Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

2015 Pilgrimage of Gypsies to Rome and Special Audience with the Holy Father

Circus and Carnival Apostolate

To all of you, dear brothers and sisters who make up one great traveling family and who, by your ongoing work, offer people, and especially children, a serene and healthy past-time, I want to express my sincere praise and my fatherly encouragement. I know well that yours is a hard, exacting, and dangerous occupation . . . You know that in the work you do, the Church is close to you, it loves you, the Pope loves you. In your long journey along the roads of so many regions and so many countries, go on bringing to old and young your characteristic message of solidarity, goodness, happiness, and honesty, reminding all of us that – as the Sacred Scriptures invites us to – we should always serve the Lord with joy, even at the cost of personal sacrifice. - Pope John Paul II

The Concern of the Church for People on the Move

The Catholic Church, in its mission of preaching the Good News, historically holds a prophetic stand with regard to people who have special spiritual and social needs because of ethnic identity, language and culture, or a particular lifestyle distinguished by human mobility such as that of circus and traveling show people.

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.


The World of the Circus and Traveling Show

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.


Christian Life

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. On the contrary, the mobility of show people is itself an opening, a kind of invitation to ministry.


Pastoral Ministers

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.


Pastoral Awareness

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 welcome the faithful to full membership in the 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.


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.

  • The local priest could visit the circus and traveling show to welcome the entertainers and to celebrate the Mass, with the homily mindful of the people.
  • A special liturgy, memorial service or a paraliturgy may be planned at the local parish or in an appropriate place at the circus or fair grounds, at a time convenient for the people. Posters can be displayed at the circus or fair grounds, inviting the show people to attend.
  • Pastors can organize volunteers to visit show people and assist them in preparing their children for the Sacraments and also invite the children to social gatherings of parish children.
  • Bible or scripture and Catholic information booths can be set up at fairs to interest visitors in learning and knowing more about the Church. Familiarity with the Bible can help show people to grow in faith through contact with the Word of God.
  • Religious sisters can serve in many ways: religious teaching, family help, or just giving witness by their presence and their sharing the life of the people.
  • Dioceses should seek the best pastoral means for work among show people.


Race Car Circuit Apostolate

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: @email. Reference the apostolate in your message.

Race Car Circuit Apostolate
Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington DC 20017

For more information about the Circus and Carnival Apostolate, write the address below, or e-mail: @email. 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