As traditional as the celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and the honoring of our moms, the month of May in Burbank has also been the time the Catholic community of Saint Finbar Church has staged their annual fiesta.
In what has become a local harbinger that summer is just around the corner, the Saint Finbar Fiesta is a three-day event which raises funds for the parish’s school by offering an array of games, entertainment, dancing, American barbecue, street tacos, sausage and pepper sandwiches, specialty dishes from the church’s Vietnamese community, and treats of all kinds to satisfy those with a sweet tooth.
“In a normal year, the Knights of Columbus of the Saint Cabrini Council help to put on the fiesta and always do their American barbecue,” said Saint Finbar School Principal Michael Marasco. “But this hasn’t been a normal year. We were not able to do any of our traditional fundraisers. Because we couldn’t do the fiesta, the knights decided to just do the barbecue and are donating 100 percent of the proceeds to us.”
Explaining that about 30% of the funds they raise usually go to offset tuitions, Marasco said that the rest is typically used for special projects and enrichment programs.
“This year we will use the funding we receive to update our technology hardware,” said Marasco. “We had to lend out a lot of our hardware for off-campus learning during the pandemic, which has taken its toll on the equipment. Because of that we are really in need of new computers and tablets.”
Expressing his gratitude to the Knights of Columbus, their Grand Knight Ed Salero (who leads the local council) and Jonathan Hastings (who chaired last Saturday’s barbeque fundraiser), Marasco called the group “a Godsend.”
“Jonathan was a student here, and now his child attends our school, so he has always been actively involved in our school and parish from the time he was with our youth programs,” Marasco said. “Now that he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, he is continuing to carry on that tradition and, like all of the Knights, he is always there to help us in any way they can.”
If Marasco is thrilled over the financial help the school is receiving from the Knights — which he is — he is completely over the moon that his teachers, students and the sense of normalcy which has returned to campus.
“We are back full-time,” he said with exuberance. “We were one of the first schools in Burbank to come back on a full-time basis and to call it euphoria would be an understatement. Everyone is so excited to be back, seeing one another again, and just getting back to normal.”
Admitting that last year has provided him with the biggest challenge of his academic career,
Marasco said he is pleased with how everyone involved with the school has handled the difficulties.
“The kids have adopted so well, both throughout the pandemic and in getting back into the classroom,” he said. “They follow all the rules without complaining and are just so happy to be back. I’m really proud of the excellent job everyone did – parents, students, faculty. It truly showed their character. It’s easy to do things well when everything is going great, but this past year things were not great, and the way things were handled revealed the character of everyone who helped get us through tremendous challenges. We have now seen how that shutting down education has such a negative effect for students and a bad ripple effect for parents, so I’m just very glad we are back, but not looking back. We got through it and we’re all looking forward.”
Salero, who along with the Knights prepared lunches and dinners of burgers, hot dogs and tri-tip sandwiches for last week’s barbecue, said all of the Knights and volunteers were extremely happy to put on the event and see it be such a success with over 120 pre-orders. This included support from the city’s firefighters, who came from fire stations throughout the city to pick up lunches.
“Assisting the parish school is our way of giving back,” said Salaro. “Many of our members are deep-rooted in this school. Some of them went here, and then their kids have gone here, so this is very personal for a lot of us.”
The Saint Cabrini Council of the Knights of Columbus supports the Burbank parishes of Saint Finbar, Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Robert Bellarmine. A fraternal organization of Catholic men that exemplify the principles of charity, unity and fraternity through charitable fundraising and community services, the local council works all year serving the needs of parishes through blood drives, parking assistance at holiday masses and doing fundraising activities.
The Saint Finbar Parish School, which was established in 1945, provides education for children from “early fives” on through 8th grade.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.