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Nearly 500 faithful from the Arvada area came to adore and process with the Eucharistic Lord as the parish hosted the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, making its way through the Archdiocese of Denver. (Photo by André Escaleira, Jr.)

Seconds after Jesus and his Perpetual Pilgrims loaded into their van and departed for the Eucharistic Lord’s next stop, the Arvada skies opened Friday.

The rain seemed reminiscent of the community’s own baptisms, through which each beloved son and daughter of Christ were born anew. In like manner, the providential visit of the Lord Jesus, present in the Eucharist, marked a profound moment of life in St. Joan of Arc Parish’s history.

The parish was an unlikely host, Father Nathan Goebel, pastor of St. Joan of Arc in Arvada said. A providential phone call months ago, received in joy, would bring nearly 500 people to encounter the Lord.

“We have no idea how we got chosen or why we got chosen. We were just chosen, and were excited for it,” Father Goebel said, remembering that initial call.

“One of the reasons why I think that our parish was identified as a potential stop is we’ve had an adoration chapel for 30 years,” Father Goebel continued.

Since Pope St. John Paul II’s transformative visit to Denver in 1993, a devoted group of St. Joan of Arc parishioners have been coming together 24 hours a day for the last 30 years in prayer and worship of the Eucharistic Lord.

“So you already have a community that’s just hope-filled and desirous for the Lord to come,” Father Goebel said.

From that first phone call, the devoted, hope-filled parish mobilized, preparing themselves and their community for the Eucharistic Lord’s visit on his way to Indianapolis.

Despite several logistical hiccups Friday morning, the Perpetual Pilgrims arrived at St. Joan of Arc with Jesus and were greeted by an enthusiastic catholic (that is, universal) community.

“To me, to see so many of the faithful, not just from our parish, but throughout the States and our different dioceses come together to give reverence and praise to God shows the catholicity of our faith,” Father Goebel told the Denver Catholic, reflecting on all those who joined the procession. Alongside St. Joan of Arc parishioners were faithful from other parishes, visitors and people not as engaged with their faith. Individuals of many different racial and ethnic backgrounds, ages and abilities were present, coming together in prayer and worship of the One Lord.

“It was just such a gift to be able to see all of them processing behind Jesus, who was leading them on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart,” Father Goebel continued.

The universality, or catholicity, of the faith indeed was on full display at St. Joan of Arc’s Eucharistic procession.

For Faith Brake, a former Annunciation Heights missionary who happened to be visiting Denver during the pilgrimage, it was that demonstration of the Church’s unity that was most moving.

“I have been overwhelmed by a reminder of the universality of our faith, and that it’s not just me out here journeying with Jesus, but the church is alive and on fire,” Brake told the Denver Catholic. “The spirit was tangible in there. I’m definitely feeling refueled.”

“This honestly felt like a little taste of Heaven, to be reminded that we are pilgrims on earth in a very tangible way” Kat Hurd, another former Annunciation Heights missionary and visitor to St. Joan of Arc, shared. “It was cool, but mostly to be reminded of that in a crowd of a lot of people, children and elderly people and everyone that was walking. It was cool to be among them.”

“I’m just amazed and overwhelmed by joy,” shared Joe Trujillo, the parish’s coordinator of high school youth ministry. “Seeing everybody’s joy here and their willingness to be here with Jesus is totally life-giving and a reminder that the Church is very much alive.”

Coupling the Eucharistic procession as a testament to the Church’s life was a lunch presentation on the life of Servant of God Michelle Duppong, who was baptized at St. Joan of Arc.

The former FOCUS missionary whose cause for sainthood is now open is most known for her simple, daily, joyful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite her battle with cancer, Servant of God Michelle Duppong remained rooted in her faith, the joy of Christ and the hope of eternal life. From that place of faith-filled surrender, she was able to share the love of Christ with all those she met, shared Ashley, who was in discipleship with Servant of God Michelle Duppong while attending the University of Nebraska.

“It was especially in her suffering and in her death that she showed the fullness of joy, what it meant to live by joy,”. “It looked different, of course, but she showed that joy in her patience and perseverance. Even as she was dying of cancer, she was ministering to others through this joy and peace.”

For Duppong, that profound, confounding joy came from one place: her identity as a beloved daughter of God.

“That joy came first and foremost from Michelle’s absolute security in who she is,” Ashley continued. “She knew fully and deeply that she was a beloved daughter of God. That knowledge of who she was gave her freedom to show joy. Because she was able to receive that love from God, she was able to share it with others. Sharing the love of God wasn’t just something she did, but it is who she was.”

“For us, as a parish, we’re growing in our love for Jesus as she had a love for Jesus,” Father Goebel shared. “We’re seeing our parishioners get into the connection with Michelle. And it’s beautiful to see that other people are realizing that the faith is born from the parish, from that baptismal font. The faith is imparted through Christ, through the ministry of the priest, and it extends throughout the church.”

“Our people were ready and eager to receive him. There’s such joy in a father when your children are already doing what they are supposed to be doing without you even telling them. Their reverence; their joy; they knew all the songs; they withstood the heat. We’re just really grateful,” Father Goebel told the Denver Catholic.

Even the Arvada skies could not hold back their tears of joy for having welcomed the Eucharistic Lord to their community.

Having encountered the Lord in the Eucharist, and having met one of his beloved daughters in Servant of God Michelle Duppong, the community had a front-row seat to the Kingdom of Heaven.

“The Communion of Saints isn’t so far away,” Father Goebel shared. “The Church and Jesus’ heart are one.”


For more information on upcoming events with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in the Archdiocese of Denver, click here.

To see more of the latest news, updates and photos from the Pilgrimage, click here.

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This story was updated on June 7th, 2024. Originally published in the Denver Catholic.