Betting on 'Casino Weekends' at St. Joan of Arc

By Mike Lesko | Gateway News Published:

Streetsboro -- The loss of the church's weekly bingo night hasn't stopped the St. Joan of Arc congregation, and its creative fundraising efforts, from steadily growing.

The church has about 983 families now, according to the Rev. Pat Ferraro, the church's pastor, an increase from 621 families in 2005.

Casino Weekend, the church's largest single fundraiser, took place Nov. 2 to 4. This was the first time it has taken place twice in one calendar year, according to Ferraro.

Ferraro said the church expected to raise between $6,000 and $7,000 at Casino Weekend, which featured Texas Hold 'Em tournaments plus other games like Blackjack, Let it Ride, instant bingo and a money wheel. Exact weekend totals were not compiled as of Nov. 5, he said.

About $4,000 from the previous Casino Weekend last April helped pay for new casino tables along with money from a private donation, but Ferraro sees it as a good investment.

"We can use them indefinitely," he said.

He believes they will help bring in funds after St. Joan of Arc's weekly bingo nights came to a halt last spring.

Ferraro remembers the date vividly -- May 21.

"It was the end of an era," he said. "Our church had bingo since the mid-1960s. We were one of the last churches in Portage County to have bingo. Bingo was a tradition. Actually, bingo funds helped build the church."

The church was founded in 1965, he said.

He said people are reluctant to show up for church bingo these days because they can play bingo online -- they can smoke while playing online, and they don't have to come out in nasty weather.

Mike Marsinek, a parishioner who runs the poker tournament on Casino Weekend, said bingo faded out because "it became too difficult to get volunteers on a weekly basis."

"It became very hard to staff weekly bingo," Marsinek said.

Other methods of making up for the loss of bingo money include fundraisers like a recent luncheon organized by the women of the church that raised about $3,000, a Mardi Gras fundraiser planned in February, and a Super Bowl party on Feb. 3, 2013, the day of the big game.

"We asked parishioners to increase their sacrificial givings," Ferraro said. "For the most part, they have responded."

Ferraro said he is thrilled about the steadily growing congregation at the church, 8894 S.R. 14.

"We're growing so rapidly in terms of numbers of families," he said. "Now, we are right on the edge of 1,000 families. We anticipate being at 1,000 families by the end of the year.

"We have a ton of young families with lots of small children," he said. "Our Vacation Bible School has about 100 young people. It also has about 80 volunteers, and, of that number, about 30 are teenagers -- young people who had gone to Vacation Bible School when they were younger and who have come back to help."

Ferraro said Catholic Church officials have done surveys about what makes a parish successful.

One of them is hospitality, "which is huge here," he said. 

He cited other reasons -- the liturgy, the Mass itself, the music, the readings -- "that all contribute to it," he said.

"This is a very active parish," he said. "There is something for everybody. You name it, we have it pretty much across the board. People can always find a niche here."

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Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9439

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