Parish festivals to return

Fesival goers enjoy the entertainment at St. John the Bapist in Plum in 2019, part of the OPV grouping at the time.

After parish festivals were suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic, pastors have gotten the go ahead to plan celebrations this summer. All events will be consistent with PA Department of Health and county COVID safety guidelines.

“When I announced the news last weekend at Mass, one young girl shouted, ‘Yay!’” said Father Terry O’Connor, pastor of Mary, Mother of God Parish. “Everyone laughed. We’re excited. People are really looking forward to it.”

The parish’s festival, to be held on the grounds of St. Angela Merici Church in White Oak, is scheduled for July 8-10.

Holy Family Parish in Oakmont/Plum/Verona has slated its festival for July 14-17 at the Saint John the Baptist Church site. Dinner and entertainment will be held nightly, and highlights include a Mass with polka music. “People are hungry for a community connection,” said Father Kevin Poecking, the pastor. “The festival goes way beyond fundraising.”

Two festivals are planned for Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish, according to Father Dan Sweeney, the pastor. The first will be May 19-22 at Saint Agnes in West Mifflin, and the second on Aug. 4-7 at Saint Therese of Lisieux in Munhall. Organizers are bringing back rides for the kids, food booths, nightly dinners and will close with fireworks.

“Seniors have gotten their shots and are ready to come out,” Father Sweeney said.

When Holy Spirit Parish festival chairman Bo DeCarbo first heard that festivals were coming back, he was “ecstatic,” he said.

“We missed the comradery with the volunteers and visitors,” he added. “We would like to have a full festival. Our homemade food is a big attraction.”

Holy Spirit’s parish festival is scheduled for Aug. 4-7 at the Saint Vitus Church site in New Castle.

Father Mark Eckman, pastor of Resurrection Parish in Bethel Park/Upper Saint Clair, said weekly planning meetings are underway for a parish festival June 21-26. There will be games, food booths, nightly entertainment, eat-in dinners Tues.-Thurs.-Sat., and a cash raffle, with a polka Mass and musical entertainment on the 26th.

“Parishioners missed seeing each other last year,” he said.

Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish will hold three events for each of its three churches, said Father Kevin Dominik, the pastor. Food and entertainment are planned on the grounds of Saint Damien Park in Monongahela; a Festival of Nations will be held in Charleroi; and a parish picnic is set for Donora. Dates will be announced.

A parish picnic at Fairhaven Park in Kennedy Township is planned for Archangel Gabriel Parish on Sun. July 11, said Jacob Williamson, director of engagement. Young people from the prior week’s Vacation Bible School will sing. Hours have yet to be finalized.

Other parish leaders are still considering plans for summer celebrations. Father Phil Farrell, administrator of the grouping that includes Saint Ferdinand, Saint Gregory and Holy Redeemer parishes in Butler and Lawrence counties, said some older volunteers still have health and safety concerns, including those who have been vaccinated.

While many people are excited about how parish festivals represent another step towards normalcy, parishes will be proceeding with caution, keeping health and safety a priority.

Diocesan directives strongly recommend that most festival activities be held outdoors, with social distancing and mask-wearing protocols required. Leaders will remain vigilant and to be prepared to modify their safety practices as needed. County and state public health directives are closely monitored so that parish festivals will be in compliance.

The Pittsburgh Catholic will be posting its annual Parish Festival Guide next month.