By Anthony Barich
Ice cream is bringing City Beach Primary School students’ families back to the Church.
It’s a slow process, but when parish priest Fr Don Kettle holds an ‘Ice cream Sunday’ and the kids of the school are dragging their parents along to chat with him and make that human connection, it’s a good start.
Fr Kettle first experienced the evangelical potential of icecream when he did his three-month pastoral placement at St Michael’s parish in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in the United States while he was a student seminarian in Australia.
He started the idea when he was assistant priest at Rockingham parish in 2002 and at Dianella as parish administrator in 2005.
Dianella parish still holds Ice cream Sundays, proving that it works. Holy Spirit parish held its first Ice cream Sunday on May 4, with children enjoying ice cream, face painting and balloons handed out by a clown outside after the Sunday morning Mass while Fr Kettle got to know the parents better, some of whom were not churched themselves.
In the US, Ice cream Sunday in a parish can be a full-day event, with children and teenagers also offered catechesis and faith formation as a way of re-introducing people to their faith.
This is something Fr Kettle wants to incorporate into his event soon, as the focus is on bridging the gap between the school and the adjoining parish, as “many parents who drop their kids at school aren’t connected to the parish”.
On the day, the whole Sunday morning Mass is “geared up”, including the singing and the homily, “conscious of the fact you have people there who aren’t regulars at Mass,” he said.
Evangelisation is one of the portfolios of our parish council, and Catechesis is on there.
“Catechetics is important so people have a good understanding of their faith”.
“It’s one way of reaching them, even if it’s once every three months.The next one will be held in August and it will certainly be one day that the children do not need to be encouraged to go to Mass.”
Fr Kettle reported that one child even said to her mother, “Mum, that’s great, can we go next weekend?”
“During Children’s Liturgy the children were asked if they knew what special day it was.
“Instead of the hoped for reply of ‘Feast of the Ascension’, one youngster immediately replied “Ice Cream Sunday!
“As long as they’re coming to Church, they’re giving the Holy Spirit an opportunity to do His thing.”