Shepherd’s shorn stubble cinches successful parish festival

| Submitted by Rose Ann | July 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

Fr. Balluff

Fr. Tom Balluff, pastor of the Church of St. Mary of Czestochowa in rural Delano, is a man who will make great sacrifices for his flock. And at the parish’s annual festival, he proved it once again.

It was Sunday, July 17 and the weather forecasters were predicting temperatures near 100. Not to be deterred/hindered/frustrated, the people of St. Mary’s bustled here and there in preparation for their guests. The ladies in the country store were arranging the tables of garden produce, baked goods, crafts, needlework, and knicknacks. The band was setting up to play under the tent. The aroma of pork chops on the grill was enough to put appetites in high gear. The variety of homemade bars, cookies, and cakes grew and grew. (No one leaves hungry from St. Mary’s annual festival.)

And then, shortly before the 10:30 am Mass, Fr. Balluff arrived, just back from vacation…sporting a beard! What did his parishioners think? This was a great opportunity! Would he be willing to shave it off—today–if $500 were raised in pledges? “$1000,” countered Fr. Balluff with a laugh, then realizing his parishioners were in earnest, compromised with $750. And the race against time began.

By the time Mass was over, about one third of the pledges had been raised. Then the festival events officially began and as the parishioners became busy serving their guests, new pledges slowed down to a trickle. One couple who had pledged $10, returned to raise their pledge to $70 after seeing the beard. One child of the parish brought to mind the story of the widow’s mite as she donated a crumpled one dollar bill. Other parishioners liked the beard and started a “Keep the Beard” fund.

The pledge sign-up sheet was passed through the bingo, the fishing pond, the Splat-the-Rat, into the basement where guests enjoyed their beef sandwiches, baked potatoes, and poppy kuchen, and back again. The excitement rose and so did the temperature. Several men of the parish who had sported beards for years mentioned that, in the heat, they were considering shaving their own beards. And Fr. Balluff continued to laugh among the guests and parishioners.

With barely an hour left of the festival, parishioners realized it was going to be “a close shave” and began raising their pledges. The news began circulating…”a little more than $100 to go.” “Only $70 to go!” “Do we have shaving cream and razor?” The final pledges poured in, bringing the total to $761. One parishioner volunteered to be Fr. Balluff’s barber. A razor, shaving gel, mirror, and dishpan of water were secured. Cameras were readied and the audience gathered. St. Mary’s festival ended with it’s usual raffle drawing, and a clean-shaven pastor.

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