WINDSOR TERRACE — Summer is traditionally the season when families leave town on vacation, and church life often slows to a crawl.
But in a year unlike any other, churches across the diocese are seeking to return to “normalcy” by hosting summertime events to entertain those parishioners who opt for “staycations.”
Outdoor barbecues, street fairs, parties, and even a “patriot parade” are just some of the attractions planned in the coming weeks by parishes in Brooklyn and Queens.
One such example is Our Lady of the Presentation-Our Lady of Mercy in Brownsville, which is holding its annual Founders Day Street Fair on June 19 — with modifications. It’s one of the parish’s biggest fundraisers of the year, according to Founders Day Committee Member Tita Concepcion.
In years past, the parish would hold a Mass, then close off the street outside Our Lady of Mercy for carnival games and rides to commemorate the dates each church was founded. This year, however, the event will be scaled down, with participants asked to be socially distant.
“We want it to happen. We want to have some normalcy come back to us,” Concepcion explained. “We’re going to have a flea market, some food sales, a little bit of entertainment, and bingo in our garden [at Our Lady of the Presentation], but we will have Mass the following week with our big annual raffle.”
The committee will also film and air a video composed of interviews with parishioners, young and old, who will discuss their experiences over the last year, as well as what it has been like to be back at church.
“It was sad to see the empty pews,” Concepcion said, “but it worked. And now, we’re hoping everyone comes to our celebration.”
In East Flatbush, tickets are already being sold for St. Catherine of Genoa’s annual barbecue, a fundraiser organized by the parish’s Grenadian Society. Parishioners from the surrounding area are also invited to attend, according to Father Raphael Munday Kukana, pastor of St. Catherine of Genoa.
“We thought, ‘The city is opening, the church is opening’ and we can at least bring people together,” said Father Kukana, explaining that this year’s barbecue on June 26 will be “grab and go.”
Though attendees won’t be seated this year, they will still be able to chat and catch up with other parishioners.
“We continue to journey together with the strength that comes from our faith because we do it as people of faith,” Father Kukana said. “We come together to support one another, but also to express our faith in God, who has really sustained us throughout this.”
Similarly, St. Joseph’s in Jamaica is planning a “717 post-pandemic party” on July 17.
“Before the pandemic, we used to have a very rich social life,” noted Father Chris Piasta, pastor of St. Joseph. “Once I heard about the restrictions being lifted, I decided immediately to plan something that would bring the community back.”
Though preparations are still in the works, the day will feature food, music, and a casual environment for parishioners to hang out, all day long.
“I haven’t seen many back in the church in a long time — even [though] they’ve probably seen me over the internet,” Father Piasta added. “But, this is the first kind of an attempt to bring some normalcy back to where it’s supposed to be.”
Blessed Trinity Parish in Rockaway Point is using this summer as an opportunity to start a new tradition. A children’s patriot parade will be organized by the parish’s new Knights of Columbus Council (Our Lady of Knock #17580) and held on July 3.
The idea — according to Father Michael Louis Gelfant, pastor of Blessed Trinity and Grand Knight of the Council — is to teach local children more about the American flag and what it means to be an American.
“You have all these parades with different organizations, but we really wanted to do something for the kids,” explained Father Gelfant. “We thought, we’re on the verge of losing a generation of kids if we don’t kick it into high gear now and do fun stuff with them.”
“It’s a very patriotic community [as] a lot of firemen, police officers, and court officers live down here,” he added, “They [local children] see their moms and dads going to work, and this is a way to honor them through the kids as well.”
Because this is an inaugural event, Father Gelfant and the council are hoping for a good turnout, and to build upon the festivities in the future.
“I think it’s going to be good,” he added, “and it’s shaping up to really be a nice event for them right in front of the Fourth of July weekend.”