Rochester church uses the eclipse as an outreach opportunity - Catholic Courier

Rochester church uses the eclipse as an outreach opportunity

ROCHESTER — Dozens of people from the neighborhood surrounding St. Monica Church turned out for a block party the church was hosting to celebrate April 8’s total solar eclipse.

“We are always looking for new ways to reach out to our neighborhood,” said Jessica Tette, minister of youth faith formation and communications at St. Monica. “We thought that we have a huge parking, it’s the perfect place to view the eclipse, so we wanted to invite the neighborhood and hope the weather cooperates.”

The block party, held in the church’s parking lot on Genesee Street, featured a bounce house, karaoke, live band, basketball, photo booth and snacks. There also was a health booth, and the 19th Ward Community Association had a table with information for the attendees. Members of the parish also offered visitors information on the church as well as church tours. There was also a table with St. Monica’s and eclipse merchandise as well.

Parish volunteers helped to plan the party

While Tette oversaw the party, a number of volunteers from the parish put the party together.

“We are really lucky, because we have a lot of great people here who want to reach out to the community and get involved with events like this,” Tette said of the volunteers.

Marilyn Augustine and Chris Holmes, parishioners for the past two years, were part of the party planning committee, which started working on the event two months in advance. Holmes said the planning involved finding volunteers to help run the different booths and deciding what sort of booths they wanted to have.

“We wanted to have activities for the kids, food-related things and a lot of information about the church,” he explained. “One of the goals (of the event) was to provide a place for people to view the eclipse, of course, but also see what we have here as a church.”

“It was fun,” Augustine added.

St. Monica sought feedback on how to better serve the neighborhood

In addition to the fun activities for people to participate in to celebrate the eclipse, the parish also invited people to take a survey about what St. Monica can do to better serve the neighborhood.

“What are the needs, and where do they see us fitting into those?” Tette explained of the survey. “So the event is also a learning experience for us. We do a lot of outreach already, but are there spots that we can help fill? Hopefully, people have a positive experience and they want to come back.”

Parishioners, neighbors experienced the eclipse together

As the partial eclipse began in Rochester at 2 p.m., people started arriving to St. Monica as the block party got underway. Then just after 3 p.m., the Nate Rawls Community Band wrapped up its set and the air was let out of the bounce house as everyone gathered in the parking lot. With their solar eclipse glasses on and cell phones out, everyone looked up to see if they could see the moon pass between the Earth and the sun. Unfortunately, the cloud cover over Rochester impeded people’s view of the actual eclipse, but the block party attendees still became excited as the sky turned dark and the temperature dropped a few degrees. Then, as the darkness evaporated three minutes later, the bounce house was refilled with air, people again began to sing karaoke and the basketball games resumed as block party festivities continued for another half an hour.

While the conditions in the sky may have dampened people’s spirits, members of the St. Monica community were still happy that neighbors came out to celebrate the eclipse with them.

“It just was a good chance to experience something special all together,” Augustine said.

Tags: 2024 Eclipse, Monroe County East
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