Sheila Grove

Parish volunteers prepare desserts for the Frenchtown Ham and
Chicken Dinner held on July 24.
Contributed photo/Bob Schoenfeldt

ERIE — Necessity may be the mother of invention, but creativity and dedication are needed to make it happen. At least three parishes are finding ways to modify their summer celebrations safely amidst the pandemic.   

Volunteers prepare to-go dinners at the Frenchtown Ham and
Chicken Dinner on July 24.    
Contributed photo/Desi Wagner

        When faced with the possibility of canceling the Frenchtown Ham and Chicken Dinner — that had only been cancelled twice in its 124-year history because of world war — the parishioners at St. Hippolyte Parish in Guys Mills and its mission church, Our Lady of Lourdes in Cochranton, discovered they had both.

        On Sunday, July 26, a drive-thru version of what has been a gathering day of fun and festivities in Frenchtown was a huge success. The traditional type of community-building event looked different as people picked up meals delivered to their cars by a “runner,” but the commitment to the community already established in the parish was in evidence. 

        As in many parishes enduring some loss of offertory revenue, dedicated parishioners and parish staff orchestrated the event to do what they could to minimize the shortfall.

        A goal of selling 999 dinners and order deadlines set for two weeks ahead did not thwart the enthusiasm of patrons. A great deal of organization and pick- up times scheduled at 15-minute intervals, “allowed us to be ready when people showed up to pick up their dinners. It was an efficient system that relieved a lot of stress,” according to Bob Schoenfeldt, parishioner and worker.

        Desi Wagner, administrative assistant for the parish, was pleased with the effort and the turnout. And that 999 number? The official count, according to Wagner, was 1026. The committee will meet to see how to use what was learned that led to their success; however the festival will look in the future. 

        Parishioners at St. Paul Parish in Erie are hoping that their creativity and dedication lead to success the weekend of August 7-9 at the St. Paul’s Italian Festival. Instead of the traditional gathering and festivities for which this festival is known, the preliminaries for the event have gone digital.

St. Paul Parish’s user-friendly website provides
multiple graphics
for easy advance ordering
for the Italian Festival, August 7-9.

        Orders for their traditional meal items can be placed on their website Pasta fagioli — billed as “Hectors’ recipe, only better” — is available on Friday, Italian roasted chicken and red potatoes à la Pontillo on Saturday and Ronnie DiVecchio’s famous spaghetti and meatballs on Sunday. 

        Other food and beverage items as well as raffle tickets and event t-shirts also are available for purchase on the easy-to-navigate website. Directions for express pickup of pre-ordered as well as scheduled drive-up and walk-up ordering are on the website. 

Last year’s festival-goers enjoyed a spaghetti dinner after
Mass celebrated by Bishop Lawrence Persico, followed
by the neighborhood procession with the statue of Mary.
To-go meals are on the menu in 2020 and the procession
has been cancelled, but Bishop Persico will celebrate Mass
at St. Paul Church at 11:00 am on August 9.
Photo/Sheila Grove

        Although the traditional and much-loved neighborhood procession of the statue of Mary will not take place this year, Bishop Lawrence Persico will celebrate Mass at St. Paul, 1617 Walnut Street, Erie, at 11:00 am on Sunday, August 9. Word has it, he has already placed his order for the spaghetti dinner immediately following Mass! 

        Zabawa, held annually at Holy Trinity Parish in Erie, will take place on August 21 and 22. It will be a walk-up, order and pick up event. Some of the traditionally-popular Polish fare will be available. Its partnered parish, St. Stanislaus, is making plans for modified Parish Days on October 11th & 18th. A take-out menu and baked goods will be offered, and a “Grand Raffle” will be held. Watch for details on Facebook and in the parish bulletin, available at and