‘Lights!’ ‘Camera!’ ‘Procession!’

Holy Ghost Church serves as setting for national Knights of Columbus training video on eucharistic processions   

By Bill Brewer

Happy Holler is going Hollywood, or at least it looked that way on Nov. 12 when professional videographers descended on Holy Ghost Church and surrounding streets to make a Knights of Columbus-sponsored video for distribution to parishes across the country.

A team from Spirit Juice Studios, which produces Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire videos, captured Holy Ghost and its pastor, Father Bill McNeeley, for the video, which will be an instructional aid on carrying out a liturgical eucharistic procession.

Father Bill McNeeley, pastor of Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville, re-creates a Mass, where he prays before a monstrance containing an unconsecrated host, not the Holy Eucharist, for a Knights of Columbus-sponsored training video on eucharistic processions. The video crew doing the production is from Catholic-based Spirit Juice Studios of Chicago.

The production team, which worked with Knoxville freelance videographers, were in the Happy Holler neighborhood of North Knoxville for several days in mid-November shooting scenes for the training video. Holy Ghost parishioners acted as stand-ins for the re-created procession, which was only for creative purposes, not actual, and did not include the Holy Eucharist, only an unconsecrated host.

Production of the video began on Nov. 12 as the Spirit Juice field producers and camera operators scouted the location inside the church and outside Holy Ghost in the adjacent neighborhood. Then on Nov. 13, following the 8 a.m. Mass, shooting began inside the 95-year-old church, known for its beautifully historic stained-glass windows and intricately chiseled wood images.

The Catholic video operation was sensitive to the sacred interior surroundings, with camera operators reverently taking video around the altar and in the nave, even moving production outside the church when a baptism performed by Holy Ghost associate pastor Father Michael Hendershott took place.

Once finished, the video will illustrate how a eucharistic procession typically begins inside the church at the altar, with the priest, deacon, altar servers, and congregation processing out of the church following Mass and into the community before ending in a holy setting.

What is a eucharistic procession?

According to FAITH Catholic publications, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, and therefore a eucharistic procession is a public witness of the veneration toward the most Holy Eucharist, conducted through public streets.

It takes place in this way: A consecrated host—that is, the real and substantial presence of Jesus Christ: body, blood, soul, and divinity—is placed within a monstrance, which is then lifted and carried by a priest who leads the faithful in procession. Like a pilgrimage, a eucharistic procession normally starts at one holy place and ends at another, but it can return to the church where it began. This earthly journey reminds the Catholic faithful of their spiritual journey toward eternal life with God.

Eucharistic processions first became a popular practice in the life of the Church during the celebration of Corpus Christi, traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. The idea for this solemnity is attributed to St. Juliana, who lived in the 13th century. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI eloquently noted in a homily in 2007, “It was born for the very precise purpose of openly reaffirming the faith of the people of God in Jesus Christ, alive and truly present in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a feast that was established in order to publicly adore, praise, and thank the Lord, who continues ‘to love us to the end,’ even to offering us His Body and His Blood.”

Though directly connected to the liturgical feast of Corpus Christi, eucharistic processions may take place at other appropriate times and places under the authority of the bishop and following liturgical norms.

In several countries around the world, eucharistic processions incorporate the country’s rich cultural traditions. In Poland, for example, large crowds of people process in traditional Polish outfits with ornate decorations. For a eucharistic procession in Brazil, the streets are lined with colors, drums, and colorful costumes.

By processing with the Holy Eucharist in a reverent, prayerful, and joyful manner, Catholics can honor Christ in the Eucharist and serve as witnesses to the intimate presence of God in the world and in each individual. Processions powerfully display the Incarnation, or God becoming human, and thus speak of His merciful love for all who journey to eternal life with Him.

According to the Roman Missal rubric, “It is desirable that a procession take place after the Mass in which the host to be carried in the procession is consecrated. However, nothing prohibits a procession from taking place even after a public and lengthy period of adoration following the Mass. If a procession takes place after Mass, when the Communion of the faithful is over, the monstrance in which the consecrated host has been placed is set on the altar. When the prayer after Communion has been said, the Concluding Rites are omitted and the procession forms.”

As Father McNeeley, wearing a humeral veil over his liturgical vestment that covered his shoulders, arms, and hands, cradled the monstrance, four members of Knights of Columbus Council 16523 at Holy Ghost held aloft the processional canopy that covers the Holy Eucharist. Altar servers processed ahead of the priest and where the Holy Eucharist would be, carrying the processional cross, candles, and thuribles for burning incense.

Knights of Columbus also carried a pedestal with a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe that trailed the monstrance.

Once outside the church, the procession proceeded to Central Street, where it traveled south to Hinton Avenue, then west on Hinton Avenue. A Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy in a marked car with its lights flashing monitored Central Street traffic and blocked off Hinton Avenue to vehicular traffic as the Spirit Juice production team captured footage.

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A number of scenes were shot on Hinton Avenue before the procession turned north up an alley and into the Holy Ghost parking lot, where the priest and congregation knelt in front of a temporary altar, on which the monstrance was placed, and a life-size statue of the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus. The Blessed Mother with Jesus is the centerpiece of a small prayer garden to the side of Holy Ghost Church.

Following lunch, served in the basement of Holy Ghost by Knights Council 16523, video production returned to the church interior.

The video crew returned to Holy Ghost on Sunday, Nov. 14, to shoot footage during morning Masses.

Jimmy Dee, a Holy Ghost member and director of faith and evangelization for the Tennessee Knights of Columbus, served as procession organizer for the video production.

