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‘Come join us!’: Washington, DC’s ‘Little Rome’ hosts 1,200 for Eucharistic procession

The Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage makes it way from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception toward the Brentwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. / Credit: Mihoko Owada/The Catholic Standard

Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

More than 1,200 filled the streets of the neighborhood known as “Little Rome” in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to pay witness to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

After Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjívar-Ayala, the crowd of faithful filed out of the church and spilled into the streets to follow the procession.

Armed with tote bags provided by the Archdiocese of Washington that were filled with everything needed for the day’s sojourn — water, a snack, a map of the procession route, and rosary beads — the pilgrims set out for a morning of fellowship, prayer, and time spent in proximity to Jesus in the Eucharist.

The two-mile-long procession route bordered the basilica and the Catholic University of America and traveled through Brookland, a densely populated neighborhood with a lively business district that is home to residences of several religious orders.

The June 8 procession through this corner of the nation’s capital was part of the broader National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, an initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival intended to foster a greater understanding and devotion to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. 

While those who live and work in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington are not strangers to the rhythms of Catholic life there (the basilica’s church bells mark the hours to the tune of “Ave Maria”), the sheer numbers of faithful in the streets drew the attention of dozens of curious onlookers. They stood on their front lawns, apartment balconies, or roofs to get a closer look as the procession passed by their homes.

“Come join us!” one procession-goer beckoned onlookers who watched the proceedings. 

Two laborers working on the roof of a house under construction smiled and waved back as they paused to watch the Eucharist and the crowd pass.

A group of people sitting outside a coffee shop stopped their conversation to take pictures of the procession as the faithful sang hymns and prayed the rosary, alternating between English and Spanish.

Sister Margaret Regina of the Little Sisters of the Poor told CNA: “It’s the first time I’ve seen [something like this] in the area.” The sister said she was happy to see so many people of different backgrounds at the procession.

There is a “need to profess our faith” and tell people: “This is what I believe,” she said. “We need this peace that only [Christ] can bring because our hearts have to change and be like him.” 

The procession brought a diverse group of Catholics together to celebrate the Eucharist: a few communities of religious sisters, dozens of priests, and hundreds of laypeople from various backgrounds speaking, praying, and singing in different languages.

It took more than three hours for the procession to slowly wend its way from the basilica to the John Paul II Shrine, making stops at the “Angels Unaware” statue at Catholic University, at the home of the Nashville Dominicans, the Dominican House of Studies, and the offices of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At each stop, the priests carrying the monstrance and its canopy and young people following with candles held high stopped as speakers read reflections on the Gospel (alternating between English and Spanish). The crowd, young and old alike, knelt on the hot asphalt for a moment to adore the Eucharist.

Young people lead the way as the procession travels through "Little Rome" in Washington, DC. Credit: Mihoko Owada/The Catholic Standard
Young people lead the way as the procession travels through "Little Rome" in Washington, DC. Credit: Mihoko Owada/The Catholic Standard

“[The Eucharist] strengthens us, unites us with the body of Christ, and equips us to carry on his mission in the world,” Father Robert Hitchens, administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, told pilgrims as they gathered near the Basilica Rosary Walk and Garden.

In emphasizing the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Hitchens said the Blessed Sacrament “is not merely a symbol” but rather “a banquet.”

When the procession reached its final destination of the day for Benediction — the St. John Paul II National Shrine — children threw rose petals on the ground ahead of the procession. Some of the older attendees, including religious sisters, who were not able to walk for the whole procession were given chairs to watch the procession’s closing stop at the shrine. Some, with the help of aides, rose from their seats to stand in reverence as the procession neared.

Young boys throw rose petals on the ground as the procession approaches. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
Young boys throw rose petals on the ground as the procession approaches. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Sister Mary Vincent of the Little Sisters of the Poor told CNA the procession “was a gift to this area” and said the reverence, with so many Catholics kneeling in the streets to adore Christ in the Eucharist, was “absolutely beautiful.” She said it can help strengthen faith “when you see everyone around you adoring him.”

The pilgrimage, which began on Pentecost, has four routes: from the north, south, east, and west, all heading to Indianapolis for the July 17–21 National Eucharistic Congress.

The Washington, D.C., procession was part of the Seton Route, which began on the East Coast in New Haven, Connecticut. The route has brought Christ through the streets of New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore along with other communities in the northeast. The route will continue into southwest Pennsylvania before heading into Ohio and then Indiana. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, celebrated a solemn Mass for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in the upper church of the basilica at noon on Sunday, June 9, the day after the procession. Bishop Michael Burbidge of the next-door Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, was a concelebrant.

Cardinals Müller and Schönborn: Ordination of women is impossible

Cardinals Christoph Schönborn and Gerhard Ludwig Müller. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, Jun 10, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

The two German-speaking cardinals have said publicly that only men can be ordained to the priesthood.

