‘Diocesan Family Festival’ Draws Approximately 700 to Day of Faith and Fun

Processing into the Diocesan Family Festival Mass Sept. 24 at SteelStacks, Bethlehem are, from left, Bishop Alfred Schlert, Msgr. Victor Finelli, Msgr. David James, Father Allen Hoffa and Deacon John Hutta (Photo by John Simitz)

By TAMI QUIGLEY, Staff Writer

The summery sun beamed down on the Christmas City the first weekend of autumn as Catholics gathered for the Diocesan Family Festival Sept. 24 at Bethlehem SteelStacks for a day of faith, fellowship and fun.

An estimated 700 people attended the opening liturgy.

“Family springs from the divine sacrament of marriage. We all have a role to play to enrich the family,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert, who opened the event as principal celebrant of an 11 a.m. outdoor multicultural Mass on a day when temperatures soared into the 90s.

“The family is the building block of the Church, the nucleus. Everyone in the Church has a job to do in the divine plan.”

An image of Our Lady of Fatima was placed on the altar, and a rosary procession followed the liturgy.

The fun-filled day for the whole family continued at the festival until 4 p.m.

“The weather was hot, but it turned out to be another beautiful sunny day for the Diocesan Family Festival,” said Mary Fran Hartigan, secretary of the Diocesan Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization.

“It was great to see the diversity of ages present with many families attending with young children. Once again we opened the day with a Mass celebrated by our Bishop and a rosary procession in honor of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. It was beautiful and awe-inspiring – a great start to be able to worship and pray with so many of our Diocesan families.

“Though it was hot, it was a fun-filled day with great music and a delicious selection of foods that our parishes provided. A real sense of community was in the air.”

This marks the third year the Diocese hosted the festival at SteelStacks. It began with the Papal Viewing Mass when Pope Francis visited the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015.

Msgr. David James, Diocesan vicar general, concelebrated the liturgy.

Msgr. Victor Finelli was episcopal master of ceremonies. Deacon John Hutta, a transitional deacon, assisted.

A combined choir – the Diocesan Choir and the Cathedral Choir of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, directed by Beverly McDevitt, director of music at the cathedral – provided music for the Eucharistic celebration.

Elements of the liturgy were in English and Spanish. The Universal Prayer was offered in different languages making up the various ethnicities of the Diocese.

Bishop Schlert advised his homily would be brief, as he was the person “wearing the most clothes,” alluding to the already rocketing temperature.

As he welcomed the faithful to the day “celebrating the vocation of marriage and family life,” Bishop Schlert asked everyone to pray for the victims of recent disasters in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico and Puerto Rico. “We ask the Blessed Mother, who we will honor after Mass, to comfort them.”

Bishop Schlert reflected on the morning’s Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the workers in the vineyard. In it, the landowner very generously pays the same wage to the workers, no matter what time they began working for the day.

“Jesus has a job for each one of us. He doesn’t want us standing idly in the marketplace,” said Bishop Schlert.

“Let us be workers in the vineyard by way of what God has given us in time and talent. We honor in a special way today the Blessed Mother, who 100 years ago at Fatima appeared to the children. She gave the children a job to do.

"Ask God to give us the fortitude to do our part to building up the Church – that we do not stand idly in the marketplace, but serve him without reservation.”

Bishop Schlert also encouraged the faithful to ask questions of the seminarians and sisters there about their respective religious vocations.

The day featured games, activities, music and food for family members of all ages.

Games and activities for all ages included a petting zoo, face painting, duck pond, inflatable bounce house, and obstacle course and team competitions. A roaming entertainer named Andy the Clown made balloons.

High school competitions featured four athletes from the following schools: Allentown Central Catholic High School; Berks Catholic High School, Reading; Bethlehem Catholic High School; and Notre Dame High School, Easton.

The Island Time Band provided live music on the TD Stage, and DJ Wesley Works provided youth entertainment at a youth dance in the Blast Furnace Room. Geri Duke – retired secretary of Bishop John Barres, Bishop Emeritus Edward Cullen and the late Bishop Thomas Welsh – is a featured performer of Island Time, whose members are parishioners of St. Ann, Emmaus.

