Parishes in south suburbs hold eucharistic caravan

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Parishes in south suburbs hold eucharistic caravan

Parishioners from seven parishes on the South Side file in to St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Orland Hills on Oct. 22, 2023, in an large car caravan in the spirit of a Renew My Church pilgrimage that was targeted toward the National Eucharistic Revival. The caravan started at St. George to St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr to St. Elizabeth Seton and finished with a Mass at St. Julie Billiart. They celebrated the Real Presence of Christ as One Body in Christ at the individual parishes. The event included adoration, testimonials, what led the church’s patron saint’s name and concluded with Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Parishioners file in on the second stop of the pilgrimage at St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church Oct. 22, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Parishioners file in on the second stop of the pilgrimage at St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church Oct. 22, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cars with special flags for the pilgrimage in the parking lot. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Randy Coe, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Seton in Orland Hills, speaks to participants about the life of St. Elizabeth Seton on the third stop of the pilgrimage. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Daniel Korenchan, associate pastor at St. Elizabeth Seton, leads benediction. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A parishioner prays in the narthex during Mass at St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Priests from the pilgrimage join Father Tirso Villaverde, pastor of St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park, for Mass at the end of the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

More than 200 people from seven parishes in the Orland-Tinley Park area gathered Oct. 22 to worship and adore the Eucharist together with a car pilgrimage visiting four of the seven churches.

Deacon John Sobol of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Orland Hills was on the core team that planned the pilgrimage. The hope, he said, was do something that would include people of all ages, from all seven parishes, witnessing to their faith together.

“We wanted to be as inclusive as we could be,” Sobol said, directing cars into the procession line-up at St. George Church in Tinley Park before the pilgrimage set off.

Michelle Hilliard, a pastoral associate at Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Hills and another member of the core team, said the parishes already work together on some things, but after meeting as a grouping for Renew My Church, they wanted to do more to bring their communities together.

“We’ve gotten so much community support for this,” she said.

The event, planned in conjunction with the National Eucharistic Revival, will be reprised on April 14 with a car pilgrimage visiting St. Francis of Assisi, St. Michael and Our Lady of the Woods, all in Orland Park, the other three churches of the seven-parish cluster.

The pilgrimage began at St. George, where Deacon Jerry Souta offered a personal testimony about the power of the Eucharist in his life, and associate pastor Father John Zurek offered brief reflections on the Eucharist and the National Eucharistic Revival.

Souta, who was a Presbyterian minister for years before becoming Catholic in 2013, said he experiences the Eucharist as a personal encounter with Jesus.

“Every time I receive Communion, I know Jesus is alive, is present and I can feel his presence within my heart,” Souta said.

Zurek said the three-year National Eucharistic Revival was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ response to a 2019 Pew study that found less than a third of Catholics said they believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“This is what they were hoping for us as a body of believers to do,” Zurek said. “To have a grassroots movement supported by the church.”

It is up to believers, Zurek said, to show others that Jesus Christ is alive and present in the Eucharist.

Then he sent the pilgrims out to give witness as they drove through their towns and neighborhoods, noting that the National Eucharistic Congress will be in Indianapolis in July 2024.

“As they say in Indianapolis, everyone, start your engines,” Zurek said.

Knights of Columbus members from the Father C.C. Boyle Council 4698 led the procession, with two members of the “Knights on Bikes” following the police escort.

“We want to spread the word about the Blessed Sacrament,” said Bill Bric, a fourth-degree knight. “There’s nothing more important than showing up for Jesus.”

Then members of the congregation got into their cars, already lined up in the parking lot for the procession and bearing flags and magnets, and followed a police escort and members of the Knights of Columbus to St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr Parish, also in Tinley Park.

There, Father Michael Wyrzykowski greeted the pilgrims.

“As you know, pilgrimage is an ancient practice from the beginning of Christianity,” Wyrzykowski said. “As a church, we continue this beautiful tradition of faith. A pilgrimage is a kind of public manifestation of faith.”

He then led the pilgrims in adoration, including the Litany of the Sacred Heart, and Benediction.

The procession, with more than 70 cars, moved to St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Orland Hills, where parishioner Randy Coe shared the story of the parish’s patron saint, who was so moved by the power of the Eucharist in Italy, where she and her daughter stayed for a time after her husband’s death, that she became Catholic. She went on to found a religious order and start the first Catholic parochial schools in the United States.

St. Elizabeth Seton associate pastor Father Dan Korenchan reflected on the passage from the First Book of Kings, when Elijah hears God not in the storm or earthquake or fire, but in the silence.

“Our God does not shout over the noise of our lives,” Korenchan said. “Our God much prefers the silence.”

Many times, Korenchan said, people fill their prayer time with words and with requests as a way to fend off a God they find intimidating, “as if he’s out to get us.”

Korenchan invited the pilgrims to spend a few minutes in silence with God before concluding with Benediction.

The pilgrims once again got in the cars and headed to the regular 6 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Julie Billiart Parish, Tinley Park, arriving just as the sun set.

St. Julie Billiart pastor Father Tirso Villaverde was the main celebrant, with priests and deacons from all seven parishes invited to vest for the Mass.

Villaverde also addressed the Pew study on the Real Presence in his homily, saying the fact that only a third of Catholics expressed belief in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ was alarming.

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith,” Villaverde said. “It is the heart of who we are as Catholics.

“We need to revive people’s love for and understanding of the Eucharist. … If we cannot see the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that is celebrated on this altar, then it is much harder to see the sacredness in our everyday lives.”


  • parishes
  • national eucharistic revival

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