Jesus must have been smiling down on the grounds of Daylesford Abbey as the 9th Annual AbbeyFest took place on Saturday, September 16. This festival of Christian gospel music included speakers, musicians, religious vendors, food, games, confession, Mass, Adoration, and Benediction.
Among the musical artists were Riley Clemons, Array Hope of Music, Village Lights featuring Sarah Kroger, Ike Ndolo, and Rickey Vazquez as well as Gus DeSimone. Matthew West was the lead performer this year. Before they took the stage, Co-Hosts Mark Griswold and Hannah Schaefer said a few words of welcome. “We are so blessed that the Norbertine Community has welcomed us back,” said Griswold.
With prayer essential as always, Abbot Dominic Rossi delivered an opening prayer before the music got underway.
“We at Daylesford Abbey are delighted to welcome you,” said Abbot Rossi. “Lord Jesus, we love you, we praise you and bless your name. We ask your blessing on each and every person who comes here today.”
More than 5,000 people came from near and far on a sun-filled day with a calm breeze. In addition to the music, it was a day to revive one’s soul. Mother Nature could not have provided better conditions to do so.
“It’s about reviving your soul,” said Schaefer. “Take it home. Heaven is going to touch Earth.”
DeSimone of the Saints Alive band led off the entertainment on stage. Among his biggest fans are Mission Youth Philly Apostles, a one-year mission program of evangelization and discernment that serves the Lord in the community. Several of those young apostles were right up front by the stage dancing, cheering on and singing along with DeSimone.
“Gus is so good,” said Monica Coffey, a 2023-2024 Mission Youth Apostle. “Seeing him perform live is really nice. He is amazing. His songs help you to understand.”
“People have powerful encounters with Christ,” said Malorie Leach, Apostle Program Director. “It’s amazing. There’s a lot of joy here.”
Some members of the crowd have attended AbbeyFest every year since its inception in 2014. It was a first time for others. That was true for some of Schaefer’s family including her parents, Mark and Mary Ann Schaefer, who came from Columbia City, Indiana, along with her three and a half-month old son, Rival, making it a three-generation family affair. Schaefer’s husband, Ryan Wiegole, was present as well.
“It’s very entertaining, lots of energy, positive attitude, beautiful facility,” said Mark Schaefer.
Another one of the youngest fans of AbbeyFest was nine-month old Oliver Beiler who came with his mother, Kassandra Beiler, of Lancaster County. Beiler attended for the second time with her cousin, Samantha Re, a parishioner at Saint Eleanor’s in Collegeville. Re’s parents, Anthony and Amy Re, are personal friends of Griswold and so they have taken part in AbbeyFest for many years.
“It’s definitely a family event,” said Beiler. “It’s a beautiful day of community coming together with music to see people. We love it. It’s a weekend we look forward to as summer’s coming to an end.”
Array of Hope made its way to the stage so that people could worship in song during Mass. It also provided prelude selections including “Fall on Me” and “We Come to the Altar.” Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez was the principal celebrant and homilist at Mass. He was joined by several priest concelebrants.
“I thought it was special with the large crowd of faithful participating,” said Michael Bradley, a parishioner of Saint Gabriel Parish in Norwood.
During his homily, the archbishop talked about his recent visit to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Archbishop Pérez felt as if God was speaking to the whole world there through the Holy Father’s words to the 1.6 million attendees.
“To listen to Jesus is life’s secret,” he said. “Listen to what Jesus is saying to you. Listen to Jesus, for He will show you what path is love.”
Archbishop Pérez concluded with a reminder that the Church and the world need its people just like the earth needs rain.
Worship songs “Lord, I Need You” and “Just Want You” were sung as people received Holy Communion. The congregation went forth with the song “Your Grace is Enough.”
In addition to celebrating the Eucharist, Archbishop Pérez took the time to meet as many faithful pilgrims as possible throughout the day and evening. He posed for pictures with many of them including youth volunteers. This marked his third visit to AbbeyFest.
“I feel like having the Archbishop definitely brings new energy,” said Joann DiFederico of Saint John Vianney Center and a parishioner of Saint Joseph’s in Downingtown. “It’s always nice to see younger people enthusiastic about their faith.”
A solemn candlelight Eucharistic procession, Adoration, and Benediction under the stars wrapped up the day-long event. West provided the music as people held their candles for light in the darkness.
“The moment was just so beautiful,” said DiFederico. “It is so incredibly moving.”
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