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Festival celebrates parish ministries

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Parishioners of St. Mary of the Hills in Milton came together for a festival April 30 to celebrate their community’s myriad ministries with music, prayer and fellowship.

“It is important to see the diversity of the parish,” said Father Arthur F. Wright, the parish’s pastor, as he called out the litany of ministries from the pulpit of the upper church, where the festival took place.

One-by-one, Father Wright asked the members of each of the ministries to stand when they heard him say their program’s name.

When he was done, seeing all of the different people, of all ages and backgrounds standing in the pews was one the most powerful moments of his priesthood, he said.

Each of the ministries made a 10 to 15 minute presentation and hosted information tables in the lower church, he said. The presentations began at 11 a.m. and ran until roughly 2 p.m.

All presentations informed, but some, like the youth group, also performed. Led by youth minister Francis B. Connell, the 18 members of the parish youth group launched into an icebreaker to set the blood pumping.

Connell started off by telling the parishioners that he understood how hard it is to get going because 11 a.m. was the earliest he had woken up all week.

“When you sing, you pray twice,” Connell said. “But, when you dance you pray three times—but, you sweat a lot.”

That out of the way, Connell asked everyone to join him in a rendition of “My Bonnie.”

Then, he took it to the next level. He told everyone that when they sang the song again, they would have to stand for words starting with the letter “B.” Then, they had to sit when they heard the next word beginning with the letter “B.”

By the end of the song, half were standing, half were sitting, but everyone was singing in one voice.

Other presentations included on by Andrea Tavaska, the principal of the parish school read letters from students in the school and religious education classes about what the parish meant to them. France and Nakia Neff, Michelle Murdock, Jessica Pierre-Paul and Kiera Regan performed a liturgical dance.

The festival was a year in the making and grew out of the workshops and meetings held by the parish’s Stewardship Committee, said Catherine Avril, who was the chairwoman of the committee from its start in December 2003 until April 30, when she became the vice-chairwoman of the parish council.

Avril said the festival was a special time. “It was really wonderful for everyone that was there.”

“The weather was not that great. After the festival we all went outside. We were standing and talking in the rain, the kids were playing and running around—it was as if it wasn’t raining,” she said.

About one year ago, Avril sent out an e-mails to parishioners asking if there was any interest in having a festival to celebrate the different ministries in the church, said Ann Marie Shaunghnessy, a member of the Spiritual Development committee. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be on the decorations committee.”

Shaughnessy said she was surprised how many people wanted to be a part of the festival. “Asking people to help was a joy.”

Avril said her list of people to thank will run between 75-100 volunteers.

Connell said the festival had the feel of a large parish gathering. “The parish was together, sharing friendships and forming new ones.”

For Connell he said he was most satisfied at the way the festival helped the members of the youth group see the scope of their whole parish and their importance in it.

Father Wright said he was pleased that the parishioners are learning that ministry is not the same as volunteering.

Volunteering is just showing up and giving your time, he said.

Ministry is reaching inside to find your own talents, and reaching out to use your own unique skills and personality in a positive way as of a disciple of Christ, he said.

The festival was a great idea, one that other parishes should use to nurture their own ministries, he said.

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