Friday, March 20th, 2020
Cars cram St. Joseph church lot for procession
By Leslie Gartrell
The Rev. Alexander Witt of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Coldwater, walks around. . .
ST. JOSEPH - People in more than 200 cars crammed into St. Joseph Catholic Church's parking lot to see the Eucharistic procession in honor of the Feast of St. Joseph on Thursday evening.
The procession was a way to ask St. Joseph, protector of families and homes, to intervene and protect local homesteads during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cars were packed into the church parking lot and lines overflowed bumper-to-bumper into the streets. Congregants remained safely in their vehicles as the Rev. Ned Brown, the Rev. Christian Cone-Lombarte and Deacon Dan Kahlig of the Fort Recovery Catholic Cluster and the Rev. Alexander Witt of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Coldwater, prayed and walked among the attendees, blessing congregants' bells and rosaries. Brown, Kahlig and Witt then led a procession around the church seven times.
Brown said the idea for a procession came to him Tuesday night after Carl Koesters, a member of Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church, told Brown he was upset that worship and fellowship had come to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Koesters said in the early 1980s, when his employer, J&M Manufacturing of Fort Recovery, was struggling, employees drove around the building seven times every day for a week to bring in more orders. The Lord eventually provided, Koesters said.
Brown said he was inspired by the story, and after planning the procession on Wednesday, it came to fruition on Thursday evening and people arrived in about 215 vehicles.
The idea comes from the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6:1-27, where the Israelites marched around Jericho in procession with the Ark of the Covenant once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Having asked for God's help in this way, the walls of Jericho fell and the Israelites were victorious.
Cone-Lombarte prayed from inside the church through a broadcast attendees could pick up on their car radios. Congregants also brought small family bells and rosaries for a blessing.
"The church touches all the senses, so when you touch a beautiful object you know the blessings are there," Brown said in a YouTube video for the event. "The blessings are also in the senses of your hearing, so when you hear the bell we can use this as something to keep us in touch with one another."
The Solemnity of St. Joseph is one of the highest feast days in the Catholic Church, Brown said. It seemed fitting to hold the procession the same day, he added, noting other churches have offered similar services.
Brown said he understands people may miss worship and fellowship when churches suspend services and activities. He suggested families could treat their home like a miniature domestic church and have statues of the holy family, crucifixes, pictures and more to remind them of their Lord.
"You make it personal," he said.
He encouraged congregants to take advantage of having time as a family together by having family dinners, putting away electronics for an hour to play board games and get to know themselves.
"Remember that we're Christians, so we need to act like it," he added.
At the end of the procession, Brown called on the congregants to honk their horns to drive out demons as the Israelites did in Jericho. More than 200 car horns rang out, honking away until Brown ended the noise-making and thanked congregants for coming.
See our online photo album of the procession