Papa-palooza afternoon of family fun is a hit


Get the latest stories and pictures from the pope's visit to Cuba and the United States at www.stlouisreview.com/pope-visit.

Sid Hastings

Mike and Mary Blum's five children went fishing at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary on Sept. 19 -- sort of, anyway.

The children, two of them wearing St. Paul in Fenton uniforms after just arriving from a soccer game, took part in the "Fishers of Men (People)" game. The version of a Hungry, Hungry Hippo game -- having children guided around on a small, rolling platform and a basket to capture wiffle balls -- was marked by a sign that included a Scripture reference to Jesus' call to two fishermen-disciples to follow Him.

Navigating to onlookers' shouts of "Get it, get it" and "Come on, come on," the youngsters did pretty well. Young Joseph Blum, however, said he liked the popabaloonza game the most, which gave him a chance to pop balloons attached to a board.

The Blum family attended "Papa-palooza," hosted by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The local celebration highlighted the World Meeting of Families which was held in Philadelphia in conjunction with the first apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the United States.

Papa-palooza's mission was to provide an afternoon of family fun, including Mass, a dinner and a concert of Christian music by St. Louis' Adam Bitter Band -- in an alcohol-free and faith-filled atmosphere. The families at the Papa-palooza raved about the well-organized event.

"This is a wonderful day for families, with so many unique games," said Angela Anderson of Holy Redeemer Parish in Webster Groves, who was with her husband, Jerry. "They must of been up late one night with too much sugar" when the games were created, she joked about the organizers.

Anderson liked how the activities kept the children's interest while connecting them with parts of the Catholic faith.

Cathy Gilmore of Holy Infant in Ballwin, attending the event with her husband, Bill, along with their son and his two friends, said that besides highlighting the pope's visit to the United States, Papa-palooza "shows people that our Catholic faith is joyful and fun."

Gilmore was planning to leave in a few days on a road trip to Philadelphia with some friends to take in the atmosphere of the papal visit, give prayerful support to the pope and, with work gloves and trash bags in hand, to help with cleaning up after the crowds. "I'm super-psyched," she said.

Sharon Werner, traveling from Immaculate Conception Parish in St. James, Mo., with her husband and five children, said "the kids are having a blast. This is right up our alley. Wholesome."

Her daughter, Maria Werner, said she appreciated getting her portrait from a caricature artist and liked how game-players were rewarded even when they lost.

The Werners were not alone in traveling some distance to the event. Attendees also came from areas such as Columbia, Mo., and from Illinois.

One of the more popular games was the hoolapalooza game, featuring hoolahoops and a musical-chairs theme. A life-size cardboard cutout of Pope Francis begged people to pose for photographs. A banner was filled with signatures of attendees, ready to be displayed by one of the St. Louis attending a papal Mass in Philadelphia. In the homily at Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice spoke of the message of mercy that Pope Francis brings.

Papa-palooza gave families a place and reason to spend quality time together, said Julie Bostick, executive director of the archdiocese's Office of Laity and Family Life. Volunteers included several seminarians and young women religious, some in formation with their communities.

While waiting for attendees to arrive, Kenrick-Glennon seminarians Nicholas Mishek and Paul Clark explained their game, "Plinko" -- a question-and-answer game about the faith.

Mishek provided a typical question for the children: "What does a priest pour on a baby during baptism?" -- water. For Sister Maliya Suen of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, he asked a harder question: "What saint's feast do we celebrate on Monday (Sept. 21)?

She couldn't be stumped, quickly answering "St. Matthew."

Office of Laity and Family Life
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