NORTH JUDSON – The picnic pavilion at North Judson Park offered shelter from the sun on a beautiful Saturday afternoon as faithful from All Saints parish in San Pierre and Ss. Cyril and Methodius in North Judson gathered for worship and fellowship in North Judson Park with their pastor and the bishop of the Diocese of Gary on Aug. 19.
The outing followed afternoon meetings with Bishop Robert J. McClory, Father Terrence Bennis, members of parish councils and the Synod planning committee. Richard Akers, a member of the Synod planning committee and the local St. Vincent de Paul Society, was grateful for the opportunity to discuss plans and challenges with the bishop. Akers noted that while many good things abound, they are motivated to keep working on tough issues like “helping the poor and homeless.”
The two parishes “do everything together now,” so preparation for the annual Mass and picnic was a well-practiced endeavor. Many in attendance commented that they have been attending the outdoor celebration for as long as they could remember, and were grateful for the presence of Bishop McClory at this year’s gathering.
Joe Kingsbury, a member of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in North Judson who attended the event with his wife Louise, commented that the bishop’s homily was right on target and “really easy to understand.”
Bishop McClory began his homily with a question, challenging the group to identify “What’s on the rectory door?” A quick response of “the Divine Mercy image” paved the way for the bishop to reflect on the Gospel, emphasizing that “Jesus came to give us his mercy, forgive us, and draw us closer to him.”
The bishop reiterated the Pope’s urgent message that we are all called to be people of love and mercy, especially in the way we engage those “on the margins.” The bishop further emphasized that Jesus wants us to receive his love and mercy, and as the message at the bottom of the Divine Mercy image encourages the faithful, they too can say, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
As Mass ended, surrounded by family and friends, All Saints parishioners Chester and Peggy Potempka “were delighted” to be blessed by Bishop McClory in celebration of their 70 years of marriage.
Parishioners quickly transitioned to enjoying a potluck meal which included several trays of meatball mostaccioli by parishioner Don Bowman who, according to his wife Mary, has been cooking for the picnic for at least 30 years.
Although not currently attending church due to the family moving, 13-year-old Delilah Ferris said attending the picnic has filled her with a strong desire to return to the church.
“I miss going to church. I’m glad to be back. It’s like a big family reunion, seeing everyone, especially Father Terry,” said Ferris, who has now returned to the North Judson community.
Towards the end of the picnic, Ferris could be seen snuggling her stuffed dog as she focused intently on her bingo board in hopes of winning a prize. Ferris won the stuffed dog after she and her sister won the water balloon toss, one of many games at the picnic.
Ferris wasn’t the only one to win during the picnic. Father Bennis was seen scurrying around the park making sure every boy and girl had some sort of prize.
“Father Terry is like one of the kids. He always has fun. He helps us out a lot,” said 14-year-old Brielle Brunicon.
The Ss. Cyril and Methodius parishioner appreciates how Father Bennis takes time to interact with the youth of the community.
“It’s fun when an older person, especially the priest, helps us out and plays games and activities with us,” Brunicon added.
Caption: Father Terry Bennis and 14-year-old Brielle Brunicon attempt to hula hoop during the Ss. Cyril and Methodius and All Saints parish picnic on Aug. 19 in North Judson. Bishop Robert J. McClory celebrated Mass in the park and visited with the faithful during the picnic. (Bob Wellinski photo)