Pope Francis reflects on Roman Empire in visit to ancient Capitoline Hill

Pope Francis gazes over the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum with Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri during a visit to Rome’s historic Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 10, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The pope made the trip to the Capitoline Hill to speak to local government officials on June 10 in the Senatorial Palace, home to Rome’s city hall.

Los Angeles County gives fire captain partial religious exemption in gay pride flag dispute

null / Credit: Maxim Studio/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2024 / 12:08 pm (CNA).

A Los Angeles County fire captain has received a partial religious exemption in his dispute with the county over the raising of a gay pride flag, although the captain’s lawyers say the accommodation is “not nearly enough.”

Capt. Jeffrey Little alleged in a May lawsuit that the Los Angeles County Fire Department violated his religious freedom when it ordered him to raise the so-called “Progress Pride” flag at the beach lifeguard station where he worked.

Little, a Christian, had requested a religious exemption to the rule. The lawsuit, filed in part by lawyers with the Thomas More Society, alleged that Little was suspended from his role in a department unit due to the dispute and subjected to an internal investigation.

It also alleged that Little’s superiors breached his privacy by informing unauthorized persons about his request for a religious accommodation, which led to him receiving a death threat in the mail.

In a press release, the Thomas More Society said the fire department had “agreed to partially accommodate” Little’s request to not fly the flag at the lifeguard station. 

The fire department “has made assurances that Little would not be personally responsible for the raising or lowering of the Progress Pride flag because he either will be assigned to stations that are unable to fly the Progress Pride flag throughout June or he will be able to trade shifts to such stations,” the legal group said.

Paul Jonna, who serves as special counsel for the Thomas More Society, told CNA earlier this month that Little’s accommodation request was “extremely narrow,” essentially asking the department to “please have someone else” raise or lower the flag.

Yet the county “continues to refuse to give Little a full and complete religious accommodation,” the group said in its press release. The exemption would include “granting a standing religious accommodation to permanently and comprehensively protect Little’s religious liberty rights.”

Little “must still ensure that his subordinates comply with this objectionable mandate,” the Thomas More Society noted; he will also be required to “renew his request annually and go through the same accommodation request process every year.”

The Thomas More Society said it would be applying for both preliminary and permanent injunctions on Little’s behalf in response to the partial exemption. 

In the statement, Little said that he hoped the lawsuit “encourages productive dialogue between employees of faith and their employers.” 

“No employee should be expected to abandon their faith when entering the workplace,” he said, arguing that he “felt backed into a corner where my faith was incompatible with the requirements of my job.” 

“My prayer is that people of faith will flourish in the workplace and not feel as if they need to hide that part of themselves in order to be successful in their job,” Little said.

The Humanality movement: ‘creating new rituals’ to use technology ‘with intention’

Humanality club members at Franciscan University. / Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

When Catholic musician Andrew Laubacher decided to quit social media in 2018, drained from a music career that had him on social media constantly, he couldn’t foresee that five years later he would be helping to lead a movement dedicated to encouraging others to break their own tech addictions.

“I just was not happy with how all these platforms were just becoming so all-consuming,” Laubacher told CNA in a phone call. “So [in] 2018, I decided to give up all my social media and go back to a flip phone. I told my record label and management at the time I was going to do that. They were like, ‘That’s a horrible decision. You’re not going to get any events.’”

“I just knew God was calling me to do it,” he explained. “I did it and deleted everything, went to a flip phone, and just experienced so many amazing things in regards to my relationships, my mental health, my spiritual health.”

Andrew Laubacher, executive director of Humanality, speaks at a Humanality Club event at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
Andrew Laubacher, executive director of Humanality, speaks at a Humanality Club event at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

Laubacher thought he’d be leaving his music career in the dust but found he could still be successful in music without social media. He then met married couple Hope and Justin Schneir, who had a similar mindset about tech and had founded Humanality, a movement dedicated to “helping people discover freedom through an intentional relationship with technology.” 

Laubacher is now executive director of Humanality, working alongside the Schneirs, who launched Humanality after successfully establishing the “Unplugged Scholarship” at Franciscan University of Steubenville — their alma mater — which awarded 30 students with funding for agreeing to give up their phones for a year.

Who needs Humanality? 

As a mental health crisis persists in the U.S., Laubacher noted that spikes in anxiety and depression, increased loneliness, and widespread cultural addiction to pornography have coincided with the launch of the iPhone and social media platforms.

The percentage of adults with depression has risen from 10% in 2015 to 29%, according to a 2023 Gallup poll. According to a report by Common Sense Media, nearly 3 out of 4 teens have consumed pornography. 

