By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
With a goal of sharing the Catholic faith, engaging local parishioners and increasing understanding among all Christian faiths, Des Moines County Catholic Parishes (DMCCP) is organizing a multi-day faith festival in August. DMCCP is made up of Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington, Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish, West Burlington and St. Mary Parish, Dodgeville.
“We have done floats, a tour of churches; this year we decided we needed to purposely do more outreach,” said Ruth Skeens, DMCCP director of evangelization and adult faith formation. Faith Festival will take place nightly at Burlington’s Crapo Park band shell Aug. 5-9. Guests are asked to bring their own seating.
Catholic witness talks, worship music and prayer will take place Aug. 5-8 from 6-8 p.m. Father Marty Goetz, pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington, and Dana Atkins will speak on Aug. 5. Tony Kanaan and Steve Vorwerk will speak Aug. 6. Dr. Jeff Pence and Father Bruce DeRammelaere, pastor of St. John Parish, Houghton, and St. James Parish, St. Paul, will speak Aug. 7. Dr. Kimberly Marshall and Bruce Brockway will speak Aug. 8.
Each speaker will talk about the impact of the Catholic faith on his or her life. For example, Marshall will share a message of forgiveness. At the end of her talk, persons in the crowd will be invited to take a balloon, think about someone they need to forgive, and release the balloon as a way of symbolizing the forgiveness. Music will play during the balloon gesture.
Skeens said DMCCP is already familiar with these speakers, as they have previously presented at Ss. John & Paul’s CAFÉ. “God just sends us these speakers. It’s amazing. They have a huge impact on people very quickly.”
The festival will wrap up Aug. 9 with a 4:30 p.m. Mass celebrated by Father David Steinle, followed by a potluck-style picnic. Guests are asked to bring a dish to share.
Each night of the festival is free, and refreshments and snacks will be provided nightly. Supervised games and fun for children will be available while parents attend the talks.
Skeens said the planning process has been easier than expected, thanks to the help received. Parishioners have offered their time and local businesses have offered resources. Some of the larger gestures include banners donated by PepsiCo, prayer cards donated by Thielen Funeral Home, and flyers and posters donated by Pzazz. Local radio stations and newspapers have donated advertisements.
“Momentum is building,” Skeens said. We don’t go and ask. They just come and help! What a great way to work with people. … They’re just all so willing and their gifts are amazing.
Local parishioners are being encouraged to invite their friends, Catholic or not, to attend Faith Fest, and to follow up with them afterward. While it is important to welcome inactive Catholics and the un-churched into active parish life, Skeens is adamant that sharing — not conversion — is a goal for those who do not have Catholic backgrounds. “I hope they understand us better. There are so many misperceptions out there,” she said.
Skeens said she hopes this year’s event will be well attended and enjoyed, and while it is too early to make such a decision about making Faith Fest an annual event, it is a possibility.