Eucharistic procession brings together high school community
By Emily Booker
Communion—with Christ and with one another—is the key to strengthening any Catholic community.
So, on Sept. 16 the Knoxville Catholic High School community held an all-day student retreat focused on the Eucharist and communion with Christ. The theme stemmed from the Eucharistic Revival currently underway in the Catholic Church leading up to the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress.
“The [U.S.] bishops really want to remind the Church that Christ is with us in the Eucharist,” explained Sister Madeline Rose Kraemer, OP, who teaches religion at KCHS and planned the retreat. “Christ promised us before ascending that He will be with us always: ‘I will be with you always until the end of the age [Matthew 28:20],’ and that’s fulfilled in a very real way in the Eucharistic presence.
“When I was thinking about our students and thinking about this revival, I just felt like what the bishops are saying is very applicable to the needs of these teenagers. The world is so isolated and so lonely … there’s a real loneliness there that needs to be healed and can only be healed by the presence of our Lord.”
The overall word of the day was “communion,” and each grade focused on a different aspect of that word. Faculty participated in the retreat as well, with several faculty members giving talks to the students and sharing their personal faith.
The freshmen class focused on “Communion with Christ in One Another,” on getting to know each other, friendship, and how Christ wants to be their friend. Spanish teacher Amy Brown gave the talk “Authentic Christian Friendship,” and Father David Mary Engo, OFM, gave the talk “Friendship with Christ.”
The sophomore class focused on “Communion with Christ in the Scriptures” and learning how to pray with Scripture. Sports nutrition teacher Carolyn Williamson gave the talk “Why Pray with Scripture?” And Jessica Magers-Rankin, who teaches theater, and Trish O’Brien, who teaches Spanish, gave the talk “How to Pray with Scripture.”
The junior class focused on “Communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” Father Engo gave the talk “I am with you always; the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” and Jane Walker, KCHS academic dean, gave the talk “Living a Eucharistic Life: Being Given as Christ is Given.”
There was also a talk for non-Catholic students, “Entering KCHS as a non-Catholic,” given by English teachers Liz McNulty and Megan Stromer.
Sister Madeline Rose said that seeing teachers and faculty members who don’t normally teach religion share about their personal faith and talk about the importance of faith made an impact on the students and reminded them that the whole school community cares about their spiritual development.
“The students got to see all of their teachers care, not just their religion teachers. So that was beautiful,” she said.
For seniors, the retreat was an opportunity to learn the importance of praying for others and guiding others in the faith. Seniors took on a leadership role throughout the day. They led underclassmen in small groups, coordinated field game activities, shared their own testimonies, and prayed for specific underclassmen during their prayer time.
“Basically, every grade was split up. Us, being seniors, we led it,” senior Ian Hubbard explained. “I started by making rosaries, then adoration, then a bit of recreation at lunch time, and then the Mass and procession.”
Each grade had the opportunity for adoration and confession during the day.
In the afternoon, the school gathered for Mass. Father Engo was the celebrant, with Deacon Jim Bello, director of Christian Formation for the Diocese of Knoxville, assisting.
In his homily, Father Engo encouraged the students to be bold in their faith in a world that increasingly turns away from God.
“You have all these talents and gifts. God gave you these for a reason,” he said. “God gave you these gifts and talents to be used for a purpose. God doesn’t give you gifts to hide or use for yourself. He gives you these gifts to build up His kingdom. He gives you these gifts so He can lead other souls to Christ. You can help others come out of their darkness, you can help others come through healing, and you can help others find God.”
“Being a part of the procession was really cool because Jesus was exposed, and I got to be a part of holding the canopy, which was cool,” Ian said.
Students lined the halls, kneeling and praying as the procession passed. Just before the procession, Father Engo had spoken to them about the woman who reached out and touched the tassel of Jesus’ garment for healing. He encouraged anyone who needed personal healing to not be afraid to reach out to Christ. As the procession passed by, several students reverently reached out to touch the tassel of the humeral veil, the cloth wrapped around the base of the monstrance holding the Eucharist.
“My favorite part was the procession,” said senior David Carlson, who also helped with the procession. “I felt close to God and Jesus, and it meant a lot to me.”
“I thought that was so beautiful to have Christ walk through the places that matter to us, the hallways these students walk through, the commons area where they eat lunch with their friends, have His presence bless every space that they enter and have them remember that Christ really is with us—He’s walking these halls with us,” Sister Madeline Rose said.
The procession concluded in the gymnasium, where the student body gathered again for the Benediction. The rosaries made earlier in the day by the seniors were gifted to the underclassmen as a reminder of the day and of the prayers prayed for them by the senior class.
The retreat has left outgrowing effects on the KCHS community.
“I think the eucharistic procession was really impactful,” Sister Madeline Rose said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of our students so engaged in worship as they were in that procession—just the way that they knelt, the number of students who reached out to touch the humeral veil. There was something really beautiful and very tangible about that.”
She noted that the difference was not just in the students but in the faculty as well.
“Another really beautiful grace is on the faculty end. I feel like we as a faculty are really united and in awe of each other’s gifts in a deeper way because of how involved everyone was in making this retreat happen. … It has really bonded us together as a faculty, and I think there’s something really beautiful there, too, that we’re all taking ownership of really strengthening the faith lives of our students.
“I think we’re approaching Mass in a different way since having experienced that procession. I think there is a very real grace there that will continue to be unpacked throughout the year. There’s something different about the atmosphere here after the retreat,” Sister Madeline Rose concluded.