Each year there is a Summer Fair at St Joseph's Church held usually in May to raise funds for the summer months. Our Mission (not a territorial parish), sees many families and individuals leave the city of Paris for a month or more during the summer. There are other dear friends and parishioners who move on to other places for work and other reasons. There is also one less Mass during July and August. The net result is that there is a decrease in church income. This is not a criticism or judgement on the great people of St Joseph's. It is a fact. The expenses for heat are down but for air are up! The Summer Fair lightens the worry of making ends meet. God always sees us through. Enough of my homespun economics.
The Summer Fair is a tremendous Parish Social that bonds and knits this community in a way that is so marvellous to behold. When I arrived in 2008 to St Joseph's after some eventful years in Belfast, the Pastoral Council was putting in a great amount of good work organising the Annual Parish Social. This happened in November and involved a great number of parishioners doing great work. Two observations led me to requesting that we reconsider continuing with this parish social - the costs of the social, even with generosity and voluntary work, was running at a financial loss on scarce parish resources.
Secondly, the social consisted of going to the crypt of another Church in the vicinity and eating and watching a few people dancing to 1960's music. The best dancing was the Irish Dancing done by young and old alike! This was not my idea of a night out that had to end by 11 p.m. to get the seats back in place for Mass the next morning. Eventually it was discontinued - some have still not forgiven me for this! Our Parish Christmas Social is held in our Hall after the Carol Service and Pageant each December. The International Food Fest is now our Parish Social and is held in St Joseph's Church garden twice a year. The various foods and flavours is nothing short of amazing. The Food Fest is held on the second day of the Summer Fair and and on the final Sunday of September to welcome back parishioners and to extend a hand of friendship to arriving families and individuals. The sense of community is palpable and the joy and fun is there to be seen. The amount of work to prepare for this is immense and the clean up afterwards is done so well and quickly.
This year our Summer Fair raised just over €11,000 - truly magnificent. Very generous individuals, couples, families and companies donated great prizes of the Tombola that ends the weekend. The tickets are sold by a dedicated band of sellers after weekend Masses. Tables are put in place in the garden, tents put up, 'floats for stalls and tables' expertly arranged, the money counted and carefully accounted for after the Summer Fair. The parish office produced posters and other printing without having to go outside of our own office. I have reached the conclusion that no price or money can be put on the Summer Fair weekend and on the other Food Fest in September for the Information Day.
In my opinion, this is a work of God that is a sign of His blessings on our community. I know it has it critics, as do I as a priest serving you, but that is not the issue. For me, the issue is about people being served and respected and the Kingdom of God being built through these wonderful events.
In the next few years a new parish priest/curé/pastor will replace me and I hope that he will have the same support that I have experienced from many wonderful people. Who knows, I may be allowed stay on at St Joseph's to assist in some capacity and serve among you? One person went to my Provincial Superior during his vist here in late May 2014 to highlight their perception of my deficiencies in leadership among you. I can only ask forgiveness for my failures that are judged in my leadership and assure all that I am really trying to do my best. Perhaps the next leader sent by the Passionists in my place to St Joseph's will do a better job - I have no doubt that he will. I hold no resentment to any person at St Joseph's Mission Anglophone. It is a daily grace and a privilege for me to do my best each day. I would ask only that it be remembered that in the words of Pope Francis, "I am a sinner". I never claim to be perfect or to match up to the standards set by those who served here in leadership at St Joseph's in previous years.
But, for as long as I can, I will go on enjoying being with you, dear parishioners and readers of my Blog, and ask that you to pray that God will go on blessing us all and making up for my failures.
If you have waded through all this, sincere thanks and if you could leave a comment - good, bad or indifferent - it would be great. With prayers and love, Aidan