St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church’s end of summer festivals stand out from other seasonal church fairs.
Sure, they feature food, games and prizes, but they also feature a unique twist – a car show.
FR. KEVIN SWEENEY, PASTOR OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL PARISH IN HUNTINGTON BEACH, SEES VINTAGE CARS AS AN ARTFORM. PHOTO BY DREW KELLEY/ DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Adding a car show to the festivities was the idea of the Huntington Beach parish’s pastor, Fr. Kevin Sweeney.
“I have always liked old things, especially mechanical ones,” Fr. Sweeney said. “The first old car I toyed with in high school was a 1929 Ford Model A Tudor, which was in a disassembled state.”
SPECTATORS CHECK OUT A VINTAGE CAR ON DISPLAY DURING ST. VINCENT DE PAUL’S PARISH FEST AND CAR SHOW.
That experience taught him an important lesson.
“I learned that I really have more interest than actual talent for old mechanical things,” he deadpanned.
To Fr. Sweeney, old cars represent the ingenuity of American craftsmen and are an art form.
“New cars, not so much,” he added.
So, this year’s Parish Fest and Car Show held on Sept. 23 included several older Porsches and Corvettes, a new Dodge Hellcat, a few Woodies, some classic convertibles, a 1954 Hudson Hornet and a mid-50s Oldsmobile.
There were even a couple of vintage travel trailers, a 1948 Spartanette and a 1959 Cardinal.
But the vehicle that Fr. Sweeney was most proud of was his own 1951 Packard convertible.
He’s owned the car for about 10 years.
“Packard was an independent car company, producing high quality cars, but was old-fashioned in 1951 with an inline or straight-8-cylinder engine,” said Fr. Sweeney.
Prior to taking on the role as pastor at St. Vincent de Paul, Fr. Sweeney spent 24 years as a Navy chaplain ministering to the spiritual, moral and ethical needs of sailors and Marines.
“As a Navy chaplain with an officer’s salary, I have bought and sold four or five cars, sometimes selling one to get another,” Fr. Sweeney explained.
He said it all started after one of his priest friends, Fr. (now Msgr.) Doug Cook, current pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Newport Beach, had a 1954 Buick Special that he had since high school days.
“He let me drive it once,” Fr. Sweeney said. “And I started looking for an old Buick soon after that.”
Fr. Sweeney ending up locating and buying a 1950 Buick Super. He also discovered that parishioners – especial the men at the parish – love telling stories about cars.
“People are amazed sometimes that a priest really enjoys old cars and can talk with some knowledge for automotive history,” he said.
With that came the addition of the car show as part of the parish festival.
“This attracted a different crowd of people who would not normally be interested in attending a parish event,” he added.
Fr. Sweeney said that vintage cars are a great talking point. “They give people an opportunity to talk about the cars they grew up with and the cars they wish they still owned – the ones that got away.”
Thirty-six cars were on display this year and Fr. Sweeney is hoping for 50 or more exhibitors next year.
For more information on St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, go to https://svdphb.org/