There are few things that capture pure joy as much as the face of a four-year-old who’s just won her first chocolate cake — with sprinkles — at her parish’s summer picnic.
Didn’t matter that it might have taken a handful of dimes and 15 or 20 minutes at the cake booth. Makes no difference if the winnings equal something that might have been routinely thrown in the shopping cart at Kroger a dozen times before.
All that matters in that golden moment is this: It was her dime on a number she chose herself. When the wheel stopped spinning, it was her face that beamed like a full supermoon on a clear summer night.
Pure, unadulterated joy. That pristine moment is replicated dozens of times each summer and fall at parish picnics all over the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Like heat and humidity, the summer picnics are a part of parish life, a tradition that’s shared among church communities large and small, well-to-do, modest or financially challenged.
Rich or not, there’s a comfort, a sense of community — a joy — that lies in the center of each and every parish picnic or festival. Walk among the people and the booths, sidle up to the rides or games of chance, and you’ll notice a certain constant. On just about every face you’ll see, there’s a smile.
It’s important to note that those smile-producing events don’t just magically appear each year. Ask a parish volunteer or leader and you’ll find that behind the joy and happiness are hours, days, weeks and months of planning. And work.
Take Holy Trinity Church, for instance. That parish on Cherrywood Road in St. Matthews went without a picnic or festival for three years recently.
And they missed it.
Jody Demling, director of sports ministry for Holy Trinity, also heads the annual effort that has produced the re-invigorated picnic effort. He’s the staff liaison for the festival, which has three co-chairs to lead the planning and organization.
“We kind of ran out of volunteers a bit,” he explained. “Then COVID hit so we went without the picnic for a while.”
It returned last year, thanks, he said, to “a really good group of volunteers,” and the leadership of pastor Father Shane Duvall.
“People don’t realize, and I didn’t realize at first, how much work is involved each year,” Demling explained. “I think this time we have about 150 total volunteers, and it takes all of them to make it work.”
The planning is extensive and goes on pretty much year ‘round. This year’s Holy Trinity Festival was held Aug. 4 and 5, and for Demling and the rest of the parish, the anticipation was palpable.
“I don’t want to say that the money we raise isn’t important,” he said, “but it means so much more to the parish than just that. The dollars are almost secondary.
“It’s about a chance for the parish community to get together and have some fun. It’s about community spirit; seeing people you might not have seen for a year or two. The camaraderie, the spirit, the fun of having people come together. That’s what it’s about at its heart.”
It’s also about the smiles you see on the faces of children.
Those smiles make every picnic successful. They make everybody a winner.
Record Editor Emeritus