By Katherine Long, Editor

The weather was cold but the atmosphere was warm as seven Syracuse-area parishes came together to host a special summer picnic at Woods Road Park in Solvay June 12.

The hosts of “West-End Catholics, Hearts and Hands United” — Our Lady of Peace, St. Cecilia, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, St. Charles-St. Ann, St. Patrick, St. Brigid-St. Joseph, and Transfiguration Parishes — make up the Western Region’s pastoral care area 4.

The diocese defines a pastoral care area (PCA) as a group of collaborating parishes, “encouraged to work together to achieve the highest quality of pastoral programs, mutual clergy/staff support, economies of scale, and to engage the work of local pastoral planning.” Every parish in the Diocese of Syracuse is a member of one of 27 PCAs.

More than a year in the making, the picnic followed informal, “get to know you” dinners that offered opportunities for individuals from the parishes to meet one another, organizers explained in interviews with the Sun following the event. PCA member Ed Weber, who is also pastoral council facilitator of Our Lady of Peace and St. Cecilia, then posed the idea of a picnic among the parishes.

“In the beginning, it was just going to be the seven parishes and their favorite foods,” he said. Over time, however, the idea grew and expanded to include not just the parish communities but the wider community as well, he explained.

Through the efforts of picnic committee members from every parish and the help of volunteers, an estimated 500 people from the parishes and the community enjoyed an afternoon of food, entertainment, games, and fellowship. Members of each parish staffed tables with information about Masses and ministries for those interested in learning more about the local faith community. Youth group members provided activities for children. Neighbors met and mingled.

The priests of the PCA were part of the fun as well, serving as judges for an apple pie contest. (First place went to Luana Jones of St. Cecilia, second to Dolores Bottrill of St. Brigid-St. Joseph, and third to Leah and Davis Gallauresi of St. Cecilia.) The concept for the poster promoting the event was conceived by the planning committee members, and Father Andrew Baranski, rector of the Basilica, volunteered his godson, Joseph Wagner, to create it, he said. Father Brian Lang of St. Charles-St. Ann even took the stage with members of the parish’s music ministry to play a few tunes.

Costs for the event were kept to just several hundred dollars, organizers said, thanks to donations of many goods and services from vendors, performers, and organizations.

In addition to putting on a great event, PCA members forged personal connections, too.

“One of the great things that happened was, not only did we plan this, we became friends in this committee [and] we got to know the priests,” Weber said.

“We’ve formed a really good bond with the members that have been meeting for this year,” committee member and entertainment chair Lori Rolince concurred. “It really has fostered and increased the relationship between the parishes.”

Father Joseph Clemente, administrator of Our Lady of Peace and St. Cecilia, said the event’s success shows that parish leadership “must provide opportunities for people to see their compatibility and to break down some of the ugly barriers of parochialism.” To move past parochialism, he said, “we’re going to have to develop a different mindset so that it’s not ‘my parish’ but rather ‘our Church.’”

PCA Facilitator Christopher Gorman echoed those sentiments, saying the success of the event “shows that we can cooperate and be very successful at planning an event like this [and] that the individual parishes… are very open-minded to what needs to take place.”

Committee member Jim Jackson, of St. Brigid-St. Joseph, said the project “got us thinking outside the box” and, going forward, will help with sharing resources and ideas.

Organizers said they are already looking toward next year’s picnic and to other activities on which the PCA will collaborate.

See photos from the event below, courtesy of the parishes.


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