HAZLETON – More than 700 people filled the streets of Hazleton earlier this month participating in a large Eucharistic Procession. The goal was to bring people’s faith and love of Jesus out into the community.

On Sunday, Oct. 1, both Spanish and English-speaking parishioners of Annunciation Parish spent more than 90 minutes navigating the narrow streets of the city’s south side while singing and praying.

Father Kevin Miller, pastor, Annunciation Parish, leads a Eucharistic Procession of more than 700 people through the streets of South Hazleton on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“During this magnificent procession through the streets of the south side, I just felt the Lord, the Lord of the Miracles, El Señor de Los Milagros, our Eucharistic Lord, was touching hearts and touching lives in the way that only he can,” Father Kevin Miller, pastor, Annunciation Parish, said. “For my part, I am nothing but grateful to everyone who helped put this together and everyone who participated.”

The Eucharistic Procession was held as part of a three-day celebration at Annunciation Parish in honor of Saint Gabriel, patron of the parish church. Saint Gabriel is most well known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation.

The Procession was also held to honor El Señor de Los Milagros (The Lord of the Miracles), the Patron of Peruvian residents, which is celebrated during the entire month of October. El Señor de Los Milagros is traditionally one of the most popular religious celebrations in Latin America.

“The community of Saint Gabriel is a magnificent community. We are so happy to be part of this community. Everyone came here so joyful. We love doing things together,” Father Neftali Feliz-Sena, assistant pastor, Annunciation Parish, said.

Prior to the Eucharistic Procession, a bilingual Mass was held inside Saint Gabriel Church.

Mary Jane Thomas, who has attended Mass at Saint Gabriel Church all her life, found the Mass and procession to be very inspiring.

“I am so happy to see that we are all joining together as one, as we should be, because it is one church, one God, and it was just beautiful today,” Thomas said. “I walked just about all of it.”

Thomas has seen a lot of change in her parish over the last several decades, but she believes her faith has only been strengthened by the influx of Spanish-speaking parishioners.

“When I first started to go to the Hispanic Mass, it was a little challenging at first, but then I found myself moving along with everybody and clapping. I thought, they are praising the Lord and we can all praise the Lord in whatever form we can,” she added.

Veronica Mizenko of McAdoo recently returned to the Catholic faith and was pleased that the Eucharistic Procession was held so that Jesus could be shared with the entire community.

“Father is taking Jesus out into the streets and amongst the people. All languages, all creeds, anybody is welcome in this church and he makes you feel so warm and so welcome,” Mizenko said. “Father Kevin is bringing Him (Jesus) out for everyone to see and hear. It is so touching.”

Mizenko said she saw several people watch the procession from their porches and cars, with some even joining in.

“People were just walking up and saw the procession and just started walking behind the procession and it is all for God. It was wonderful. It really was,” she explained.

The procession was held as the Catholic Church in the United States has entered its second phase of the U.S. Bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative by the prelates to inspire belief in the Eucharist following a 2019 Pew Research study that suggested only about one-third of U.S. Catholics believe the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The second phase of the revival, the Year of Parish Revival, is meant to foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level.