Skip to comments.Circus ministry is a high-wire act of faith for chaplain (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 10/18/2011 9:25:10 AM PDT by NYer
WORCESTER, Mass. — With a stairwell for a confessional and a folding table for an altar, the lobby of the DCU Center arena doesn’t look especially holy — until a band of circus workers gathers for Mass.
That’s when the Rev. Jerry Hogan dons a colorful chasuble festooned with images of big tops, lions and zebras. As he administers the Eucharist, off-duty performers help sanctify the space by kneeling on the marble floor, praying and breaking spontaneously into Portuguese song.
The event is no act, even if it is associated with a three-ring circus.
After months of living together on a train and performing hundreds of shows a year, these 50 Catholic circus workers and their children are a beaming bunch as they hug the priest and nuns who’ve prepared them for this day.
“This gives me a way to know Jesus and to be protected,” said trapeze artist Ingrid Silva as she prepared for the sacrament of confirmation.
The Circus and Traveling Show Ministries of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops provides the spiritual lifeblood for about 4,500 Catholics who work in North America’s 41 traveling circuses, as well as thousands more who work in carnivals, rodeos and auto racing.
Since the workers’ lives are too transient to allow many of them to get to church, instead it comes to them. Now the ministry is being reformed to depend less on religious professionals and more on laypeople.
For years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus employed nuns as teachers for circus workers’ children; they led religious programs for adults on their own time. Circus employment has ended for Sisters Dorothy Fabritze and Bernard Overkamp, who are leaving to travel with other circuses, staying a few weeks to train workers to serve as religious educators and relying on donations to sustain their ministry.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
If they need a mechanic, a dentist or new eyeglasses, he steers them to merchants who wont take advantage.
If their car breaks down, a guy could be shady and say, Oh, youre with the circus? and charge them an extra $200, Hogan says. Youre always dealing with these subtle prejudices. So they say, Father Jerry, can you get me a mechanic? And I do.
God bless this priest for assisting these people. Ministry, as noted, extends beyond celebration of Mass. Please read the entire article for some insight into how a strong faith bolsters their daily lives.
I used to know some nuns with the Little Sisters of Jesus(Bl.Charles de Foucauld’s order) who traveled with nomads, including desert tribes and primitive goat-herder types, and also including migrant laborers, motion picture production workers, and circus performers. The sisters’ role was just to be there and pray, to befriend, to be helpful when needed. I always thought it was admirable, as well as strongly appealing to the adventurous type!
Thanks for the interesting post. Perhaps more than ever, we need religious outreach to such groups. It is indeed admirable.
There’s a great priest in NYC who ministers to the circus when it comes to town. Fr. John.