Diocesan News

In Williamsburg: Street Festival Kicks Off Parish’s Religious Ed Year


By Antonina Zielinska

Transfiguration parish in Williamsburg celebrated Catechetical Sunday a day early last week with bounce, paint and a whole pig.

The parish’s yearly festival served as a way to launch the RCIA and religious education program for the church.

“We want to give our youth the opportunity to get to know Jesus,” said Msgr. Anthony Hernandez, pastor, at the opening Mass on Saturday morning.

“We want to celebrate and support the family unit,” said Onalis Hernandez, president of the festival.

In order to encourage families to come enjoy a day in front of the church as a parish community, Onalis Hernandez said there were activities planned specifically in mind for each member.

“How to bring men to an all-day feast?” the festival president asked. “We provide Dominoes.”

The parish feast also featured bouncy houses, target practice, face painting, Bingo, raffles and plenty of shaded seating areas for people to socialize. The food was all free. Snacks included hot dogs, fresh popcorn, cotton candy and ices.

The centerpiece for lunch was a whole roasted pig. Festivalgoers quickly lined up to get the first dibs on bacon, fat back and ham hocks. They stood in a different line for sides and chicken.

The theme of the festival this year celebrated the unity of the parish’s diverse Hispanic cultures.

Onalis Hernandez explained that the committee wanted to bring about a positive sense of unity amidst a divisive election cycle, showing that the people of the mostly Latino parish are proud of their diversity but stand together. The food had a Hispanic twist, Latin American flags decorated the festival and the opening Mass was celebrated in Spanish.

The religious education office was open during the entire festival with volunteers, both teenagers and adults, continuously signing up the people they didn’t get to throughout the summer.

Sister Peggy Walsh, C.S.J., sat outside in the sun at a table with a registration sign because she wanted to make sure that people saw her. She said she was happy to make the small sacrifice to be with the people.

Sister Peggy, who has served at Transfiguration for 57 years and as a Sister of St. Joseph for 64 years, said her mission was two-fold, to get the children and adults who have yet to receive the sacraments of initiation and to engage the people who received the sacrament as children, but did not have a relationship with Jesus as adults.

She said that part of the pull from other Christian churches is that they offer Bible study and rich evangelization studies for people of all ages, while Catholics often end their religious education at 14-years-old with Confirmation.

The parochial Southside Community Mission also made its mark on the festival. Among the many social services that the mission offers is a shelter for homeless men.

Javier Bosque, executive director of the mission, said he asked the men in the shelter to help set up the festival early on Saturday morning.

He said he is always looking for ways for the residents to help the community to help boost their self worth and to help the parish members see that these men are doing what they can to help.

Adding to the sense of community, parishioners from neighboring SS. Peter and Paul-Epiphany parish, where Msgr. Hernandez is the administrator, came to celebrate with their neighbors. The Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara from SS. Peter and Paul came to help with religious education and RCIA registration.

“We take time to participate in these kinds of activities to be with the people, to listen to them, to talk to them, laugh with them and of course, pray with them – many people have asked us for our prayers,” Mother Revelation S.S.V.M. said.

“We are meant to evangelize and how can you evangelize without a relationship with the people.”