By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — After the rousing success of Des Moines County parishes’ Faith Fest last year in Burlington, organizers said they had no choice but to do it again.
This time, they’ll have a little help from their Protestant brothers and sisters. “We felt the Holy Spirit was calling us to be more inclusive,” said event coordinator Ruth Skeens. As if an answer to a prayer, she said four Burlington churches offered to help the Des Moines County parishes of Ss. John & Paul in Burlington, Ss. Mary & Patrick in West Burlington and St. Mary in Dodgeville with planning and executing of the event. Faith Fest will take place in Burlington’s Crapo Park bandshell Aug. 6–8.
While Protestants are helping provide music and funding, most of the speakers and performers are Catholic. Bishop Martin Amos will celebrate Mass Aug. 8. Skeens said, “We thought, let’s open this up to everyone. If we rub elbows with non-Catholics, maybe they’ll understand us better and not have such a bias toward the Catholic Church. Even last year, we had opportunities to talk about our faith (with non-Catholics), and we didn’t necessarily have those opportunities before.”
The event will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6 with worship music and a talk from Kyler West, a Burlington native who married a Coptic Christian and converted to the faith. Earlier this year, Coptic Christian George Bishara’s talk at Burlington CAFÉ garnered interest. Skeens said the Faith Fest committee thought Burlington residents would appreciate another opportunity to learn about the faith brought into the spotlight by the murder of Coptic Christians in the Middle East.
On Aug. 7, Brother Seamus Byrne, a member of the Monastic Servants of Love, will give an inspirational talk and perform Celtic music with voice and flute at 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 8 will feature a “cross connections” family walk and run at 9 a.m., in which the 1.3 mile route will be lined with crosses. Worship music will accompany the festivities. Mass will be celebrated at 4:30 p.m. with a picnic to follow. Catholic Irish pop-rock band Ceili Rain, which recently performed for the pope and has been featured at national Catholic conferences, will perform at 7 p.m. All festivities are free.
Skeens hopes for another strong turnout at Faith Fest this year, and for many years to come. “We are taking to heart what Pope Francis says about opening the doors of the church and letting Christ outside.”