The Humanality Club at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The club hosted a no-phones concert at the end of the school year to help students experience life without phones. Credit: Photo courtesy of Andrew Laubacher
The Humanality Club at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The club hosted a no-phones concert at the end of the school year to help students experience life without phones. Credit: Photo courtesy of Andrew Laubacher

“Essentially, since 2010, there’s just been exponential upticks in suicide, self-harm, mood disorders, anxiety, and depression — especially amongst teen girls, directly correlated to the front-facing screen that came out on the iPhone and your Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, et cetera,” Laubacher said. 

One Pew study from 2023 found that suicidal ideation among high schoolers in the U.S. has increased from 16% in 2011 to 22% in 2021, with young women being more at risk, at 30%. 

“Looking at the sociological data, I think everyone’s pretty aware of the issue and most people are willing to admit — we’re all addicted to our devices in some way,” Laubacher continued. 

“Living with a smartphone is like living with a Frodo’s ring in your pocket, and the more addictions we crave through it, the stronger the pull, and the heavier the burden becomes,” Justin Schneir told CNA in an email. 

“Humanality really is the solution,” Laubacher explained. “We’re a movement that’s trying to cultivate more human interaction, and what we’re calling ‘human flourishing.’”

Addicted to tech? Join the club

“At the heart of our tech addictions is a legitimate desire for connection,” Hope Schneir told CNA. “Many young people want to move toward a more unplugged lifestyle, but they are afraid to do it alone.”

Humanality now has clubs on six different Catholic college campuses and provides resources for seminarians. 

Students enjoy a Humanality Club concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
Students enjoy a Humanality Club concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

“Young people, at this point, are aware of the detriment because they’re experiencing it,” Laubacher added. “They’re looking for a group of people to do this together.” 

Humanality clubs on college campuses promote a variety of “levels” that students can commit to — for example, with “Monk Mode” a student commits to no cellphone at all, relying instead on campus wifi, a laptop, and analog alarm clocks. In the more practical “Rebel Mode,” students use light phones to get off of their smartphones, making their less-accessible laptops their primary mode of digital communication. 

Monthly meetings help keep students on track while building the in-person community that technology has sifted out of our culture. Speakers, phone-free hikes, campfire nights, and an end-of-the-year concert all help students experience life without phones.  

“By establishing communities of people journeying together toward a more human, free lifestyle, we can inspire and embolden young people and families to live more human and free lives, engaging with reality and creation that God himself declared good,” Hope told CNA. 

Humanality also helps students build a “digital plan of life” for the final meeting of the school year, giving students a framework for how they’ll interact with technology once they leave college. 

In addition to clubs, Humanality has a variety of ways to reach students and help them build a healthy relationship with technology. 

A Humanality club member at Franciscan University. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
A Humanality club member at Franciscan University. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

At a seminary in Denver, the organization provided 14 seminarians with light phones — Kindle-esque phones that are solely functional, with no social media or bright colors — as well as analog alarm clocks and GPS for their cars.

“I really think humanality is a way of life, and we’re going to be helping people heal in many different ways,” Laubacher said. “But it’s really discovering, ‘What does it mean to be human and how do we really flourish?’”

Humanality is for humans

Humanality is for all — religious or not, Laubacher said. While secular colleges have reached out to Humanality, the organization’s next steps include going to high schools and K–8 schools to help the next generation achieve a healthy relationship with technology.

The group is also developing “Family Chapters” to pilot in 2024. Hope Schneir told CNA that the chapters will be designed to help families “meet and journey together toward a more tech-lite lifestyle.”

“I think people in our clubs … they’re going to create some of the greatest new novels, the greatest new art, the greatest new songs, be the best … as lawyers, physicians, teachers … because ... they have certain gifts and interests that they didn’t [realize],” Justin Schneir said. “Before, when they were on all these platforms every waking moment, [they] just turn[ed] to the device to scroll. [Now] they’re learning guitar, or they’re learning how to cook new meals, and they’re having in-person interaction that’s just radically transforming their day-to-day.”

Members of the Humanality Club enjoy a concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
Members of the Humanality Club enjoy a concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

Laubacher noted that Humanality doesn’t mean cutting out all technology. It’s more like making a financial plan to “invest” your time wisely and intentionally. 

“There’s always going to be the internet; there’s no point anytime soon I foresee these companies making these devices any less addictive,” he said. “There’s always going to be addiction and people needing to get out of addiction with technology and know how to use it with intention.”

Though Humanality can be applied to anyone, its founders take inspiration from Catholic anthropology.

“We’re all living out liturgies throughout our day,” Laubacher explained. “We wake up, we check the phone. We go to the bathroom, we check the phone. We’re at a stop light, we check the phone. Go to sleep, we check the phone,” 

“[Humanality is about] creating new rituals and new liturgies in our day that are more human [that] are really going to help our mental well-being, our spiritual well-being,” he continued. 

