbia this year, Father Landry served seven years as the attaché to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Father Landry is one of 56 national Eucharistic preachers appointed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to stimulate the three-year Eucharistic Revival, which began in June.
He was one of the three priests who took turns carrying the monstrance. Others were Father Sean Suckiel, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Fresh Meadows, and Father Michael Duffy, rector of the Cathedral of St. Agnes in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Four students from Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary — William Volker, Joseph Brancali, Angel Figueroa III, and Michael Laurenzano — carried the canopy that covered the Eucharist during the procession.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the benediction at the Cathedral. He thanked the participants for faithfully proclaiming the Eucharist.
The cardinal said marching the monstrance across Manhattan was “very much in the heart” of Jesus, considering he walked everywhere during his ministry on Earth and even post-Resurrection when he accompanied apostles on the road to Emmaus.
“How welcome your witnessing is,” Cardinal Dolan said. “The holy Eucharist is the source of our faith. Your act of devotion is very appealing as part of the Eucharistic Revival.”
Father Landry acknowledged the challenge of demonstrating that Christ is in the form of a wafer to people who have not been taught this mystery, including Catholics, in a time when 69% of U.S. Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass are just symbols.
“A lot of Catholics aren’t practicing their faith in Jesus and the holy Eucharist,” Father Landry said. “Some question whether it’s truly Jesus there.”
“This is an opportunity for us to show that we take very seriously the truth about Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, and that we’re proud about it.” Father Landry added. “And we hope that somebody asks what’s going on because those types of questions eventually lead to answers.”