From the pulpit to the stage

Father Juan Carlos Gavancho, of Queen of the Universe parish in Westlawn, performs at "Padres Plus on Parade." / Photo by Anthony Morelle

A talented group of nuns and priests traded the pews for the stage Sunday at a South Side talent show featuring everything from jazz guitar to stand-up comedy.

The event, hosted by the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, was billed as "Padres Plus on Parade - Chicago Style," and drew more than 400 people to Maria High School at 6727 S. California Ave.

Proceeds from the event will  be used to help build two religious retirement funds.

Highlights included renowned jazz guitarist the Rev. John Moulder, of St. Gregory the Great in Edgewater, playing a song from his newest CD, "Trinity", and the Rev. Jason Malave, pastor of St. Batholomew in Portage Park, who donned a kilt to sing a song from the musical "Brigadoon."

The Rev. Kenneth Budzikowski, pastor of St. Thecla Roman Catholic Church on the Northwest Side, got the audience clapping along with his twangy rendition of "Columbus Stockade Blues."

The Rev. Paul Wachdorf, pastor of St. Gregory the Great, garnered much applause and laughter with his juggling demonstrations, which included insights on the similarities between learning to juggle and learning to pray.

The Rev. Kenneth Budzikowski gets the audience clapping. / Photo by Anthony Morelle.

The audience sang along to "Lean on Me" with Abelardo Gabriel, Jr.. "We went to Mass this morning, now we're here to rock 'n roll," Gabriel told the crowd.

The Rev. Michael Michelini, pastor of St. Adalbert, delighted the crowd with a comedy routine based on his experiences as a pastor.

The masters of ceremony, the Rev. Joe Altman, pastor at Ascension St. Susanna in Harvey, and the Rev. John Clemens, of St. Benedict parish, kept things flowing smoothly with their lighthearted banter between acts.

Catherine Rondinelli, who chairs the ACCW's publicity committee, says the idea for the show came from a similar one put on at the group's national convention in September.

Sunday's event was open to all Chicago-area priests.

"One of the priests has said that we asked everybody, but only the foolish agreed!" Rondinelli said, laughing.

Wachdorf had a different take, saying he decided to get involved because "one of the ACCW women twisted my arm."

Event coordinator Lolita Green says work on the show began in October. She estimated attendance at around 400,  with over 300 tickets sold in advance.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Retirement Fund for the Religious and the Priests' Retirement Mutual Aid Association.

Pat Johns and Sylvia Kania came to watch their pastor, Father Malave, but said they enjoyed all the performances.

"It was great. Fantastic. I didn't know we had such talented padres," said  Johns. "Some of them could be professionals." said Kania.