The Archdiocese of Chicago held its inaugural Festival of Faith the weekend of October 30 through November 2 at Chicago’s Navy Pier. The event evolved from the annual meetings of several archdiocesan departments.
FROM LEFT: Ann Scheidler, Annie Scheidler, Eric Scheidler, Carm DeVito, Mary Shine and Urszula Mihai at the League’s Festival booth [photo by Fr. Jim Heyd]
I asked Fr. Joe Geders, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, if the Festival was his idea. “I’m hoping it was the Holy Spirit,” he replied. When Father took over the Office of Evangelization, he proposed that they open up the meetings and workshops to the general Catholic public and turn it into a celebration, expecting at least a bit of resistance. To his surprise, the other department heads were excited about the possibilities such a festival held.
League Fills the Pro-Life Gap
The Archdiocese began promoting its Festival of Faith in early Spring. When the list of workshops and speakers was published, the pro-life issues were glaringly absent. Apparently this was not a deliberate avoidance of the topic, but the Pro-Life Action League decided to help fill that gap by having several booths at the Festival.
Our Helpers of God’s Precious Infants sidewalk counseling division took one booth, and our Generations for Life youth outreach division another. And the Pro-Life Action League itself set up a display. This gave us a wide opportunity to reach the Festival-goers with the pro-life message.
Catholics Gather at Navy Pier
The first day of the Festival was devoted exclusively to teens. The League’s Generations for Life directors, Annie Scheidler and Mary Shine, spent the day talking with teens from all over the diocese, attending the workshops and participating in the celebration.
The rest of the weekend was open to all of Chicago’s Catholics, and, indeed, anyone of any faith was welcome. Booths in the display area included various Catholic bookstores and religious goods, schools like White Pines Academy (a Legionaries of Christ school), religious orders, missionaries, Christian artists and musicians. Dozens of speakers were featured, including Relevant Radio talk show host Jeff Cavins, who broadcast his Morning Air program from the Festival site on Friday, Oct. 31.
The highlight of the Feast of All Saints on Saturday was a Mass celebrated by Bishop Garcia-Siller, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fluent in Spanish and English, Bishop Garcia-Siller challenged everyone there to aspire to sainthood. His inspiring homily blended the richness of the Hispanic and Anglo-American cultures with the warmth of his own personality and faith.
On Sunday, the Feast of All Souls, Cardinal Francis George celebrated the closing Mass. He likened the Festival of Faith to a Catholic family reunion.
Thousands of Life Cards Distributed
Our communications director, Eric Scheidler, designed a special card for distribution to the Festival-goers. The front side featured a stained-glass window of Jesus gathering the little children to himself. The reverse side was a series of quotes from scripture, the Catholic Catechism and Pope John Paul II on respect for human life, along with specific ideas for pro-life activism.
Over 3,000 Life Cards were handed out during the Festival. Carmeline DeVito and Urszula Mihai stationed themselves at the exits from the hall where the Masses were held and made sure every person had a Life card.
Julie McCreevy took advantage of the Festival to promote the 24-hour vigil with Our Lady of the New Millennium on November 22 (see cover story). She and Ana Torres-Esquivel distributed flyers for the vigil as people left the Mass or walked through the display area.
Pro-Life Message Well Received
The Festival of Faith was designed to reach Catholics who may not be heavily involved in their parish or invested in the faith, but are curious to learn a little more about the Catholic faith. It was a good opportunity to reach those people who might not have been inclined to specifically attend a pro-life event. The Life Card we gave to each person is not only informative, it is very beautiful—the kind of memento that one might keep and perhaps use as a bookmark.
Those of us who worked at the League booths were buoyed by the many positive comments and words of thanks and encouragement we received. It was an experience in sharp contrast to the Face the Truth demonstrations, when our pro-life literature is not received so enthusiastically!
Links and Related Articles
- Our Lady Towers Over Albany Abortion Mill (article in this Action News)