Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Blessed Fest

Sr. Jerome, Br. Peter, and I welcome you!
Had it been a weekday, August 5 would have been the memorial of Our Lady of the Snows. You would have never known it, though, in Staten Island, with temperatures in the 90’s and the threat of severe thunderstorms hanging over the day. Still, this was no problem for the second annual St. Paul Friends & Family Fest, held on the grounds of the Society of St. Paul, as long as the downpour held out until our guests were home safe and we all had finished cleaning up. God was very considerate that way, even giving us a little time for a very modest after-party around a picnic table. Work done, many of the crew and planning team chatted about the Fest over a glass of whatever before the wild winds and sheets of rain drove us home. Like last August’s event, this year’s Fest was blessed.

The blessings weren’t limited to the weather, though. Despite the dramatic drop in attendance—half of last year’s (due to heat and storms?)—those who came enjoyed themselves. Of course, their chances at the raffle baskets increased! Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 New York, Staten Island, bikers in a humanitarian organization that mainly supports U.S. vets, couldn’t have been more kind or more skilled with the barbecue tongs. Manhattan Fruit Exchange had lavished produce on us, so nothing was lacking. Thanks to the generosity of the United Staten Island Veterans Association, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and 28 other businesses and organizations, expenses were pared down, raffle baskets overflowed, games and crafts entertained the kids, and music kept things lively. Even “New York’s Bravest” rolled into the parking lot and offered tours of one of their fire engines.

All told, the Pauline Family—priests, brothers, sisters, and Pauline laity—hosted about a hundred people, including a number of our own members. The purpose of the event is to re-introduce Staten Islanders to the Pauline communities and their mission of evangelization within and through the media, help people to consider a vocation in this Family, whether as religious or laity, to share faith and hope in joy with our guests regardless of religious affiliation, and if possible raise some funds for a common project—all while having a good time with family and friends. So it makes sense we would
begin with Mass together with those who want to pray with us, and then turn the celebration outdoors.
Fest Team and Rolling Thunder serve it up.

Proceeds last year went toward the production of the film on Blessed James Alberione, our founder. This year and next, we’re using funds for a joint crossmedia vocation project that all branches of the Pauline Family will be included in crafting and will be able to use in raising awareness about themselves and their mission in the Church. Next year, since the film will be ready, we intend to show it throughout the afternoon and set up hands-on exhibits about Fr. Alberione and the branches of the Family he founded. With her background in project management, local team member Patricia Reilly will coordinate the team’s preparation, formulating a plan, following up on details, and serving as a local (and ready) point of reference for questions and concerns. I’m grateful; It’s almost impossible to do that effectively from 200 miles away!

The morning of the Fest, as I was preparing for the day at the Society of St. Paul’s grounds, a woman, a lifelong Buddhist who often visits the adoration chapel at the SSP, dropped by. We fell to talking, and she said that her husband had died fourteen years ago. Four years later, she discovered the chapel. She confided, “I feel my body being drawn here.” That sounded like God to me. So I ventured, “Take this as an invitation: If you ever feel like learning more about the Catholic Church, you’d be welcome.” She had attended Catholic school as a child and lamented that her girls had never met a sister. “Well,” I answered, “you can take care of that this afternoon.” I invited her to the Fest, and she did come with her daughters and her 17-year-old’s friend. Who knows where this will go?

Kate, who’s probably no more than six, didn’t initially understand the raffle concept. But she was a woman who knew her own mind. She wanted the eight English teacups and saucers with puppies on them. She didn’t care that they came with a coffee and tea basket and she didn’t grasp that just putting her ticket in the bag in front of it didn’t automatically entitle her to the goods. Once she got it, though, she returned again and again to find out when her name would be called. I wondered what would happen to her if someone else had lucked out instead. I didn’t have to worry. When her ticket was pulled (fair and square), she almost somersaulted to claim her prize. I imagine we haven’t seen the last of Kate.

To beat the heat, we’ve changed the date for future Fests to late September or early October. This way we can do more to involve the Catholic schools, too. Seven terrific seniors from St. Peter’s High School spent a few service hours on Sunday working with the Fest Team. There’s potential there either for ministry or total vocational commitment.

Don't miss the slideshow at right!

If you would like to be invited to next year’s event you can e-mail me at If you would like to donate toward the vocation project, you can make a check to the Society of St. Paul and send it to my attention:
Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP
50 St. Paul’s Ave. Boston, MA  02130.

See you next year!

Photo credits: James Haynes III, John Nappi, Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP

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