By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — Faith Fest organizers were thrilled that Bishop Martin Amos was coming to Crapo Park to celebrate an outdoor Mass Aug. 8. As he ascended to the uncovered outdoor stage, however, gray clouds loomed overhead. Seemingly unfazed, Bishop Amos told the crowd, “The only rain we’re going to have tonight is Ceili Rain,” referencing a Celtic rock band scheduled to perform later in the evening.
A few sprinkles did fall during Mass, but only enough to push up the heat and humidity so that beads of sweat developed on the foreheads of those on stage. Later in the Mass, Bishop Amos said with a chuckle, “I see all of you fanning yourselves, how about turning those fans in this direction?”
The outdoor Mass was part of the three-day Faith Fest, organized by the Des Moines County Parishes of Burlington, West Burlington and Dodgeville. In its second year, organizers switched up the format. Instead of offering nearly a week’s worth of nightly worship music and witness talks, they chose to condense the event to 3 days.
On Aug. 6, a Burlington-born Coptic Christian shared his story of growing up Apostolic and converting to Coptic Christianity, the faith of his wife. Des Moines County Parish board members realized earlier this year that Burlington-area Catholics have an interest in Coptic Christianity and the plight of its members in the Middle East. A group of Coptics live and work in the Burlington area and use St. John Church for worship services.
Brother Seamus Byrne, a member of the Monastic Servants of Love in Ireland, gave a talk and performed music on native flutes and drums Aug. 7.
Event coordinator Ruth Skeens said the two speakers, by coincidence, had similar themes in their talks. Both talked about introspective prayer and making time in a busy day for God.
Visitors participated in a cross walk the morning of Aug. 8, with the road in Crapo Park lined with crosses and faith messages.
Faith Fest participants said they enjoyed the entertainment and faith nourishment, but most of all they enjoyed the camaraderie. Rosa Hernandez of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington said, “This is a time to get together with friends and members of the other parishes. I like to be outdoors. You don’t have to be inside to pray.”
Many older members of the parishes brought their grandchildren to the musical acts, including Burlington parishioner Elaine Cortelyou. “I like the fact that young people can come and it’s Godly music.”
Father Marty Goetz, pastor of the Burlington parish, said Faith Fest has been great for Catholics and those unfamiliar with the faith. “We have had a couple of people join the church or the parish because of the Faith Fest. But more than that, for those who already belong, their faith has been nourished and renewed. There truly is a new spirit here in Des Moines County.”