Father Rob Clements got some interesting comments when he started leading Eucharistic processions at one of his parish assignments in the 1990s.

“You’re a throwback.”

“This isn’t the 1950s.”

“It just feels like we’re going backwards,” one mom of altar boys told him.

But when he became the chaplain at Arizona State University in 2011, he could see a gap in the students’ spiritual life, for which a remedy was needed.

“When I got here, it was a glaring need, because, really, I just think there was a distance in familiarity with Eucharistic adoration,” Father Clements told the Register….

Arizona State is one of several secular colleges in the United States that have implemented periodic Eucharistic processions in recent years. The list includes Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Illinois, the University of Alabama and Texas A&M, among others.

At Arizona State, Eucharistic processions take place on the Solemnity of Christ the King in November and on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the spring. (Other processions take place on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September and on Palm Sunday….)

There are three types of reactions, said Ben Power, a senior who has participated in them.

One is spontaneous reverence. Some people join in. Father Clements said he has seen people get out of their cars at a stoplight and kneel on the pavement.

Another is negative. Two years ago, an atheist engineering student told the people assembled near an altar outside the engineering dorm that their God is not real, but only a man-made concoction, Power said. Father Clements said a couple of years ago a woman started shouting obscenities. The students started saying the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and she took off.

The third type is somewhere in between.

“Intrigue is probably the most common reaction,” Power said. “People cock their heads. They’re kind of mystified by it, in an interesting way, because it’s different from anything they’ve ever seen in their life….”

St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M has held Eucharistic processions in October 2021 and in the fall of 2022 and plans to hold another during Easter Week in 2024.

About 700 to 800 students participated in the previous two, said Father Will Straten, the pastor….

While most participants prayed the Rosary, about 30 students and staff walked in front, handing out fliers to onlookers on campus, explaining what a Eucharistic procession is and inviting them to join. At the halfway point, at the plaza in front of Memorial Student Center, participants kneeled, sang three hymns, stayed silent for five minutes, and then processed back to St. Mary’s, he said.

Columbia University’s Catholic chaplaincy started holding Eucharistic processions on the Solemnities of Christ the King and Corpus Christi last school year. They begin after Sunday Mass at the Church of Notre Dame, which is at the corner of Morningside Drive and West 114th Street in upper Manhattan in New York City, and continue along public streets and into the heart of the campus, known as College Walk.

The idea of holding a Eucharistic procession on campus at first concerned Karina Magnus, a Catholic student there, who sought reassurance from the chaplain, Father Roger Landry.

She went ahead and participated, taking pictures during the first one and walking in the second. She was surprised by the reaction from onlookers, who saw several dozen people walking with a priest wearing vestments under a canopy holding a bronze monstrance bearing a consecrated Host exposed behind transparent glass and singing hymns.

“Such a secular university, we expected a little bit of backlash. I don’t think we really got that,” Magnus, 21, a senior and biochemistry major, told the Register….

Magnus said the processions were important moments in her spiritual life. She is discerning whether to start a doctoral program in biochemistry or to become a campus missionary through Fellowship of Catholic University Students (known as FOCUS) after graduation.

From the National Catholic Register