Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Italian village priest lures parishioners to Mass with free wine and treats

An Italian priest has come up with a novel way of luring parishioners to Mass – free prosecco and crisps. If that is not enough to tempt them to the pews, there is also a supermarket-style loyalty card to record their attendance in church and, as Italy roasts in temperatures of up to 100F, the promise of air conditioning. The unusual initiative is the work of Father Gianfranco Formenton, the parish priest at San Martino church in the village of Trignano in Umbria.
He announced it in a Facebook post. “Attention! From Sunday July 2, Mass will be celebrated at 11am, (we have) air conditioning, and for the holders of a ‘Mass Card’, there’s an aperitif – prosecco for the grown-ups and Communion wafers and crisps for the little ones,” the 57-year-old priest wrote.
He also reminded parishioners that the church was available for “meetings, conferences and birthday parties.”
Offering prosecco was particularly apt because Father Formenton is from Veneto, the region which produces the sparkling wine, which in the UK has comfortably overtaken sales of Champagne.
The idea of a loyalty card started as a bit of a joke, he said. “It came about as a game which was thought up with the younger parishioners and mainly targeted towards them.
“Every Sunday, at the end of Mass, I put a stamp on the card, to certify their attendance. It helps remind us all that faith is a commitment; it doesn’t go on holiday.”
The priest said he was amazed when his initiative was picked up by several Italian newspapers. In a post on his Facebook profile on Monday, he wrote, in Venetian dialect: “All this fuss for a prosecco and a few crisps?”