For more than a dozen years, parishioners at St. Patrick’s Church in Kankakee have marked the halfway point to their patron’s feast

Fr. John Peeters, left, enjoyed hosting Fr. André Crozier of France.

day, with their annual Half Paddy Fest. It’s always a hit.

“Because St. Patrick’s Day is too much fun to have just once a year,” parishioners say.

This year, Fr. John Peeters, CSV, pastor, invited the Secretary General for the international Viatorian Community to attend. Fr. André Crozier, CSV, works at the General Direction in Vourles, France. He speaks little English, but at Half Paddy Fest, everyone is Irish and its lively music, food and atmosphere overcome any language barrier.

Participants are encouraged to dress in Irish-themed costumes for the run.

Now in its 13th year, the two-day festival draws not only parishioners but members of the wider Bourbonnais/Kankakee region and from across the Joliet Diocese. They come for the live music, as well as multiple games and contests — from the green jello eating to a run down Schuyler Avenue — a trip to Ireland raffle and an authentic corned beef dinner.

Festivities spread out across the campus of the historic church, which dates back to 1893 — and 1931, when Viatorians first arrived to serve there.

Half-Paddy Fest was designed as an event for families, says Associate Marilyn Mulcahy, to come together to enjoy food, fun and laughter.

While the festival raises money for parish expenses, what it really does is energize and connect members of the parish with one another. It all comes under the heading of “building up communities of faith,” which is one of the main pillars of the Viatorian Community.