ST. MARY PARISH'S ALL SAINTS DAY FESTIVAL: A JOYOUS GATHERING OF YOUNG SAINTS-TO-BE
By Melanie Sisinni
“I can’t think of anything better than seeing children emulating the saints,” said Father Ben Daghir, parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Reynoldsville.
On Saturday, November 4, parishioners of St. Mary Parish gathered for Saturday evening Mass, ready to celebrate the lives of the saints. At least 25 children were in attendance and because of their participation, the decision had been made to move the children’s Liturgy of the Word from Sunday morning to Saturday evening Mass.
Many boys dressed as St. Michael the Archangel, armed with angel wings and shields, or Blessed Carlo Acutis, soon to be the first millennial saint. Little girls were dressed as St. Kateri Tekakwitha and Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, among other influential saintly women.
Three-and-a-half-month-old fraternal twins Gianna and Andrew Renwick were also dressed as saints. Gianna donned a habit with a flower tucked into it to embody St. Thérèse of Lisieux. At the same time, her twin brother Andrew dressed in an infant-sized chasuble and mitre for his St. Pope John Paul II costume. Their older brother Artie was one of the many boys dressed as St. Michael, while two-year-old sister Grace took her saint costume off and on throughout the evening.
The church was bursting with excitement all throughout the Mass as the children eagerly awaited the second annual All Saints Day Fall Festival, which occurred immediately afterward in the church social hall. The event, organized by the parish’s Social Activities Committee, was born from an idea to introduce a little fun during a typically dreary and dark time of year.
“You’ve already done all the fall things,” said Christina McMinn, one of the event organizers. “You’ve already picked all the pumpkins, visited all the farms and dressed up for Halloween 14 times. We thought, ‘Why don’t we put a Catholic twist on that and incorporate All Saints Day?’”
The event and the parish had a unique family feeling, with everyone doing their part to make the event a success. McMinn painted a mural of the saints with whom Children could take pictures. Her father, Donald Wojtaszek, took pictures with his professional camera to document the event. Many hands were involved in making food, decorating the hall, planning games and preparing prizes for the children to take home with them.
“It’s just the kind of place where you say, ‘Our committee is having this event.’ And right away everyone says, ‘Okay, let me know what you need,’” said McMinn. “This parish has created such a sense of family in this community for us, and we love that so much because you always know that whenever you are having an event or trying to do something, you always have support. Our parish is full of big families, plus we’re a parish family, so it’s a cool environment to be in.”
While baby Andrew Renwick spent most of the evening in his mother Kristin’s arms, his twin sister Gianna was happy to spend her time being held by several of the older women in the parish, who seemed to enjoy taking care of her as much as she enjoyed being held by them.
“That’s the greatest thing about these parties,” said Andrew Renwick, father of the four Renwick children. “These are all good people.”
Kristin Renwick shared her husband’s sentiments and described the push from the parish Social Activities Committee to plan more events to get children of all ages involved and interested in the faith.
“Our mission over the last year was for kids and families. We realized there is a lot for the older generation to do, but we wanted to include the younger population,” said Kristin. “The All Saints Day festival was our first big event last year. And then at Christmas — we love Santa, but Christmas is so saturated with Santa — we did another event where we had St. Nick come, and he read a book and taught everyone who St. Nick is. For Valentine’s Day, we based it around St. Valentine and had an activity for that. It’s all about getting the kids involved and teaching them. And we love that. They grow up at our church, and they have their own church community with their own little friends here. That’s important, too.”
The children gathered together for a few group photos before rushing out the back door of the social hall to jump on a hayride together, the wheels of the tractor-trailer pressed hard into the ground as the kids made room for every child to get on board for the ride, including everyone in this young parish family of faith.
As a result of pastoral planning, in December, St. Mary Parish will join four other parishes in the DuBois region as part of the newly established Holy Spirit Parish. Though many are anxious about what the future holds, the St. Mary Parish community is determined to continue to foster a family connection.
“We don’t care if you’re a single old woman or a young mom with ten kids. Everybody is welcome,” said McMinn.