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Fun Festival Finale

Posted by Administrator (admin) on May 19 2017
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When the last bingo ball bobbed to the surface and drew an enthusiastic “Bingo!” yell from the crowd this April 30, it signaled the end of an era in the robust 104-year history of the School Sisters of St. Francis in the United States. It brought to a close the final Spring Festival at Mount Assisi Convent in Pittsburgh, where the sisters have been hosting the perennial event since at least the late 1950s when Sister Rosalia Giba remembers her father helping to erect the booths. 

Earlier this year, our sisters voted by great majority to make this the final year for Festival. While most acknowledge that the event has become too massive a physical undertaking for our aging sisters and volunteers, they could not deny their emotional attachment to the event. 

“This festival has meant so much to so many people,” Sister Cecilia Jacko said during this year’s pre-festival pizza party and social, during which many sisters shared fond festival memories. 

Sister Pat Marie Buranosky remembers helping with festival preparations as a young teacher in the early 1960s, while Sister Georgette Dublino cherishes how the day has always embodied the best of the community.

“I remember the many ways we made the festival look beautiful for all who came and how we had to shift with the weather,” Sister Georgette says. “But despite that, the people who came from all our missions were so happy to see us.”

The festival saw many renditions over the years, ranging from a three-day outdoor event to the single-afternoon indoor attraction of more recent years. Regardless of the year or timing, the festival has always been the backdrop for a kind of fellowship between the sisters and the surrounding community that has spanned generations.








BACK ROW (left to right): Sister JoAnn Knaebel, Lynn Knaebel, Sister Norberta Kralosky, Sister Rosaria Shina, Janice Briggs, Heidi Moyer, Mercedes Saldutti, Sister Eve Blostic, Sister Geraldine Ann Kasper, Sister Joyce Burkhart, Sister Regina Ann Rokosny, Sister Marie Glodava, Shirley Vida, Sister Rosemarie Bartnicki, Nicole Knupsky, Sister Rosalia Giba, Sister Marian Sgriccia, Sister Lorita Kristufek, Sister Elaine Hromulak, Sister Loretta Motko, Sister Georgette Dublino, Sister Lois Jean DiFalco. MIDDLE ROW (left to right): Elva Alonzo, Lynn Cosgrove, Mary Helen Cerna, Sister Barbara Ann Webster, Sister Virginia Rose Carroll. Janie Delgado, Sister Pat Marie Buranosky, Helen McComb, Sister Connie Frank, Sister Bernadine Marie Stemnock, Sister Margaret Elaine Rovnak. FRONT ROW (left to right): Sister Roselyn Kuzma, Sister Ancy Francis, Armandina Garcia, Sister Pat Mahoney, Sister Karen Buco, Judi Colt, Carol Walton, Sister Frances Marie Duncan. NOT PICTURED: Sisters Mary Lou Metro, Cecilia Jacko, Kathy Kudlac, Beena Jose and Francesa Parana, Laurie Merwin, Kathy Duncan, Louise Sheleen, Tom Steenbeke, Samantha Steenbeke and so many more!

The final festival day – which raised more than $47,000 – was bittersweet for Amy Shelleby, who lives just down the road from Mount Assisi and has made the last Sunday in April a regular date on her family calendar for her four children.

“I remember coming with my mother to the festival when I was a child. She graduated from Mount Assisi in 1960 and loved bringing me to Bellevue to show me where she went to school,” Amy says. “I now bring my children to the festival, and they look forward to it every year!”

Amy was not alone in her surprise when she learned on festival day that this was the last. Sister Frances Marie Duncan addressed the 2017 festival crowd, explaining the change and also expressing gratitude for seven decades of community support for the event.

“Throughout the day, several people called me over and asked me why this was the last,” says Nicole Knupsky, festival coordinator since 2012. “They understood why, but they were disappointed nonetheless. They are keeping an eye out for a different event next year.” 

Despite its 70-year history, Festival still manages to attract newcomers. “This was my first time here. We had a blast,” says Derek Donnelly of Pittsburgh, who attended this year with his girlfriend. “The ice cream was the best ever!”

Through the decades, many patrons have been led to Festival by their tastebuds to satisfy cravings for scrumptious stuffed cabbage, baked chicken, kielbasi, haluski and homemade baked goods. They came for the food then stayed for the fun offered by booths synonymous with certain sisters, like Sister Genevieve Mary Jurick’s clowns, Sister Mercedes Benko’s crafts, and the ice cream stand run by Sisters Julie and Frances Jacko.

“The festival always seems to mark the start of summer and the end of winter,” says Pat Pressler of Avalon, Pa., who began bringing her now adult children to Festival when they were small.

Over the years, Festival has become a destination for folks as close as neighboring Bellevue Borough to as far away as Texas and Florida. Alumnae from across Pennsylvania and even from out of state have been part of festival preparations for the past 18 years, from peeling potatoes during a Friday morning ritual to arranging raffle baskets and booth prizes. 

“Seeing all my ‘old’ teachers and classmates and the good feeling I get working at the festival – I’m right back in the ‘70s here at ‘The Mount,” says Diana Anzelone Brown of Millvale, Pa., who helps with bingo each year. 

Diana is among a small army of Mount Assisi Academy grads recruited annually by former sister Lynn Cosgrove to return to their beloved alma mater for Festival Day. Their ongoing enthusiasm makes it a must to engage Mount Assisi alumnae in whatever event the future holds. 

“I’ll miss seeing all my old teachers to ‘catch up’ and, of course, the nutrolls,” says 1974 grad Jeanne Anne Goyke Wild of Carrick, Pa.

The festival team has operated as a well-oiled machine over the years, mixing tasks like packaging baked goods on Festival Eve with the revelry of seeing old friends and recounting good times. With warm hearts the team welcomes the simplicity of receiving a Festival Eve ice cream sandwich from Sister Cecilia and tracking the raffle ticket winners throughout May – just some of the little things that have contributed to the enduring sense of tradition. 

“I have been coming here every year with my mother and grandmother – over 20 years of memories,” says Ashley Jericho of Shaler, Pa. “I’m sad I won’t get to carry on the tradition with my own children, but I will never forget all the great times and people I’ve met.”

Later this summer, the Sisters will begin planning a smaller-scale spring event for 2018. Stay tuned for details!

Last changed: May 19 2017 at 3:06 PM


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