MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY — For most of the afternoon on Sunday, June 19 the town center was all but abandoned except for two places: A CVS Pharmacy, where cars came and went, and St. Joseph Parish down the road, where 200-plus parishioners brought life and presence to a community still on the mend from December’s devastating tornadoes.
The parishioners gathered there for the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, Corpus Christi procession that — as it did in dioceses throughout the U.S. — marked the start of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Eucharistic Revival.
The Diocese of Owensboro parishioners came from all over the area for the procession and filled St. Joseph’s to the extent that it was standing room only. Afterwards, Mayfield residents reflected on how impactful that support was.
“It was very meaningful,” said Oscar Tapia of Mayfield. “We look up to [Bishop William Medley] and for all of the churches to come together it was a wonderful feeling in my heart.”
Emma Hayden, a Mayfield resident and St. Joseph’s parishioner for almost 50 years, highlighted the hope that’s provided to the community when they see so many people come together.
“It was a blessing to see … that many people were willing to respond to something like this and see what can be done when a lot of people work together,” Hayden said. “When we can show the community that we can do things like that it’s good for the whole town because it shows our faith in God that we’re going to come back and that God’s going to help us.”
The Diocese of Owensboro Corpus Christi procession began inside St. Joseph’s. The church community in Mayfield is largely Hispanic, so the readings, hymns and litanies that were part of the procession were all done in English and Spanish.
When it was time to head outside the clergy led the way carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance, with the parishioners filing in behind. The procession route stayed on church property, but made stops at three different altars that represented different diocesan parishes.
Bishop Medley and the clergy led the faithful through an incensation of the Blessed Sacrament, hymn, reading and blessing at each one. Afterwards, Bishop Medley said it was important to have the procession in Mayfield because “it’s where the body of Christ needs us most.”
“It was important just to remind ourselves that even in tragedy this is holy ground, this is sacred ground, and it was a long time before we came because it was created by God, but it’s been made holy by the people that live here and the people that die here,” he said.
Bishop Medley also noted the timeliness of the Eucharistic revival not just in light of the tragedy in Mayfield, but with others around the country and world.
“The body of Christ rallies to help the body of Christ and whether that’s Uvalde, Texas, whether that’s the Ukrainian war, whether that’s the chaos in Myanmar, all of those are just us being brother and sister to brother and sister,” he said.
Sunday’s procession was the fourth time that Bishop Medley was in Mayfield since the December 10 tornadoes, and he acknowledged that “there’s still a long way to go” as the diocesan Catholic Charities is slowly making progress with hundreds of families.
Mayfield was the epicenter of the tornado outbreak that claimed more than 80 lives in western Kentucky. The town center was decimated. The Tablet was there days after the tornado struck and witnessed the flattened buildings and debris that filled the streets as the federal government and national guard tried to manage the situation.
Six months later, the chaos of the immediate aftermath is replaced by emptiness and quiet. The government and national guard have since left. Some debris has been taken away and the roads are clear. Other debris is stacked into neater piles on lots where buildings once stood. Partially destroyed buildings remain but serve no purpose. Not one walks the streets.
St. Joseph’s miraculously only had minor damage and reopened two weeks after the storm.
“I drive through it everyday, and everytime I see it I cry,” Ann Wilson, a Mayfield resident and lifelong St. Joseph’s parishioner said. “I’m always thankful that my church is still here.”
Tapia said faith will be key in the town moving forward.
“The church has been keeping everybody alive with their faith because everybody is down because there were some families that were affected,” Tapia said. “Give them some hope, bring them to church, show them that God cares and other people care. You can tell it means a lot to them and it means a lot to me as well.”