Fort Smith Catholics marched to St. Boniface Church, Christ the King Church, Calvary Cemetery and ended at Immaculate Conception Church to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi June 6. During Mass, the skies cleared, ensuring that the pilgrims would have cool, dry weather to honor the Eucharist.
Immaculate Conception has held an annual procession for several years. Between 2011-16, Father Henry Mischkowiuski organized a Corpus Christi automobile procession from St. Boniface Church to Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling followed by adoration, according to Father Peter Le-Thanh Quang, Sacred Heart of Mary’s associate pastor. The Vietnamese community’s youth group, Eucharistic Youth, participated in the event. After Father Mischkowiuski retired, Immaculate Church began its own procession to the three Fort Smith churches.
“Our procession had between 100 and 150 marchers. Most were from the Hispanic community, but we also had some Filipino and Anglo members. People were waiting in each church to pray with us,” Father Daniel Velasco, associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, said. “We offered Benediction at Christ the King, Calvary Cemetery and after returning home to Immaculate Conception.” The procession took about three hours and 20 minutes.
While the group was singing hymns before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Boniface, a smaller group of worshippers was gathered in the adoration chapel. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor celebrated Mass and blessed the chapel and its new altar. The chapel, located on the west side of St Boniface rectory, is open 24 hours a day for adorers from all area Catholic churches. It reopened after being closed because of the pandemic.
“The faith of the people is what makes the procession,” Father Velasco said. “It is an opportunity to move closer to God. The Matachines, a dance and drumming group, led the procession to prepare the town for the body of Christ coming through. Because of the drums and the honor guard, people in the neighborhood knew we were coming. You could see in their faces that they knew something special was happening, even if they weren’t sure what was taking place.”
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