Lilia Gundy and her family made new friends among pirates and pumpkins on a coastal, road trip to a welcoming Catholic fall festival.
Festival Road Trip
As I glanced at the fall-themed invite posted on Facebook, I took a second look at the address: the beach, I excitedly thought. The parish we visited often was hosting a fall festival, particularly appealing for families and children, as they were enticing guests with games, food and sweet treats.
But we didn’t know anyone. Granted, we would stop by each time we went to see Grandpa—but it wasn’t our home parish. Nonetheless, I proceeded to pitch my husband that we should go and make an adventure out of the road trip.
Finding Friends among Pirates and Pumpkins
As we entered the parish hall with our contributions (veggie plate, avocado dip, queso, and candy in hand), we walked into a room of pirates, pumpkin shirt-wearing women, passed a couple of witches, and a Cinderella. They were all strangers—but we were already family.
I made small talk with a kind woman who was overseeing the food table and told her that we had just made the road trip that had taken a couple of hours. She was grateful for us making the trek and welcomed us.
Now, I can walk into any room and start a conversation, but my family is introverted. I needed to quickly put them at ease that these costume-wearing people were friends. I spotted a tall pirate wearing a purple-laced hat and recognized it was the pastor. He sat with us and made us feel at home.
Turns out the kind woman I had spoken to when we first arrived had co-organized the event. She made an announcement by welcoming everyone and specifically called my family out for coming the furthest distance to attend. She was happy to see our girls had participated in the party by wearing their own Harry Potter character outfits. Those gathered laughed, smiled, clapped—they were our new friends.
An All Are Welcome Kind of Faith
The road trip was infused with dozens of holy moments, from being mesmerized by the golden, orange, and red leaves on trees to the sounds of the splashing ocean waves to hugs with grandpa. Somehow, going away just for a little bit can be so refreshing for the soul.
Attending Mass the following day, we sang “All Are Welcome” for the entrance hymn. We had the chance to see familiar faces from the day before. The best part of all? Knowing that we, as Catholics, are connected to a universal family that goes beyond our own.
May the church be the place of God’s mercy and love, where everyone can feel themselves welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. (Pope Francis in his series of meditations on the Church, June 12)
Copyright 2022 Lilia Grundy
Images: copyright 2022 Lilia Grundy, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Lilia Grundy is University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business’ Director of Corporate Partnerships with over 20 years of corporate experience (including Kraft Foods, NBC Television, and Telemundo). Lilia launched Catholic Women Professionals to inspire other working women to grow their faith. She is married to her high-school sweetie Rob - they have beautiful twin girls who love art, music and learning about the saints.