Sunday, June 3
By Father Tom Hurley
I suppose the summer time surfaces a lot of feelings and memories for all of us: relief from the winter and cold temps; an excitement to be outdoors; memories of vacation places; or perhaps fond memories of what we did with our summer days since we were out of school on break. One of my fondest memories that gets triggered by these summer days was growing up as a kid on the south side and playing on a baseball team at the local park district. With the exception of a few other sports like youth football and basketball, baseball and being part of a team is perhaps my strongest memory of what it was like to enjoy the summer days on a baseball field Of the many memories flooding my mind these days was the sense of “team” and all the various chants and cheers coming from both benches and which seem to be time-honored expressions made by players to this very day. Perhaps the one chant I admired most was when certain teammates on the bench would try to get the rest of the team motivated, especially if the score reflected a deficit. Almost every game, some team leader would blurt out “Talk it up, bench!” Translated, that means the team should make some noise, motivate each other, and get some energy if we’re going to have any chance of winning this game! Though I haven’t been around too many baseball benches in recent years, I just presume “Talk it up bench” is still a motivating force for young sluggers hoping to put another W in the victory column.
My message to you this day is founded on that time honored chant from the baseball field: Talk it up bench! On Friday & Saturday, June 22 & 23 Old St. Patrick’s will be hosting the 34th annual World’s Largest Block Party. Many of you have not only heard about the Block Party, but so many of you have both created and volunteered for this special event for many years. For those new to the scene, the World’s Largest Block Party is an outdoor festival featuring music, drink, food, and great people coming together for some summer fun. With an estimated crowd of more than 10,000 people, the WLBP is a major undertaking which requires the assistance of more than 500 volunteers and various committees who help make this event a huge success each year. Unlike 30 years ago when the WLBP was one of very few summer festivals in Chicago, today the WLBP is one among many. The competition is more difficult today than years ago. The presence of Lollapalooza, Northerly Island, Taste of Randolph, concerts at Wrigley Field and Soldier’s Field, and the numerous other street and neighborhood events has increased a hundredfold from the days when the WLBP was practically the only “gig” in town for young adults.
So, even though the World’s Largest Block Party enjoys a long, well deserved reputation of being a great summer party in the shadows of Chicago’s oldest church, I would ask you kindly to “talk it up bench!” With so many options on the table every weekend for a young audience across this city, “talking it up” on social media, in your buildings, at your work place, at the gym, on the softball field or volleyball court, and in your neighborhood would be a terrific sign of support that we need to make sure the WLBP remains successful. For the good of the overall mission and success of Old St. Pat’s, your grassroots marketing assistance will go a long way in helping us promote what we think is the “best” (pride intended) party of the summer. Look for details in this publication about the WLBP and if I might be so bold in saying to you again: Talk it up bench!
The other area where this expression might also come in handy is just the overall invitation I would ask you to make to others who you think should experience the hospitality and liturgical excellence of Old St. Pat’s. Summer is a great time for all of us to be more deliberate at inviting other people into this community. So, please: Talk it up bench! There’s no better day than Sunday at Old St. Pat’s. And then after Mass enjoying a day or night out on the town in Chicago’s downtown area or along the lakefront.
Thank you for being here today! Blessings to all of us for a renewing summer!
Father Tom Hurley