by Olivia Martin
SHAWNEE — If you’ve been looking for a single family- friendly event with an espresso bar, carnival games, a book sale, traditional Mexican food, a two-mile race, a dance contest and more — the search is over.
Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee is pulling out all of the stops for its Fall Festival. The two-day event begins on Friday, Sept. 27, from 6 to 10 p.m. and continues Saturday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Though the festival will be all fun and games, the preparation certainly has been a labor of love.
A welcoming community
Kristina Frank, a Good Shepherd parishioner and festival co-chair, had never planned a parish festival before. But she and the nine others on the core planning team knew one thing: They wanted the Fall Festival to communicate who their parish is.
“We chose [the festival’s] theme ‘All Are Welcome’ because Good Shepherd has a long tradition of being a really welcoming and hospitable community,” said Frank. “[Our parish] is a great example of how there’s room for everyone.”
Good Shepherd is one of three centers for Hispanic ministry in the archdiocese and boasts a significant Hispanic population.
And the parish is always looking for ways to help people enter deeper into its community.
“As two communities, we can definitely function in the same church, but we also have to look at opportunities to meet each other and get to know each other,” said Anabella Wasserman, director of Hispanic ministry at Good Shepherd. “We are all members of the same body of Christ.”
A true communal effort
And while often the language barrier between English- and Spanish-speakers is just that — a barrier — at Good Shepherd, differences are an opportunity.
And no one can speak to that like Guille Aguilera, a Good Shepherd parishioner and festival co-chair.
Aguilera, who is primarily Spanish- speaking, is responsible for organizing a significant portion of the festival and has participated in months’ worth of planning and meetings — even though they’ve been in English.
“It has been a little difficult for me to understand because of the English, but it has been beautiful,” she said. “I’ve met lovely people who love to help.”
For Frank, the difference in language hasn’t been a problem, either.
“It’s sort of a non-issue,” she said. “Often there’s more than one person who’s bilingual at meetings who can translate. . . . I think [communication] has been kind of natural.”
Father Kent O’Connor, pastor of Good Shepherd, hopes this realization will become even broader during the festival.
“I think this [festival] is a major step for us as a parish because working with two cultures and two languages can sometimes be a challenge,” said Father O’Connor. “My hope is that it can really be . . . a really great bridge.”
And that bridge won’t stop at the front doors of Good Shepherd.
“My idea, my motto, is that one day we will be able to be united together as parishes,” said Aguilera.
And because of that motto, she has been able to involve parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Parish and All Saints’ Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, in the Fall Festival preparations.
“The most beautiful thing has been being able to serve God in a true way,” said Aguilera, “giving my service and meeting other people who have the same desire to serve.
“I hope [people] come and see how we work together as parishioners to make a community, to have a healthy and beautiful atmosphere.”
Father O’Connor agreed.
“Pretty much nothing makes me happier than people getting along and working together,” he said. “We have an opportunity to do something beautiful together, and that touches my heart.”
The ultimate goal of all the fun, community and fellowship, of course, is to invite in and demonstrate Christ’s love to each person who comes, regardless of language or heritage.
“I hope people will really feel a sense of welcome, no matter who they are,” said Frank.
All you need to do is come and see.