“I was charged with finding a parish in the state that we could use to help develop a video production on how to teach parishes across the country how to do eucharistic processions. We chose Holy Ghost because Holy Ghost continues to demonstrate a passion for Christ and His Real Presence in the Eucharist,” Mr. Dee said. “The parish currently holds eucharistic processions on a regular basis and therefore was an excellent source for the Knights of Columbus to come and gain from the church’s experiences in doing this type of activity.”

Mr. Dee explained that eucharistic processions are meant to go out into the community and traditionally are done around church campuses or within metropolitan areas “to help spread the Word of Christ’s salvation out in the world.”

“You can’t ask for a better demonstration of the realness of Christ in the Eucharist than to take Christ out into the community and show our love, our affection, and our veneration for Our Lord,” he said.

Mr. Dee has high hopes for the video once it’s completed and distributed to parishes across the United States next year.

“We truly hope that this video will inspire more parishes to call upon the faithful to take up eucharistic procession on a regular basis to help increase the faithfulness of our Church and also share the Good News of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, risen with the world,” Mr. Dee said.

“We are thrilled with the way production has gone. We had a wonderful turnout, and we even managed to have two baptisms in the middle of it that weren’t planned. God decided that He was going to give us not only our video production but a couple of additional sacraments to boot. So, when He piles on, He piles on in a beautiful way,” Mr. Dee continued.

Father McNeeley agreed that Holy Ghost is uniquely suited to be the setting for a training video on eucharistic processions. He pointed to the diverse nature of the parish, with members bringing faith perspectives from a broad swath of Catholicism.

“Holy Ghost Church is a very open, even an eclectic community of Catholics representing at least a couple dozen countries, in addition to locals and families who have been here since its founding. We are bound together by a deep devotion to Our Lord and the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church. I am excited about the opportunity to put our best foot forward and help parishes across the country rediscover and recover age-old traditions that nurtured an authentic faith not only in the past but into the future. The Catholic Church does not need to start new traditions as much as draw upon our rich heritage,” Father McNeeley said.

The Holy Ghost pastor said much preparation went into producing the video, most all of it by the production team. “It was easy for us. We just followed the general instructions, and the production team did all the hard work.”

Father McNeeley emphasized that consecrated elements of the Mass were not used in the production of the video. Instead, the pastor moved the Blessed Sacrament to a private chapel in the Holy Ghost rectory during production. He explained that the Holy Ghost priests will relocate the Holy Eucharist when workers are inside Holy Ghost’s nave and sanctuary making repairs.

In a simplified way, he underscored the distinction between an actual eucharistic procession and one choreographed for video production value.

“For an actual eucharistic procession, a priest conducts the liturgy. You begin, process the route, do a Benediction at the end of the procession. Then the priest reposes the Blessed Sacrament. In a re-creation or simulation and filming of a eucharistic procession, the producer is in charge. ‘Action,’ ‘Stop,’ ‘Let’s try that again.’”

He was grateful to let the production crew organize the video shoot, something he said he doesn’t have enough patience for. He was especially grateful to Holy Ghost parishioners who volunteered their time to serve in the mock procession over several hours on a brisk November afternoon.

“I am constantly amazed by the deep devotion of the faithful here and their generosity between different constituent communities within the parish. Parishioners here support one another and one another’s activities. They seem to understand the principle that what benefits one benefits all intuitively. Unfortunately, I have served with too many congregations (mostly in my Episcopal Church days) who are possessive of ‘My Church,’” Father McNeeley said.

“The video shoot itself went well. It was a little tedious, shoots and reshoots, etc. I was unaware of how many times you’d have to shoot, taking a book off the shelf, turning two or three pages, and taking a seat before getting it right. We also had to walk down the street several times, stop and back up and film from another angle. That was why the host we used was unconsecrated, so we wouldn’t be processing the Precious Body back and forth while filming. Making a video can be quite tedious, but it was fun, too,” he added.

Matthew Sawczyn, who served as Spirit Juice Studios’ project manager and field producer for the video, is excited that Catholic churches everywhere will have access to a training video on how to hold a respectful and reverent eucharistic procession.

“The Eucharist is the most important part of being Catholic. We believe that it is Jesus Himself. So, we definitely want to make sure that churches are trained properly to put on a beautiful procession,” Mr. Sawczyn said.

He was impressed by the parishioner turnout for the production and the generosity of the Holy Ghost community.

“I think that the parishioners of Holy Ghost are going to see themselves all across the country. I think we’re getting everything we need, and we’re going to be able to use it to help churches all over,” Mr. Sawczyn continued. “It’s really amazing to see the people who are willing to help with their time and their talent. It’s a big production.”

He noted that Chicago-based Spirit Juice Studios assembled a team of nine people to work on the project, six of whom are with Spirit Juice and three of whom are Knoxville freelance videographers. Joining Mr. Sawczyn were field producer Michael Sorich, creative lead Chris Weingart, camera operator Trina Mulligan, camera operator Patrick Charles, production assistant Spencer Leverence, camera operator Kayla Ingle, director of photography Jacob Dean, and processions expert Robert Nayden of the Knights of Columbus.

He explained that Spirit Juice Studios is a Catholic media company that works with Catholic clients such as Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire productions and the Knights of Columbus to make “beautiful, artful, reverent Catholic media.”

“It’s great to be a part of something like this. We really feel like it has an impact. It has meaning and purpose. And it’s just a blast to do,” Mr. Sawczyn said.

Father McNeeley agreed.

“I hope it will help parishes that are struggling to be part of their renewal. Churches are closing in some of the traditional Catholic areas in New England and the Midwest. I pray that this video will be another tool for the remaining parishes to have a new beginning,” he said.

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