By Paula Katinas
ASTORIA — The first Mass held at what was then the newly established Parish of Most Precious Blood took place on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1922. One hundred years later, Bishop Robert Brennan came to the Astoria parish to celebrate the feast and to remind the faithful of the importance of recognizing Jesus Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
The Feast of Corpus Christi 2022, which took place on Sunday, June 19, came at a time when large numbers of U.S. Catholics — nearly two-thirds, according to one national poll — do not believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist but instead, think the bread and wine distributed at Mass are only symbols and nothing more.
Bishop Brennan is seeking to correct that misunderstanding and to help wavering Catholics return to the faith. In his view, it starts with accepting the reality of the Eucharist.
“Encountering Jesus is what it is to be in this church,” he said. “The Eucharist is the heart and soul of it all.”
Earlier, Bishop Brennan told The Tablet that Jesus isn’t a figure from the distant past but is very much present in today’s world. “The Lord Jesus is alive and walks among us today,” he said. “Through the Eucharist, he accomplishes for us exactly what he did for the crowd in the Gospel. He teaches us about the Kingdom of God. He heals us and he feeds us.”
The Mass, which concluded with a procession through the streets of Astoria in which Bishop Brennan carried the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance, also celebrated the parish’s centennial. In a tribute to the multicultural community the parish serves, the hymns and readings were conducted in English, Spanish, Croatian and Tagalog.
Many people sitting in the pews on Sunday said they were proud of their vibrant parish.
Maria Bueso, who has been attending Mass at Most Precious Blood for 50 years, half the parish’s existence, described it as a “wonderful community of faith” where everyone is made to feel at home. She credited Father Vedran Kirincic, the parish administrator, with fostering a positive atmosphere.
“I’ve been coming to church here since 1968, when I came to America from Cuba. It is a privilege to come here,” said Victoria Ferrera.
Ferrera added that she is saddened by the lack of understanding on the part of many Catholics about the true nature of the Eucharist. “But I think little by little, if we teach people and we continue to do so, they will come around,” she said.