Becoming a Cincinnatian (or Where I Learned About Church Festivals)

At this writing, I have lived in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, in both the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Covington, for a little over four years. While a Washingtonian by birth and upbringing, I must start to admit to both myself and my fellow Cincinnatians that this is indeed my home, especially due to the fact that my husband Matt and I just purchased our first house right here in the ‘Nati.

While we have, through our various apartment rentals and communal living experiences, called a whopping five addresses here home, we have also gotten to know the city’s geography and people through its array of churches. With my having grown up in a region with an incredible diversity of the American religious experience and Matt’s journey to Catholicism having streamed from his experiences in a culture of largely Bible-belt evangelicalism, adapting to a region with such an innately strong cultural Catholicism has been rewarding, as well as occasionally difficult, for both of us.

I am sure it is a strange notion to most native Cincinnatians to imagine a cradle Catholicism without church festivals or even the yearly rounds of fish fry events, but I promise that was just my experience, as I only recall having been to one fish fry before the age of 23 (and that was in upstate New York!). As we have entered into the Sacraments here, we have also slowly learned the customs and history of the Diocese, enjoyed our fair share of parishioner-fried Cod, and taken a chance on wheelbarrows filled with beer.

I feel blessed to, through my various moves, have belonged to churches in Covington, College Hill, Westwood, Over-the-Rhine, and Wyoming which have demonstrated the richness inherent in the various boroughs of the area. Each parish has revealed the intricacies of its neighborhood, as well as the flavor of its cultural heritages, in ways that neither Matt nor I have ever previously experienced.

While I still have not mastered cornhole, and am not ready to admit an affinity for the Bengals, I find myself deeply invested in the heritage which has kept vigil lights burning here for generations.

Saint Robert Bellarmine, pray for us.
Saint Albert the Great, pray for us.
Saint Francis de Sales, pray for us.

-Colleen Swaim


2 responses to “Becoming a Cincinnatian (or Where I Learned About Church Festivals)

  1. Hi Colleen! Long time no see. I read about this blog in the CT and now I have another in my too-full bookmark bin.

    I too came here from afar (Pittsburgh) and had never been to a fish fry or a church festival. So I can attest that your testimony is true.

    Do you like Skyline Chili yet? It took me five years. I hated it for three, and then in my fourth year I began getting strange cravings for it every now and then, though I still didn’t like it. After five years I guess I got acclimated. Yum yum.

  2. James Pilcher

    Dear Colleen,

    I am a fellow Catholic and a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer. I would love to talk to you about your first experience with festivals, as I am working on a story about how ingrained they are into the Cincinnati social fabric, but how they are changing at the same time.

    Could you shoot me an e-mail or call me at 513-768-8505 when you get a chance? I think you might have a unique perspective on this issue.



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