New Brighton pastor tours seven parks bearing the Eucharist

| April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

Mary Ann Louie, left, of St. Paul in Ham Lake, kneels with her husband, Jason, and their five children during a blessing at Perry Park in Arden Hills March 27 by Father Paul Shovelain, right, of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton. Father Shovelain prayed at the park and walked through the parking lot with the Eucharist to bless everyone who came. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Father Paul Shovelain of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton knew parishioners couldn’t come to the church for Eucharist because of restrictions to curb spread of the coronavirus. So, he brought the Eucharist to them.

Starting with Perry Park in Arden Hills, he spent most of March 27, the last day before Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, driving his new blue pickup truck to seven parks near the church and setting up the Eucharist in a monstrance in the parking lot of each one.

Dozens of cars showed up. Most people stayed in their vehicles, but some got and knelt on the pavement. Those from St. John’s and other parishes in the area practiced social distancing while soaking in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“The point is to ask Jesus for his blessing and protection upon us in this time,” said Father Shovelain, the parochial administrator of the parish. “I want to make sure parishioners feel that they’re loved and cared for — going out to them versus expecting them to come to us, although they do have to drive to the park. It’s kind of like a Corpus Christi procession, and an opportunity to live out our mission statement, which is bearing witness to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life.”

He spent about half an hour at each place. The visits began with the Litany in Time of Need. Father Shovelain also stopped in front of each car to bless the occupants. As he drove away, people waved palm branches.

People who drove to the parks expressed joy and appreciation for the opportunity to have some connection to the Mass and to the Church during an unprecedented time of church doors staying closed across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“For me, it was very touching to be in the presence of our Lord,” said Mary Ann Louie of St. Paul in Ham Lake, who came with her husband, Jason, and their five children. “It’s amazing to be able to come together as a community and be here putting our faith and our trust in God, where it always should be.”

One couple, parishioners Joyce, 87, and Dan Kuechenmeister, 89, parishioners for more than 40 years, did not hesitate to come to Perry Park. Joyce said they “stayed (a safe distance) away from everybody,” though they did get out of their car at the end to wave to Father Shovelain as he drove off.

The second of seven scheduled stops was Silverwood Park in St. Anthony. At least a dozen people, young and old, got out to kneel. One couple, Mike and Kristin Towle, brought all of their children, including a daughter on crutches because of a sprained ankle. They watched Father Kevin Magner, parochial vicar of St. John the Baptist, process around the parking lot with the Eucharist. They got out of their vehicle and stood together as a family.

“To be able to experience something like this, in nature, I think is special,” said Mike, who noted that the family regularly visits Silverwood Park.

“It was so amazing,” Kristin said. “I kept tearing up because I was just so grateful that the priests and deacon and the other helpers brought our Lord to us out here. It was amazing to see the other faithful here as well, and also to see people walking by and looking over and wondering what’s going on. I hope they were evangelized by seeing the Catholics come out and adore our Lord out here.”

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