DANSVILLE — Despite its taking place in the heart of summer, Holy Family Catholic Community’s annual Mass and picnic seemed better suited for mid-autumn.
Temperatures hovered in the 60s. Consistently strong gusts, blowing across Babcock Park’s open-air pavilion, sent bulletins flying off picnic tables and caused shivers for those who hadn’t thought to bring jackets or sweaters. Meanwhile, Sue Dyckman noted that the annual affair is traditionally accompanied by rain — and indeed, a brief shower made an appearance halfway through the Aug. 4 liturgy before the skies cleared.
Yet "it’s all good," Dyckman concluded after the 11 a.m. Mass. The 200 or so participants seemingly agreed, as many sang along loudly to hymns played by the contemporary music ensemble and engaged in friendly banter during the ensuing picnic.
Holy Family is among numerous Southern Tier parishes that have recently featured outdoor Masses and/or picnics as a pleasant way to build community. Worshipers for the Dansville event hailed from the four member churches of St. Pius V, Cohocton; St. Mary, Dansville, Sacred Heart, Perkinsville; and St. Joseph, Wayland.
They experienced a longer-than-usual service, thanks to a few extras. Beginning the festivities was a slideshow presentation of various activities involving Holy Family’s faith-formation students over the past year. Right after Communion, the annual Christian Witness Recognition honored Holy Family parishioners who have modeled a dedicated Christian life through their words and actions. This year’s Christian Witness recipients were Dyckman along with Diane Acomb, Keith and Sandy Barr, Bill Feely, Mary Kinney, John and Rose Landino, Theresa Landis, Ronald Snyder, Geraldine Traphagen, and Dan and Chris Wensel. Honorees were presented with plaques by Father Stephen Karani, Holy Family’s pastor and that day’s celebrant.
Dyckman, who attended the Aug. 4 event with many family members, was pleased with her award but admitted to being slightly embarrassed.
"I’m not one much to be in front. I’m more in the background," said Dyckman, a longtime member of Holy Family’s parish pastoral council and finance council.
Meanwhile, John Landino observed that the Christian Witness plaque not only notes past accomplishments but also calls recipients to a continuation of service.
"I’m honored, but we have to keep going. This is a challenge," said Landino, who is currently on Holy Family’s parish pastoral council while his wife volunteers for parish laundry duty. Landino also has been involved with the ecumenical Good Friday cross walk in Wayland since its inception nearly four decades ago. In 1974 he built a 25-foot-high steel cross that remains high atop Wayland’s Calvary Hill, where the cross walk ends (the original wooden cross was destroyed by vandals).
Mass on Aug. 4 concluded shortly after the Christian Witness ceremony, and then it was right on to picnicking with ample amounts of hamburgers, hot dogs and dishes to pass available along with games for the kids and a mini-raffle.
The relatively simple joy of this gathering aptly illustrated Father Karani’s main thrust in his homily, which was based on the Sunday readings: that family, friends and especially faith should control our thoughts and actions more than worldly possessions. Holy Family was quite rich in that regard on Aug. 4 — a pleasing reality for Dyckman and Landino, who acknowledged that the merging process in their parish was a bumpy one early on.
The four churches were clustered in 1998, sharing priestly, staff and programming resources. Six years later Holy Family was incorporated as a parish, combining all aspects of their communities including finances and councils. All of the member churches are located in northern Steuben County except St. Mary, which is in southern Livingston County.
Landino remarked that "things have really come together quite well" for Holy Family in more recent years as evidenced by the Mass and picnic. Dyckman said she’s pleased at how "we finally found something that all the churches get together for," whereas Landino said the Aug. 4 fete was a good opportunity to mingle with "people you don’t see every day in church."