By Barb Arland-Fye
Occasionally, I’ve arrived at a destination for a reporting assignment only to find the place empty. Either I’ve missed the event or it’s being held somewhere else. The sense of dread at missing an event is heightened when it’s an out-of-town assignment and I’m not familiar with the area.
Last Sunday, July 18, was one of those occasions, but the outcome was better than anything I could have imagined.
The original destination was Crapo Park in Burlington, a beautiful, wooded park with rolling hills where Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington planned to host their annual Mass and picnic. This year’s celebration also served as a welcome to Father Tony Herold, who became pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish on July 1. I hoped to snap photographs for a series The Catholic Messenger is running on collaboration among parishes in the diocese.
My husband, Steve, and 15-year-old son, Patrick, agreed to accompany me. Our older son, Colin, chose to stay at his apartment in Davenport and anticipated dinner with us that evening. Although rain was forecast, I figured the weather could clear up or the parishes would forge ahead with the picnic in a pavilion.
We arrived at the park and found it practically deserted. Patrick noticed a pink sheet of paper posted at a pavilion, so we stopped the car to read it. “11 a.m. Mass and picnic at St. Paul’s” the sign read. OK. But where’s St. Paul’s? I neglected to bring church addresses because of the certainty that the picnic would happen in the park. We drove to the visitors’ center along the Mississippi River to ask directions and pick up a city map. We arrived at the church a short time later, but Mass was well underway. Fortunately, we had attended Mass the night before in our home parish, or I would have felt really guilty!
I followed the trail of smoke and the scent of grilling hamburgers and hot dogs that accompanied it behind St. Paul’s. Yes, the picnic was still on but it would be in the church hall, I learned from the grillers.
Inside the building, members of the Church Life committee greeted me like an old friend. They insisted that my family and I should help ourselves to the picnic potluck — even though we’d brought nothing to share. I protested, saying we were uninvited guests. More than one of the hosts reminded me that the Gospel reading for that Sunday was the hospitality story of Mary and Martha. Father Dave Steinle, pastor of Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish, was among the reminders.
There are no uninvited guests, added Father Bruce DeRammelaere, parochial vicar of Ss. John & Paul, who led us all in grace before the indoor picnic. The picnickers included my classmates from the Master’s of Pastoral Theology program, Bob and LuAnn Glaser of Ss. John & Paul, who insisted that our family use some of their picnic tableware and get in line for food. Hospitality abounded.
Another Ss. John & Paul parishioner, Susan Moss, wanted to introduce me to her mother, 90-year-old De Etta Senn, who lives in an assisted living apartment and is an avid reader of The Catholic Messenger. Our family had an enjoyable visit with Mrs. Senn in her apartment. Widowed two years ago, she recently celebrated her 90th birthday at a Burlington park with all but two of her nine children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren — about 55 relatives all together.
After leaving her apartment, we made a tourist stop near Snake Alley, where I walked up the serpentine, brick-covered street. Then we headed for home, or so I thought. Steve had spent a few of his childhood years in Burlington and took us on the road down memory lane. Unfortunately, his memory isn’t as good as Mrs. Senn’s. We ended up on a dead-end street. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout to an assignment!