May 30, 2024 // Diocese

St. Thérèse, Little Flower Parish Praises Holy Spirit with Pentecost Festivities

The staff at St. Thérèse, Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend consider one of their “anchors as a parish” to be “reliance on the Holy Spirit,” according to Abby Kyle, the parish’s Director of Evangelization. So, when Pentecost approached this year, they knew they wanted to do something extra special as a parish to mark the occasion.

“[The Holy Spirit] is a gift that the Lord desires to give to everyone,” Father Julius Okojie, Pastor of St. Thérèse, Little Flower, said at the Pentecost Mass, citing Jesus’ promise to pour out the Holy Spirit.

Photos by Kasia Balsbaugh
Parishioners roast hot dogs at the Pentecost vigil bonfire at St. Thérèse, Little Flower Catholic Church on Saturday, May 18.

The Pentecost weekend was full of events from a family-friendly bonfire with worship music to intercessory prayer to a multicultural food festival hosted by parishioners from around the world. Kyle said she wanted to offer multiple opportunities for celebration throughout the weekend.

“We just wanted to make sure there was something for everyone,” Kyle said. She added, “Sometimes people think that life in the Holy Spirit is this monolith, when it’s really not.”

One feature of the weekend was the Called and Gifted workshop, which leads participants to discern the charisms (particular gifts) that they have been personally given by the Holy Spirit, whether leadership, service, craftsmanship, or others. Parishioner Grace Rivelli joined in the workshop this year because she had heard positive things from former participants. Because the workshop fell on Pentecost weekend, she called the decision to sign up a “no-brainer.”

“I was wanting to welcome the Holy Spirit and see how He’s being activated in my life,” Rivelli said.

Parishioners lead intercessory prayer after the Pentecost Sunday Mass at St. Thérèse, Little Flower Catholic Church.

Most of the charisms Rivelli discerned were not surprising – especially that of encouragement, which Rivelli said she uses frequently in her job as a teacher at St. Joseph Preschool. But of other charisms she has less experience with, Rivelli said, “I’m curious to see if the Lord might use that in the future, down the road.”

Another major weekend event was the foreign cuisine fest after the Sunday Pentecost Mass. Parish staff dubbed this the “tongues of fire multicultural food festival,” after the passage in Acts where foreigners all hear the disciples speaking in their own languages. Different countries were represented with tables, decorations, and, of course, good food. Kyle expressed her enthusiasm in “all these different cultures celebrating our unity under the Trinity,” while Father Okojie reminded everyone present that “God chose to make us who we are; it isn’t a mistake that we come from different cultures.” He exhorted everyone to “show up and show off” their cultural heritages.

A balloon arch hangs over the entrance to the multicultural food festival on Sunday, May 19.

Food at the festival ranged from Rwandan samosas to the Caribbean island Saint Lucia’s national dish: “green fig salad,” made with green bananas and salted fish (one taster said it reminded her of potato salad).

At her table, native Lebanese Pauline Farhat showed visitors how to eat food the Lebanese way. Farhat moved to the United States from Lebanon two months ago because of the war in the Middle East. Farhat said she was motivated to participate in the festival so she could introduce people to St. Charbel, a significant saint in the Maronite Catholic rite and in Lebanon. “St. Charbel wants to be known in Indiana,” Farhat said.

A table decorated with Puertorrican flags serves puertorrican and costarrican food.

Longtime parishioner Carolynn Hine-Edington has Native American Cherokee heritage and, like many other participants, came dressed in native garb. In her case, this was regalia for the healing “jingle dance,” which is a dress covered in 360 tin cones representing days of the year. Hine-Edington said she loves learning about all different cultures while introducing people to her own. “We’re here to praise God who made us,” Hine-Edington said.

Of course, prayer was a central part of the weekend, whether through the extended Pentecost Vigil Mass, Mass parts prayed in languages from Tagalog to German, or the personal intercessory prayers offered after every weekend Mass.

“We are grateful to the Holy Spirit for manifesting strongly in our parish this weekend, and for continuing to animate us to bear witness to Christ,” Father Okojie said. “This is a revival moment for our parish, and South Bend as a whole.” 

As Kyle said, “Jesus is always going after the one, so that is our hope and our objective, for individuals to experience the personal love of Jesus.” She added, “If even one person understands that this weekend, all this work will be worth it.”

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