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In his audience of December 3, 1981, Pope John Paul II defined the work of show people as a "healthy, relaxing and intelligent diversion." The Church responds to show people with benevolent understanding and welcome. The Circus and Traveling Show Apostolate refers to the ministry of the Church in the world of show people who create festive occasions for all Americans to enjoy.
There are 50-60 circuses and between 300-400 carnivals in the United States. The need to pursue an occupation accounts for the nearly 300,000 people on the move in America who share the common goal of entertainment. The Catholic faithful constitute approximately 40% of this population. Diversity and internationality describe the community of show people. Circus performers represent, among others, the countries of Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the carnivals are found persons with backgrounds in academia, politics, law, journalism, retailing, farming, music, sports and other areas.
Community life is organized around the show, and the basis for community life is the family. By history and tradition, circuses and traveling shows have functioned as family institutions. The family is the vital social grouping that teaches and imbues family members with the values of the community. Everything must work in harmony - everyone performing their assigned tasks.
In the world of circus and traveling show people, the fullness of Christian life may be constrained by time and circumstance, the lack of religious education and the unavailability of clergy and religious personnel.
Christian values evident in the family and community need to be given expression and importance in the day-to-day reality of the show.
For Catholic show people, their faith is traditional - a stable element and a comfort. Frequently, show people are not able to be in touch with the local church of the community where they are visiting because of their lifestyle and work obligations. At the same time, the itinerant lifestyle is not an insurmountable impediment to the growth and development of religious life among show people. To the contrary, the mobility of show people is itself an opening, a kind of invitation to ministry.
The special regard of the Church for people on the move is shown by the pastoral workers who are dedicated to this apostolate and who build communities of the faithful and bring these small communities in solidarity with the Church to live the Gospel. There is a very small group of clergy and religious who regularly minister to show people. Their presence to show people is one of a living image of Christ. They are welcomed by Catholic show people as well as by non-Catholics with whom an ecumenical attitude of openness and cooperation is shared. The greatest need of the circus and traveling show people is for priests and pastoral ministers to be available for religious education, Mass and the Sacraments.
The increase of pastoral awareness of the Circus and Traveling Show Apostolate is a serious concern of the Catholic Church in the United States. Pastoral awareness opens the door to the welcome of the faithful to full membership in the entire ecclesial community. Yet, as the mobility of show people prevents their participation in ordinary parish life, so does ordinary parish life often overlook the circumstances of the faithful who appear beyond its reach. Pastoral awareness invites pastoral outreach.
To ensure that the world of show people, even in their mobility, may be fully integrated into the life of the Church, the following suggestions are offered as a means to reach out in Christian love and friendship to all who create festive occasions which provide us with a happy diversion from daily cares. The pastoral care which we bring to show people must be inspired by the dynamic of the mystery of salvation which makes the festive occasion become one of the privileged images of meeting with God.
For all who travel by land, the Apostolate of the Road is working on establishing chapels and chaplaincies in our railroad stations and bus stations, truck stops, rest stops, visitor centers, wayside shrines, and parish churches along the highways. This ministry is for passengers, visitors, and workers; and for those who travel on roads and highways throughout the United States.
Presently, there are Truck Stop Chaplaincies in two locations, one Railroad Chaplaincy, and a Catholic Motorcycle Ministry under development. The National Office hopes to work with local dioceses in developing literature and advertising for the Apostolate of the Road.
The Race Car Circuit Apostolate coordinates the ministry to the INDY, CART and NASCAR race car workers and drivers in the United States by maintaining contact with the race car chaplains and supporting and affirming their ministry.
For more information about the Race Car Circuit Apostolate, write the address below, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Reference the apostolate in your message.Race Car Circuit Apostolate
For more information about the Circus and Carnival Apostolate, write the address below, or e-mail:email@example.com. Reference the apostolate in your message.
Circus and Carnival Apostolate
Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington DC 20017
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