By Mary Ann Messer
For The Catholic Messenger
While many parishes have annual fundraisers or events, St. Alphonsus in Mount Pleasant has two. Old Threshers Reunion is a five-day community tradition that builds relationships and creates opportunities for evangelization. A few weeks later, the parish celebrates its Fall Festival with an invitation to the community to participate as well. Each event opens doors to new acquaintances and relationships, but St. Alphonsus’ involvement in Old Threshers reaches beyond the geographic area of Henry County.
Parishioners volunteer each year at Old Threshers, which concludes on Labor Day. Many parishioners in the 350-family parish volunteer throughout the reunion by preparing food at the parish hall. Others work on the grounds of the event serving dinners, grilling short-order items, preparing rotisserie chicken and scooping ice cream. Some make pies, cookies or other desserts. A parish committee plans and orders supplies while other parishioners set up and tear down the weekend before and the days afterward.
According to the Southeast Iowa Union, more than 36,000 people attended this year’s event, setting an attendance record. Parish representatives reported that St. Alphonsus volunteers served approximately 2,300 dinners, 7,400 sandwiches, 7,000 desserts and 8,000 beverages.
No one is sure when St. Alphonsus first got involved in Old Threshers, which began in 1950 as an opportunity to bring people together for fun, education and to celebrate the town’s progress. But St. Alphonsus has been serving meals on the grounds at Old Threshers since the early years. Many parishioners have served as committee chairs; this year was the sixth for Josh and Karla Maher and Amy and Jeremy McLaughlin.
Old Threshers also provides an opportunity for St. Alphonsus to share faith, hospitality and joy by working with each other and other members of the community throughout the reunion. Mass is celebrated on the event’s grounds Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
Getting involved in this community activity can take some people out of their comfort zone. Parishioners often work alongside people they have never met, but this is where they get to know each other. The people preparing condiments in the parish hall, for example — in 2-ounce cups of lettuce, cheese, onions and tomatoes — have plenty of time to visit. Others take up their work on the grounds, scooping ice cream or serving meat loaf and passing the dinner plate down the line.
Old Threshers pairs St. Alphonsus parishioners who may always attend Sunday morning Mass with the devoted Saturday night Mass attendees. Retired parishioners meet young parents; lifelong parishioners meet new parishioners. Without Old Threshers, these encounters might never happen. Because they happen, the parish family is enriched by new friendships made.