DeSales University, Center Valley provided musical entertainment. The Tone Chime Choirs of Mercy School for Special Learning, Allentown and John Paul II Center for Special Learning, Shillington sang a prelude before Mass.

Delicious, homemade ethnic foods were provided by local parishes – kiffles, haluski (cabbage and noodles), tacos, empanadas, pierogies, apple dumplings and more.

A Festive Afternoon

“I look forward to this every year,” said Kristin Bruneo, whose 2-year-old son Vinny was enjoying the duck pond at the booth of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown.

“I like the outdoor Mass with Bishop Schlert, the people and the food,” said Bruneo, who attended Bishop Schlert’s Sept. 19 Mass in the Northampton Deanery at her home parish, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton.

Bruneo was quick to share her admiration for Bishop Schlert, noting, “He’s a real bishop. Even today in the heat he kept things light and bright, talking about being the one wearing the most clothes.”

Monica Davila and Dorothy Simon, juniors at Bethlehem Catholic High School, were enjoying volunteering at the festival for the first time as they manned the duck pond.

“I like the people and the kids. Its super fun,” said Davila.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to come together as a Diocese and with other people,” said Simon.

Over at the Moonbounce, Scott and Kathleen Moynihan, also parishioners of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, were with their 20-month-old son Ryan watching sons Connor, 4, and Owen, 3, bounce to their hearts’ content.

“We love it,” Moynihan said of the festival. “The most important thing is to bring families out to celebrate and to connect with other families who share the same love of the Church.”

Dan Moser, principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Bethlehem who was chatting with the Moynihans, said, “It’s a beautiful day. My family’s favorite part was the walking rosary.”

In addition, “The English and Spanish were representative of the true diversity of our faith.”

Moser and his wife, Joey, parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, are the parents of Milo, 8; Blakesley, 5; and Aurelia, 2.

An animated group of friends attending the festival were Marie McVeigh, parishioner of St. Thomas More, Allentown; Elaine Trivisano, parishioner of St. Thomas More; Donna Oressie, parishioner of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Whitehall; Phyllis Johnson, parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi, Allentown; and Pat Nichols, parishioner of St. Francis.

“It’s wonderful,” McVeigh said of the day, highlighting Bishop Schlert’s “nice homily,” the great food and the different languages used in the Universal Prayer.

Trivisano also liked the different languages, as well as the large number of people going up for Communion. “I liked that they handed out rosaries with the programs that was nice.”

“I enjoyed seeing the new bishop, he has a great personality,” said Oressie.

Johnson especially liked “the great community spirit. It’s most important getting everyone together. It’s a wonderful turnout.”

Nichols said she also appreciated the community spirit, and then there’s the food, of which they all raved with a smile.

The Café on Carlton was abuzz with activity, feeding cabbage and noodles to hungry festival-goers, including Bishop Schlert. The booth’s awning was inscribed with words that told the world the café was part of Holy Ghost, Bethlehem, founded by German Catholics in 1871.

Cook Jeff Cole – who by all accounts makes a delicious cabbage and noodles as well as other wonderful eats for the parish’s fall festival – said he was involved with the parish’s booth at the Diocesan festival for the second year.>

“It’s fun seeing everybody,” said Cole. “The people really like the cabbage and noodles. It makes me feel good when they come back for thirds and fourths.

“I like doing the cooking. It’s rewarding, and it keeps me out of trouble.”

Those attending could participate in the Diocesan Tree of Families “We had a tree painted similar to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal this year – ‘Growing Our Families’ – where people or families could write their name on a leaf and attach it to the tree. We now have it now in our secretariat office,” Hartigan said.

Information tables were set up by Diocesan entities including the Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization, the Secretariat for Catholic Education, the Office of Vocations with seminarians on hand to field questions, the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC) and the Sisters of Christian Charity (SCC).

Vendors included Mercy Metal Works Special Jewelry Company, featuring jewelry fashioned by students of Mercy School for Special Learning, Allentown; and Holy Infancy Gift Shop, Bethlehem. Lehigh Valley Pro-Life Future also had a booth with information on the group.