Seventeenth National Gathering of the Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry
SARASOTA, Florida – (January 8 -11, 2009) Pastoral workers to the Circus and Traveling Shows in the United States held its annual gathering at St. Martha Parish, Sarasota, Florida. St. Martha Parish is also known as the National Circus Parish. The event was hosted by the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT) in collaboration with Fr. George “Jerry” Hogan, President of the Circus and Traveling Show Ministry and National Circus Chaplain.
In attendance were: Fr. Phil DeRea, MSC; Sr. Stephanie Seversin, OP; Sr. Priscilla of the Little Sisters of Jesus; Deacon Luis Treviño; Fr. Dick Notter of the Toledo Diocese; and Sr. Myrna Tordillo, MSCS, Assistant Director of PCMRT at the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. Also present were men and women of the circus and circus fan community who work with the ministry: Retired Judge Honorable Dale Riker, Fred and Sue Menke, Walter and Dorita Estes, Paul Ingrassia, Dick Georgia, Dr. Barbara Lane Radigan, and Jim and Angie Rhoney were also in attendance.
Additional attendees included: Rachel Watkins Rogers, Zoo Registrar at Miami Metro Zoo and her mother Elsa Watkins, who formerly were circus performers and are relatives of Fr. Charles Watkins, of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fr. Charles Watkins is a former circus performer and member of the ministry. Much to the dismay of many, Father Charles was unable to attend due to the bad weather in Chicago. Those who could attend gathered on Thursday evening to enjoy dinner, enjoy fellowship and network with each other.
Friday morning entailed a partaking in reflection at the Pallotine Brothers conducted by Dr. André Molinaire who is the Director of the Rice School for the Pastoral Ministry of the Diocese of Venice, and a lay Scripture Scholar. He led in considering sections of the Gospel of Mark through the lens of Narrative Criticism. The Identity of Jesus was further explored by reviewing writings and scripture and a second session dealt with the Feeding Miracles. The morning concluded with Eucharist celebrated by Fr. Dick Notter.
That afternoon, Sr. Myrna reviewed the new structure of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church and gave an update on its activities, and highlighted the Five Priority Goals of the USCCB for 2008-2011. Time was also spent reviewing the past year by way of individual reports from the membership before reviewing the Structure and By-laws of the Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry which is incorporated in the State of Florida.
“The object of the organization is to minister to members of the Catholic faith who work in the Circus, Carnival, Auto Racing, Professional Bull Riders, Horse Racing, and other traveling show people who do not have a specific Church because of their mobile lifestyle. Members are people committed to enhancing the well being of show people. Although we are committed to the Catholic faith tradition, members do not have to be Catholic”-from Article of Incorporation of the Circus and Traveling Show Ministry Inc.
Gratitude was expressed to the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota for their generous grant to the Ministry. Various discussions were held regarding upcoming communications projects. Fr. Jerry discussed The Troubadour and his hope to have it placed on the World Wide Web. Publishing documents in the Spanish language such as the Spanish edition of the Circus Catechism and other Spanish language materials helpful to the ministry was also a discussion that inspired many to hope that it might soon be a reality.
The Saturday gathering began with a Mass for the deceased of the various traveling show ministries who died in 2008 of which Fr. Phil DeRea was the principal celebrant and homilist. The names of a large number of deceased from the circus, carnival, and auto racing communities were honored and read individually during the General Intercessions.
After Mass, there was a meeting of the Circus and Traveling Shows (CATS) Retirement Project where the areas that dealt with education and housing for the elderly were discussed. Many opportunities through the use of technology and other initiatives where people can receive an education were presented. This was in light of past discussions with key individuals that included a retired couple, a computer expert and an educator to investigate the need and opportunities for education for People on the Move. The discussion concluded that regarding care for elderly, the hope and dream are to find land to set up affordable housing where the Circus community can live. The Circus and Traveling Shows Retirement Project, Inc. (501c3 non-profit organization) was created as a result of these needs. Despite several funding challenges, one fund raising project in the works entails the sale of a very well written autobiography about a famous circus performer named Dorothy Herbert.
At the conclusion of the event, all gathered again at St. Martha’s for the Annual Circus and Traveling Shows Mass with ministry priests, deacons and Fr. Fausto Stampiglia, S.A.C., the pastor, concelebrating with Fr. Jerry Hogan the main celebrant and homilist. It was as they say in the circus “a straw house” – standing room only, with many active and retired circus performers present. This included the Willie and Jill Pages family who deserve honorable mention for attending since they had just arrived from Portugal where they had been performing. After Mass, ministry and circus community gathered for an enjoyable social hour in the parish Community Room before many departed for the airport to return to their home bases. All said their goodbyes by uttering “See you down the road.”
The book: Dorothy Herbert: A Memoir – Riding Sensation of the Age, is available at: Dale Riker, P.O.Box 361, Tallavast, FL 34270-0361.
Price: $15.00 Postage and Handling: $3.00
Make checks payable to: CATS Retirement Project