Summertime barbecues, camping and ‘Theology Uncorked’ keep Catholics connected to their faith

  • Written by Morningstar Stevenson
  • Published in Local
Youth gather after Mass at the camp lodge during the annual “Camping with Christ” event for members of Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. Parishioners can stay overnight in cabins or visit for the day. Photo: Mary Kay Acheson Youth gather after Mass at the camp lodge during the annual “Camping with Christ” event for members of Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. Parishioners can stay overnight in cabins or visit for the day. Photo: Mary Kay Acheson

SHORELINE – Discussing faith at a barbecue or talking theology over a glass of wine are some of the inspired ways parishes are keeping parishioners engaged this summer.

The monthly family-friendly Backyard BBQ at St. Luke Parish fills a hunger not only for hot dogs, but also for “sharing, fun and community building,” said Debra Ricard, the parish’s director of member engagement.

Summer faith enrichment
Father Brad Hagelin, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Shoreline, oversees the grilling at the parish’s summer barbecues, which combine food, fellowship and theological discussions. Photo: Courtesy St. Luke Parish

At Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds, “Theology Uncorked” pairs wine tastings with speakers who this summer are delving into Marian doctrines, discipleship and passing the faith on to children and grandchildren.

“The goal [is] to build community, approach some aspect of faith together, and grow together as a parish community,” said Timothy Putnam, Holy Rosary’s director of faith formation and evangelization.

A camp centered on Christ

Other parishes encourage members to build community by moving off the parish campus. An annual summer tradition for Catholics at Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim is the “Camping with Christ” event at Lake Crescent, west of Port Angeles.

“The beautiful setting is always a reminder that God is the reason why everything is here,” said Mary Kay Acheson, one of the camp’s facilitators and co-director of religious education at the two parishes.

Ceci Kimball, a Queen of Angels parishioner, said participating in the four-day Camping with Christ event is an opportunity for her two daughters to have fun with other Catholics and think about their faith in a new way.

For instance, younger campers participate in skits about virtues, learning how those play out in daily life. Older kids talk about how to use Scripture and Catholic teachings to solve problems.

“There are discussions about how to apply those lessons, not just to camp life, but daily life and friendships going forward,” Kimball said.

At the camp (which drew more than 70 people this year), Acheson said she tries to keep the camp activities — including hiking, swimming, crafts and games for all ages — “organized but relaxed.” The most important thing, she said, is that Christ permeates the camp experience.

Summer faith enrichmentSommelier Debbie Mischel, a parishioner at Holy Rosary in Edmonds, describes the evening’s wines to Rick and Mary Anne Cory at the parish’s “Theology Uncorked” summer series, which pairs wine tasting with guest speakers on Catholic topics. Photo: Maria de los Reyes

Mixing fun with learning

Even if parishioners stay “at home,” having the right speaker — and refreshments — can change the atmosphere of a parish event from formal to fun.

Holy Rosary parishioner Debbie Mischel, who works as a sommelier, said it’s fitting to educate people about wine at church, because it plays a role in Scripture and Mass.

Serving wine at Holy Rosary’s June 26 Theology Uncorked event may have helped attendees relax, said parishioner Eileen Herman, but presenter Mark Shea, speaking about Marian doctrines, set the tone for the evening.

“He kept a good pace and was open to questions,” Herman said. “People even stayed late to learn more.”

“Faith is supposed to be a conversation,” Shea said in an interview, noting he enjoys it when Catholics come away from his talks with a new understanding of their faith. 

Summer faith enrichmentFamilies from Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim enjoy hiking, swimming and discussing their faith around the campfire at the parishes’ annual “Camping with Christ” event at Camp David Jr. on the Olympic Peninsula. Photo: Amy Ruddell

St. Luke’s barbecue, held monthly after the Saturday vigil Mass in June, July and August, features speakers from a parish ministry or fireside chats by the pastor, Father Brad Hagelin. During the June 22 barbecue, some parishioners described helping elderly homeowners with yard work and light housekeeping as part of the parish’s annual “Mission at Home” outreach.

The summer events, like others throughout the year, are aimed at “the need our parishioners have to connect and relate on a more personal level outside of gathering together for Mass,” Ricard said.

Even though summer beckons with so many activities, Catholics should take advantage of their parishes’ educational opportunities said Herman, the Holy Rosary parishioner.

“It’s our responsibility as intentional disciples to continue to learn about our faith,” she said.