Feeding the hunger: Praise festival going on the road

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - Updated: 3:34 pm

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

The popular Festival of Praise is hitting the road.

A celebration of song, adoration, prayer and powerful witness held one Saturday evening monthly for the past three years at Holy Apostles Parish in South Pittsburgh, the Festival of Praise soon will travel to different churches across the diocese.

“This is where God is leading us,” said Father Levi Hartle, co-leader of the festival and parochial vicar at Holy Apostles. “There’s a real hunger for praise and unity, and we want everyone to experience it.”

The Festival of Praise will be at Epiphany Parish in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood on Saturday, Dec. 7, and at St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Parish in Whitehall on Saturday, Jan. 11. Both events will take place from 7-9 p.m. The festival is scheduled to return to Holy Apostles Parish quarterly.

“I really believe the Lord intended this from the beginning,” said Joe Jacobs, co-leader and bass player in the praise band. “I really don’t have a preference where we play, as long as we’re doing God’s will.”

The joyous gathering draws hundreds of parishioners, members of neighboring parishes and even some non-Catholics. Rich in motivational worship music, it is easy to follow and sing. There is an inspirational talk, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and a Eucharistic procession.

“I had never been to a Festival of Praise until my sister invited me,” said Donna Yantz-Lease. “I was blown away. I felt like my heart had been closed and was unlocked that night. It’s changed my life.”

Yantz-Lease gave the witness talk at the Nov. 9 event at Holy Apostles.

“The Festival of Praise is for everyone who has ears to hear, mouths to praise and hearts to love,” she said.

“It was through the Festival of Praise that I finally came to know that I am his beloved,” said Chrissie Yeschke of St. Catherine of Sweden Parish in Hampton Township.

Beverly Lankes, who serves on the leadership team, is excited to be traveling to new places.

“We know that other parishes are ready for it,” she said. “They’ve expressed interest and people have been attending from other parishes. You only need a few people to spark the fire of the Holy Spirit.

“The people who attend the festival, you see them understanding what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus and to walk with him,” Lankes said.

Father Hartle, the band and volunteers have played at other churches in recent years, visiting St. Michael the Archangel in Butler, SS. John and Paul in Franklin Park/Marshall Township, St. John Fisher in Churchill and St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

“Praise causes you to engage with the person of Christ,” Jacobs said. “While on earth he lived with us, laughed with us, cried with us.”

“When we praise God, we’re saying, ‘I love you, too,’” Father Hartle said. “He always says, ‘I love you,’ first.”

A new movement called Praise Nation has grown from the Festival of Praise. Its mission is “to live fully alive with hearts of praise, renewed and united under God.”

“If we focus on unity, we won’t get it,” Father Hartle said. “If we focus on Jesus, we’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with our hearts wide open and our minds fixed on him.”

Learn more on Facebook at PraiseNationPGH or e-mail praisenationpgh@gmail.com.

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