Have you ever been to Kirchenfest? Every year on the fourth full weekend of August, St. Paul Parish in Highland opens their doors and hearts to an average, I once heard, of over 15,000 attendees for their weekend parish picnic. In German, “Kirchenfest” means church (kirchen) festival/picnic (fest). It is an amazing event filled with countless examples of “discipleship,” especially in the stewardship of time, but likewise in the stewardship of talent and treasure.
Father Pat Jakel and Deacon Dave Bohnenstiehl along with their parish family truly lived out the stewardship pillar of “hospitality” in a way that is amazing, second to none when it comes to parish picnics. Once again they were great hosts who truly made you feel “at home.” The picnic covers most of their parish grounds and has many stands filled with phenomenal food options, and great games like the “I Dood It” which for two straight days has 20 or more playing each game. Music bands bring great entertainment for listening and dancing, like Motown Review and The Jorrells — they are awesome. A Polka Mass, which is so beautiful, brings together over a 1,000 folks to worship.
The theme for this picnic has been, “Kirchenfest, Where the Fun is In Tents” (intense). All areas are covered by tents to keep folks in the shade and comfortable. They even have carpeted and air-conditioned bathrooms. It’s unbelievable.
Well over 1,000 (mostly parishioners, but also friends, Catholic and non-Catholic) give their time and talent to put on this extravaganza. For four days before the picnic, over 50 folks gather each night to set-up. It is a “well-oiled machine.”
This year’s chairperson was Blake Kohlbrecker. To be the general chairperson you would have had to be an assistant chairperson under other general chairpersons for three previous years. So, there is a four year commitment of stewardship that the person makes. At 4 p.m. on Sunday all the previous general chairpersons came back to “toast” and congratulate Blake. He and his wife, Patti and family have truly blessed their parish by their many tireless hours of service. Blake is just a truly good person. At the toast the former chairpersons all wear identifiable shirts as previous chairs. It is such a witness of the long tradition of what it means to serve the Lord and your parish. The first chairperson, Ralph Korte, (Father Pat’s uncle) keeps coming back, and is a true inspiration for all the past chairs, and all the new chairpersons to come.
I heard that over the weekend the monies gathered without bills being paid yet totaled $406,000. This element in stewardship of treasure is a great support for the wonderful vibrant faith of this parish with its many ministries to “spread the Good News” and the Catholic faith in this community.
Kirchenfest is another “gem” in our diocesan life that shows “discipleship as a way of life” is alive and well. As Jesus often said, “Come and see.” Each year I love going back to “see” this great experience which gathers the hearts and hands of so many stewards in this common cause of being a “servant” for the Lord.