Traveling monstrance visits Wilmington

WILMINGTON - The Diocese of Raleigh traveling monstrance was recently in the Cape Fear Deanery, where a Holy Hour was held with Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama at Immaculate Conception Church. A liturgical vessel that holds the Eucharist, the traveling monstrance is a key element of both the Year of the Eucharist and the Diocese of Raleigh’s centennial, which observes the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1924.

Beginning with its role at the diocesean Eucharistic Congress in October 2023, the traveling monstrance is making stops at parishes throughout the diocese. The monstrance serves not only to unite the people and parishes across the more than 32,000 square miles of the diocese but also to focus on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist during a year that will also see the National Eucharistic Congress later this month.

Each parish that has hosted the monstrance has celebrated with it in ways that reflect their community. At Immaculate Conception, the readings during the Holy Hour included reflections from St. Francis de Sales, who founded Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (O.S.F.S.), of which Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Father John McGee, O.S.F.S., is a member.

“St. Francis de Sales called the Eucharist the 'sum of all spiritual exercises' and 'the abridgement of our faith' in his Introduction to The Devout Life and in his early sermons,” explained Father McGee. “He believed that the Eucharist is the center of the Christian religion, the heart of devotion, and the soul of piety. He also believed that the Eucharist contains the real presence of Jesus Christ, his flesh and blood, and those who eat it will live forever.”

After Bishop Luis placed the Eucharist in the traveling monstrance, Holy Hour attendees had time for reflection in between readings and music that highlighted and celebrated the Blessed Sacrament.

“It was a wonderful experience for the Cape Fear Deanery, the priests and the assembly,” said Father McGee. “We reflected on the Eucharist with documents from Vatican II, and the verses of the songs chosen really reflected the Eucharist in everyday living.”

In addition to attendees from the parish and neighboring areas, priests from throughout the Cape Fear Deanery, which includes Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties, attended the Holy Hour.

Bishop Luis reminded everyone in attendance that their lives need to reflect the love of Jesus and the wonder of his presence in all that they say and do. “To become the love we receive, that is our challenge,” said Bishop Luis.

He thanked the priests in attendance for “being who they are” and for being the ones who take the Eucharist to the people. “Take Jesus to the people,” he said. “Take Jesus closer to the people to celebrate what we believe and to give thanks for the gift of our faith and 100 years of the diocese.”

This year, after traveling through the Raleigh Deanery, beginning at Sacred Heart Church, which was the cathedral for the diocese from 1924 until 2017, the monstrance is traveling to parishes, schools, homes and neighborhoods across eastern North Carolina to be a central part of similar celebrations marking the rich history and bright future of our Catholic faith in the Diocese of Raleigh.