Father Tadeusz Gorka, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Royersford, donned traditional Polish costume for an Oct. 1 Oktoberfest. (Cara Burrell)

A number of archdiocesan parishes kicked off this month with lively Oktoberfests that drew thousands over pumpkin patches, crafts, games, food and (of course) beer.

St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philadelphia opened its Oct. 2 gathering with a 100-plus kids’ kazoo parade and a performance by the Pride of Erin Irish dance troupe. An estimated 3,000 attendees enjoyed a wide array of foods and beverages under “a big tent where there’s room for all,” said parishioner Karen Harrison, who also called the numbers for a few competitive rounds of candy bingo.

Volunteer Patty McCarthy said she distributed every single one of the 200 pumpkins (150 donated by State Rep. Martina White) set aside for painting by kids on hand. The brightly colored works of art were on display as they dried in the sun under the watchful eye of a Blessed Mother statue.


Down the road, St. Katherine of Siena Parish in the city’s Torresdale section held an Oct.2-3 festival that featured some 40 crafters and artisans, along with a petting zoo, moon bounce and beer garden.

At Sacred Heart Parish in Royersford, more than 100 attendees gathered Oct. 1 in the decorated gym, with some folks even donning lederhosen — the iconic Bavarian shorts with suspenders — for the occasion.

Sacred Heart pastor Father Tadeusz Gorka “wore an amazing traditional Polish celebration outfit” complete with “peacock feathers,” said parish staffer Christine Klag, noting the beverage selection included both German and Polish brews.

Oktoberfest celebrations are more than 200 years old, with the first taking place in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria (later King Louis I) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

Children enjoyed a petting zoo during an Oct.2-3 “Oktoberfestival” at St. Katherine of Siena Parish in Philadelphia. (Facebook/St. Katherine of Siena Parish)

While the official two-week Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany was cancelled this year due to COVID, the local parish versions provided much-needed fellowship in a safe, manageable setting, said organizers.

The St. Katharine of Siena and St. Anselm events were held outdoors, and Sacred Heart’s gym provided plenty of space in which “to spread out,” said Klag.

The Oktoberfests were also a form of evangelization, said St. Anselm pastor Father Anthony Rossi.

“I think it’s a very good thing for our school community and for our parish … because it (reaches) people not directly connected to the parish, especially young families moving into the neighborhood,” he said.

“It’s a way to bring families together to have some food and have fun,” said Mary Ann Thackrah, advancement director for St. Anselm School.

After months of COVID-related isolation, those simple joys are more precious than ever, said Klag.

“Everybody really needed to be together; they missed seeing each other,” she said. “And they were hungry to reconnect.”

Painted pumpkins dry in the sun during an Oct. 2 Oktoberfest hosted by St. Anselm Parish in Philadelphia. (Gina Christian)