“God has given us this gift of time,” he concluded. “And I’d say most of us are wasting these little moments and time through these different platforms and devices, when time is sacred and how we use it really matters.”

Group of religious sisters surprised to be walking the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage 

Four religious sisters of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love joined “EWTN News In Depth” on May 24, 2024, to discuss their experience thus far on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. / Credit: EWTN News In Depth/Screenshot

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is beginning its third week, bringing Catholics from across the United States together through Eucharistic processions across the country. 

One special group who joined the pilgrims on the Elizabeth Ann Seton Route, the route that began in the Northeast, is made up of four religious sisters from the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love.

The group of sisters joined “EWTN News In Depth” on May 24 to share how they became involved in the pilgrimage and their experience so far.

When the Eucharistic Revival first began, the sisters were asked by their bishop to be the point people for the diocese. They went on to organize the diocesan Eucharistic Revival and during this past year have been giving parish retreats on the Eucharist every second Saturday of the month. 

Mother Mary Maximilian of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love told “EWTN News In Depth” host and EWTN News President and COO Montse Alvarado that being a part of the Eucharistic Revival has been “such a blessing for our community.”

After the sisters heard about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, they immediately felt drawn to participate as “Perpetual Pilgrims” — individuals selected to walk the pilgrimage together for the entire route. However, after reaching out to the National Eucharistic Congress they were told this was only for youth.

“We accepted that,” Sister Maximilian said. “As much as my heart is 18, my body is not.”

Then, Father Roger Landry — who is leading the Elizabeth Ann Seton Route — gave a Lenten mission at the sisters’ parish and had dinner with some of the sisters. Sister Maximilian explained that Landry brought up the pilgrimage and the sisters shared their desire to take part. He said he would welcome the community of sisters to join them but the following morning explained that they would need to have their own support vehicle. Two hours later, the sisters received a donation to help pay for walking shoes, and at 3 p.m. the same day they received a truck, trailer, and driver.

The sisters are now sleeping in a 30-foot Airstream camper trailer as they travel the Seton Route through many states on their way to Indianapolis, the final destination where all four pilgrimage routes will converge at the Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17–21.

“Camper life is a very interesting experience,” Sister Maximilian said jokingly. She shared that the entire experience has been “extraordinary — the outpouring of love that every faith community that we went to had to welcome the Lord Jesus.”

The Haitian community is one that especially stood out to the sisters during their many stops on the pilgrimage. Sister Maximilian described that instead of making the sign of the cross during Benediction, the Haitians they met opened their arms “to receive the blessing of the Lord.” 

The religious sister also praised the Perpetual Pilgrims and how they’ve come together as a team so quickly.

“They’ve come together so beautifully, and they all jump out of the van just before Jesus comes and they kneel down so everybody knows that the king is coming,” she said, adding: “And they’re leading praise and worship during all the walks and carrying heavy speakers, and it’s just beautiful to watch them.”

For Sister Maximilian, the experience thus far has been “an amazing opportunity to express gratitude for the love that the Lord wants to pour out.”

“He wants to walk through this nation. He wants to bless his people. He wants to heal his people. He says, ‘When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.’ He wants to draw them to himself and we’re watching that happen.”

So far, the sisters have journeyed through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. On June 8 they were in Washington, D.C.  

The entire segment of the “EWTN News In Depth” interview with the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage can be viewed below.

Dutch bishop: Fiducia Supplicans too much ‘in tune with zeitgeist’

Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands. / Credit: Danny Gerrits/wikiportret.nl via Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

CNA Newsroom, Jun 7, 2024 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Auxiliary Bishop Rob Mutsaerts of the Netherlands warned: “Peace at the expense of morality and truth” is a “most merciless peace imaginable.”

Bishops in Scotland react to new data showing majority of Scots have ‘no religion’

Edinburgh city center, Scotland. / Credit: Shutterstock

London, England, Jun 7, 2024 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Scotland have said that new data indicating that the majority of Scots have no religion comes as no surprise.

Bishop exhorts Catholics to ‘build a better Europe’ in EU elections on Sunday

Bishop Mariano Crociata meets with Pope Francis on March 23, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 7, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

In his exhortation, Bishop Mariano Crociata called on voters to exercise their obligation as citizens “responsibly, choosing candidates and parties.”

UK Catholic bishop urges Catholics to consider end-of-life issues before general election

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England. / Credit: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

London, England, Jun 7, 2024 / 13:27 pm (CNA).

Bishop Mark Davies of the Shrewsbury Diocese has issued a letter urging Catholics to consider candidates’ positions on euthanasia and assisted suicide.