PAYING IT FORWARD: Continuing the trend started by the Saint Rita Street Fair, the Saint John-Immaculate Conception Festival is "paying it forward." Recognizing that we aren't here just for our-selves, that we have a responsibility to the community beyond us, the Festival has donated $2,000 (a grand from each parish's profit) to worthy community causes. Wesley Health Center and Connellsville Area Community Ministries each received five hundred dollars. A Saint Aloysius family who lost their home in a fire this summer received one thousand dollars.
I am extremely proud of the willingness of our parish leaders to share the blessings garnered through their "blood, sweat, and tears." Our fallen human nature would meticulously argue as to WHY it is only fair to keep it ALL FOR OURSELVES; however, anyone familiar with the teachings of the dude who gave His name to our faith realizes that we are called to so much MORE. The generosity of BOTH of our faith community's FABULOUS FESTIVALS is definitely a step in the right direction! Idealist that I am, I hope this is but a FIRST step. Eventually I'd love to see us follow the example of those parishes who have truly embraced the biblical mandate to TITHE; not only do the parishioners tithe to the parish but the parish itself in turn tithes to the community and other worthy causes. THAT, my brothers and sisters, is what a FULLY CHRISTIAN community looks like!
OKTOBERFEST: Things were NOT looking good. Both Thursday and Friday saw high humidity and a thermometer reaching into the upper 80s. But then the front passed through the area (with high winds and heavy rains in some places) Friday night and Saturday turned out to be a PERFECT Fall day. PERFECT day for an Oktoberfest! And PERFECT it was! A truly great kickoff to Immaculate Conception's sesquicentennial celebration.
A THOUSAND thanks to the hardworking members of the sesquicentennial committee who made this hap-pen! I was thrilled to see (read: EAT) all the great ethnic food. I was inspired to witness all the men and women joyfully "slaving away" in the kitchen. I was delighted to hear Fr. Dennis Bogusz spinning his beloved Polka platters. I was awed to see some Saint John parishioners leading a hand. But above all I was BEDAZZLED to glimpse Fr. Dan (now that he is the ONLY Dan one we can dispense with the "1.0" nonsense!) decked out in his authentic German ensemble. My ONLY disappointment was that he was NOT wearing lederhosen! Okay, I'm just jealous that I don't have an authentic Bavarian outfit. ESPECIALLY since I am 3/16 Bayer myself and I bet Fr. Dan hasn't a single DROP of Bayerisches Blut!
"SAINT JOHN PARISHIONERS LENDING A HAND." It WAS truly heartwarming to see some parishioners of Saint John helping out with Immaculate Conception's function on Saturday. Obviously the fruit of the two parishes working so closely together these past five years for their combined summer festival. The cockles of my heart were truly WARMED!
Unfortunately even whilst the cockles were being warmed they were being doused with ice water. There was frustration that more IC parishioners didn't get involved. And I am told that this is not a new phenomenon; it appears that for years now there has been a real struggle to get volunteers for parish functions. Yes, we have a VERY devoted core of people, but that core is aging, and as a result shrinking. The very building used for the Oktoberfest was the result of hours and hours of hard work by the men of the Holy Name Society, as was the work of "digging out" more space in the social hall. But those men have grown older (some have gone on to their eternal reward) and none have taken their place. The same dynamic plays out with the Christian Mothers. Both organizations were once dynamos of activity of the parish, but the years have taken their toll. NOT that one needs to belong to a parish organization to "help out;" I here just recognize the significant role these two organizations played in the life of the parish, especially in the last decades of the 20th century.
When I compare the three Connellsville parishes (I haven't had enough time to gauge Saint Aloysius) it is QUITE clear that, at present at least, there is a higher level of volunteer involvement at Saint Rita and Saint John than at IC. I am not completely sure as to the "why" of that reality. Perhaps there is just a greater sense of complacency; as the largest parish, as the oldest parish, as the territorial parish parishioners may just not feel the need to work for the survival of their parish as the parishioners of the other parishes obviously feel. There may be a sense that "we'll always be here" whereas Saint Rita and Saint John parishioners are keenly aware of a different reality. Whatever the case may be I hope that as we prepare to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Connellsville's first Catholic community a renewed spirit of volunteerism will take root and spread like wildfire!
COVER PHOTO: A beautiful waterlily, shot during my recent holiday in Happy Valley. The H. O. Smith Botanical Gardens at the Penn State Arboretum are a fan-tastic place to witness the colourful beauty of God's magnificent creation! If you’re ever in the State College area I highly recommend a visit. And to make it even sweeter - it's FREE!
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