As he walked through the crowds gathered for the first Resurrection Parish SummerFest, the Rev. Mark Eckman liked what he was seeing.

“We had a late start, not knowing what the pandemic was going to bring,” the parish pastor said. “But we wanted to have the festival to bring the people together and help them know one another.”

Members of St. Thomas More Church in Bethel Park, the site of the six-day festival, and St. John Capistran in Upper St. Clair now are part of the same parish, as per the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s ongoing reorganization. But because of the limitations imposed by COVID-19, the parishioners have had relatively little opportunity for mutual introductions.

So SummerFest was intended as a way to remedy the situation.

“We actually had a pandemic plan. With the gym, we were going to limit it to so many people in there for so long. We were going to do all takeout meals. We were going to do the basket raffles virtually,” Eckman said. “As the regulations kept easing up, we were able to go to a full festival.”

The result turned out to be an extravaganza featuring something for everyone, from quality entertainment to children’s amusements to games of chance. And with most of the people in attendance sufficiently vaccinated to forgo masks, smiles were visible for the first time in quite a while.

Although St. Thomas More hosted the festival, members of both parish churches took part in planning and working the event.

“It’s nice, because they’re meeting one another. They’re cooperating with each other,” Eckman said. “Normally, when you have a parish merger, it takes about five years for that to sort of solidify. So this is a first step.”

The diocese has been addressing the issues of fewer priests and parishioners by combining the resources of various churches.

“We’re really happy with our parish, because with the name Resurrection, it’s new life,” Eckman said. “And that’s what we’re trying to create.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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