Around 150 people gathered on the bucolic grounds of St. Mary Providence Center in Elverson, northern Chester County, on Saturday, Aug. 19 for an afternoon and evening filled with heart-felt music and praise by local performers, and shopping with local artisans and vendors.

Festival goers enjoyed a beautiful August day with slightly cooler temperatures as a touch of impending Autumn could be felt in the air. The audience gathered on blankets and lawn chairs, enjoying the sunshine and entertainment.

A stage erected amidst a grassy field was decorated with haystacks and strewn with sunflowers. The event opened with a prayer by Sister Brenda McHugh, management director of St. Mary Providence Center.

The afternoon featured performances by local musicians Matt Kozak, Jacob Springer, and Sarah Carpenter.

A Visio Divina prayer was led at 4 p.m. by Sister Brenda and Jillian Speranza, program coordinator with the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, followed by Mass celebrated at 5 p.m. with Father Shaun Mahoney, parochial administrator at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Philadelphia.

Courtesy Photo: St. Mary of Providence Center


Evening performances featured the local band, Saints Alive, and headliner Marie Miller from Nashville, TN.

Saints Alive is a new band, which debuted last February in Philadelphia. They performed last June at the Philly March for Life and will perform next month at Abbeyfest in Paoli.

The band is fronted by local singer/songwriter Gus deSimone (who’s performed at MagniFest for three consecutive years). He says that MagniFest organizer Beth Riordan approached him in early 2021 after daily Mass at Saint Isaac Jogue’s parish in Wayne with the idea to start the music festival “to bring some much-needed exposure to local Catholic artists and musicians.”

“I was very excited about this because it’s difficult for artists who want to create for the purpose of glorifying God to find a platform and grow support in an increasingly secular world,” says deSimone. “I was so excited that the Holy Spirit had been moving in Beth’s heart, which felt like a confirmation from God to me that dedicating one’s craft solely for the glorification of God was something that He wanted, even if the world did not.”

Saints Alive perform at Magnifest 2023. Photo courtesy of St. Mary of Providence Center

He says that since his first appearance at MagniFest in 2021, he’s seen his music ministry “really blossom and grow,” and he hopes Saints Alive draws others into a devotion to the Catholic saints.

The performance by the band Saints Alive also featured a drum solo by the band’s percussionist Fr. Hyacinth Marie Cordell, O.P.

Between acts, festival goers enjoyed browsing vendor tables of Catholic paintings, crafts, and jewelry, and eating hamburgers, hotdogs, and ice cream.

As the sun went down past the nearby cornfields, Miller, who performed for Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Philadelphia, sang inspirational melodies in her delicate and lilting voice, while playing a mix of guitar and mandolin.

MagniFest not only provides a stage for local Catholic artists, but also benefits St. Mary of Providence Center, managed by The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence as a retreat center, an independent living center for Seniors, and a resource to support the spiritual development of the community.