||Youth of all ages compete in the water balloon toss, one of the popular "retro challenge games" offered at the Diocesan Family Picnic on July 26. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON -- Though many beat the heat by staying out of the sun under the trees and tents or in the pool or on the giant slip-and-slide, the fine weather July 26 drew about 370 people of all ages for fun and feasting at the fourth annual Diocesan Family Picnic at the Bishop O’Connor Center.
The event, sponsored by the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and the Knights of Divine Mercy, offered families from around the diocese a chance to come together for food and activities, games, music, and talks.
In addition to danceable songs performed by the Vandersheuren Family Band and, later, more sacred offerings from the Knights of Divine Mercy Schola, families enjoyed grilled offerings, sides, and desserts, and activities ranging from a pick-up game of baseball on the playing field to volleyball, Frisbee, and hula hooping.
While still an opportunity for catechesis, which as a diocesan office is their goal, the afternoon also provided a great occasion to bring everyone together as a larger Church family, said Office of Evangelization and Catechesis Executive Secretary Eric Schiedermayer.
A lot of times the speakers brought in by the office might be better for high school and up, he said, “but the younger kids kind of get ‘cut out.’ So the younger kids don’t necessarily get to see the bishop as part of their Church family, get to see the seminarians, and all of that.
“I think it’s important for us to celebrate as a diocesan family — to understand that while our parish family is very important, we are part of something bigger,” Schiedermayer said. “It gives us a glimpse of the universal Church. Not often do we have a chance to go to Rome and be with the Holy Father, so opportunities like this, that aren’t standard, that are much more like a family gathering, I think can help us to see that.”
Several priests, seminarians, and a few religious Sisters were a visible presence of vocations at the event, and tables under the tents offered information to families about getting involved in marriage preparation, Catholic schools, the Our Lady of Hope Clinic, 40 Days for Life, learning more about the faith through Relevant Radio, and other Church activities.
Celebrating the Feast of St. Anne
Bishop Robert C. Morlino, bishop of the diocese, also made an appearance later in the afternoon despite his health-related lightened schedule. In a brief talk he gave after hearing music from the Knights of Divine Mercy schola and blessing them, he thanked everyone for their prayers for his health.
Despite times when he felt much weaker than normal, he said, “I felt it was the power of those prayers pushing me forward.”
He also spoke about the July 26 Feast of St. Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary, and, obliquely, the new translation of the Mass the U.S. bishops had passed recently. After praying two prayers to St. Anne from memory, he explained how they had known those prayers by heart in fourth grade.
“In fourth grade, I didn’t know what most of that meant,” he said, “but I had it memorized.”
The words or phrases in those prayers might have been obscure to someone so young (what does “those virtues wherewith thou wast so plentifully adorned” mean to a nine- or ten-year-old?), but learning it was just the starting point for asking questions of their teachers, he said.
“It’s that kind of a thing that gets the Catholic faith deep into the hearts of the people while they’re very young,” the bishop said. “None of us knew what it meant, but all of us knew it was important because our mother and our father and our grandmother and our grandfather all said those prayers from memory, and we wanted to be part of that, too.”
Families and vocations
In his talk after the bishop, Msgr. James R. Bartylla, the director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Madison, spoke on vocations and the importance and influence of families on vocations.
He shared two stories, the first of which was the story of how he had heard his call to the priesthood later in life. His extraordinary story is unique, he said, but if any of the seminarians were asked how they heard their call, each of them would have their own unique vocation story as well. “Just like every married couple here have their own unique story of how they got to know each other. And that, in itself, is part of their vocations story.”
The second story he shared was of an experience he had that helps him to reflect on the dignity of the priesthood and where the Lord takes you as a priest.
“But I wanted to bring those two stories to you, to reflect on the importance of family,” he said. “I know that I am always very strengthened by families — the joys of my priesthood is meeting the seminarians’ families, because when I meet their families I think you can figure it all out immediately. No one comes from a vacuum. When you meet their families, you can see how a person is formed.”