18 cram into pastor’s Volkswagen to raise money

Eighteen people — children and adults — filled every space inside Father Bernie Weir’s Volkswagen on Pentecost outside St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Ottumwa. The event was a fundraiser for the Ottumwa Catholic Community Scholarship Fund. For $1 you could guess the total number of people who would fit in the VW, and for another $1, the total weight of the people.

By Barb Arland-Fye

OTTUMWA — How many people can you fit inside a 1968 Volkswagen? Father Bernie Weir figured 20 would fit in his VW. But when one of the younger participants started to cry, he decided 18 was the limit to the fundraising contest held on Pentecost outside St. Mary of the Visitation Church.

Fr. Weir, the pastor, is the mastermind of annual fundraising schemes to benefit the Ottumwa Catholic Community Scholarship Fund. Its recipients are college-bound students from the parishes of St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick in Ottumwa and St. Mary Magdalen in Bloomfield.

For this year’s contest, contestants paid $1 to guess the total number of people who could fit in the VW and $1 to guess their total weight. Volunteers, ranging in age from about 3 to the mid-50s, squeezed into the small car following the 12:45 p.m. Mass and a potluck. The event celebrated both Pentecost and the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Altogether, the contest raised $397. Karol Salgado successfully guessed 18 people could fit in the Bug, while Judy Beisch came closest to estimating the total weight — 1,800 pounds — vs. the actual weight of 1,778 pounds, Fr. Weir said.


Their prizes were a toy Volkswagen and a St. Christopher’s key chain, respectively.

Both prizes were donated, so Fr. Weir didn’t have to spend a cent.

“We try to do something every year to raise money for the scholarship fund. This was just another installment of that,” said Fr. Weir, who last year shed 15 inches of hair for the fundraising contest. Among the lucky “barbers” who paid for the opportunity to cut his locks was his dad, John Weir. The money went toward the scholarship fund, while the thick gray hair went to an organization that helps children suffering from hair loss.

Dad was at the VW fundraising contest this year, too, “but we couldn’t get him stuffed in,” Fr. Weir joked.

Earlier installments of the annual fundraising contests included the most beautiful rectory dog and faster-pastor drag race, both of which Father John Spiegel, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, won.

However, Fr. Spiegel has shirked his duty in devising contest ideas; next year’s contest is up to him, Fr. Weir said.

The fundraising efforts are a boon to the scholarship fund, which awards about $3,000 a year to students who are active in their parishes. About 12 or 13 scholarships were awarded this year.

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