The Circus Ministry Team
Fr. Frank Cancro
National Circus Liaison for USCCB
Chair of the Board: Showpeoples Winter Quarters
Fr. Frank is the National Circus Chaplain for the USCCB’s Circus and Traveling Show Ministries. Retired from pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Charlotte, he spends much of his time each year on the road, traveling with one of the 40 active circus troupes at work in the United States. He also coordinates priestly ministry for rodeos and other traveling shows.
Sr. Bernard and Sr. Dorothy
Deacon Paul Muller
I am a Deacon in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph- I am assigned to serve my home parish of St. Margaret of Scotland in Lee’s Summit with an additional assignment to serve at Our Lady of Lourdes in Harrisonville, MO
I was appointed the Chaplin / Advisor to the Carnival Community by the USCCB in March of 2021. I have been blessed to be involved with the Carnival Community in the United States. For the last 30 years I have been providing financing to Carnivals to buy Rides, Food Trailers, Game Trailers and support equipment. My family has a continuing relationship with Carnivals by providing capitalo through our company OA Finance LLC. The carnivals we serve and support bring much joy to their customers and we are blessed to serve them.
Little Sister Jo
Little Sister Jo – Little Sisters of Jesus
Little sister Priscilla and I (and usually a 3rd little sister) traveled with 5 different circuses over about 30 years. We hired on as workers in order to support ourselves and to have a ministry of friendship and presence among the personnel of the circus.
1978-1985 Circus Vargas (working in the candy wagon and wardrobe)
1986-1988 and 1990 Great American (front door, ride tickets, cookhouse shopping, cookhouse 2 seasons)
1991-1995 Kelly Miller (ticket wagon, front door, cookhouse shopping, mail pickup)
1996-2002 and 2004-2005 Carson & Barnes (wardrobe, T shirt stand, front entrance, ride tickets, handicap entrance)
February 2006 Circus Chimera (ticket wagon and front door)
We also traveled for a couple of summers after that with Kelly Miller and Carson & Barnes.
Little sister Priscilla passed away in 2018. I am now off the road and living in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, doing translating work for my community and keeping in touch with circus friends via email and visits when possible: email@example.com
Fr. Ross Chamberland
Fr. Ross Chamberland
Franciscan Friar and a Priest
A lifelong fan of the Circus, I have been very interested in the entertainment and athletic elements of Circus since childhood. As a mendicant Friar (Friars/mendicants live on the move), I was drawn to the ministry sharing a spirituality of life lived on the move.
Deacon Scott & Christine Maentz
Deacon Scott was raised in Holland, Michigan. Career moves brought him to many places around the country and he settled in Tennessee in 2001 with his wife Christine. They have five children and fourteen grandchildren.
Read here about Scott’s first encounter with Circus Ministry.
He assists the Diocese of Knoxville with communications and video production. He was ordained a permanent deacon in June 2016 at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop Richard F. Stika.
His primary ministry is to the homeless, heading up the Knoxville Bridge Ministry for the diocese, which serves a hot lunch monthly at the Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) outdoor courtyard in downtown Knoxville. You can learn more about Deacon Scott at his website, deaconscott.com, where he publishes his homilies and other items of interest to him.
Deacon Scott is currently updating the Circus Ministry website.
Fr. Dick Notter
I was one of the founding board members of the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network and was its first part-time director. I am back on the board again. However my main ministry now is as chaplain with people also on the move – circus and traveling shows, which is another of the Vatican’s pastoral ministries to migrant and itinerant people. I am also Vice Chairman of its Retirement Project which operates a campground for retired circus and carnival people.
Deacon Gary Nosacek
Deacon Gary Nosacek currently serves at Sts. Peter and Paul and Three Holy Women parishes in Milwaukee. He formerly was the host of the nationally syndicated children’s radio show, SECRET CLUBHOUSE, which featured a number of shows with circus and ice show performers, as well as rodeo cowboys. Due to those past experiences, about two years into his diaconate, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee asked him to become part of the USCCB’s Circus and Traveling Show Ministry. At the time of Deacon Gary’s appointment to Circus and Traveling Shows, the Archbishop jokingly said,” I need a guy to do this. Who else would I send?”
Deacon ” G”, as the students at Catholic East Elementary call him, visits circus all over Wisconsin and can frequently be seen hanging around Circus World Museum in Baraboo during its summer season. He also has been known to be among the visiting “pastors and reverends” at the Wrangler World Championship Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas. Recently, he became the first person wearing a Roman Collar to fly weightless aboard G Force One, the plane theastronauts lovingly call The Vomit Comet. That flight has now expanded his title to, “Milwaukee’s circus, rodeo and space deacon!”
When not serving in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, or on the road visiting traveling shows, Deacon Gary and his wife Dr. Cindy can be found at Three Holy Women’s sister parish in Padibe, Uganda. Cindy works and teaches at the medical clinic there and the deacon assisting the parish priest as needed.
Sr. Charlotte Hobelman, SND
Sister Charlotte is a Sister of Notre Dame based in Cleveland, Ohio. She served as the national coordinator of the Circus & Traveling Show Ministries at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1997-2006. She traveled for a brief time each year with the sisters serving in circus ministry and supported the work of the circus chaplains. At present her ministry outreach includes formation of catechists; sacramental preparation of children, youth and adults in Spanish and English; spiritual companioning, online grief support and as a Sunday Gospel reflection group leader and retreat leader. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Facebook.
Elsa Watkins from Caracas, Venezuela was married to David ‘Buddy’ Watkins a chimpanzee trainer and second-generation circus performer. Elsa and Buddy were married in Caracas in 1957, where they were introduced by Delia Canestrelli, when Buddy was working for Circo Razzore. She left the road in 1965 when the wildlife regulations became difficult for chimpanzee trainers and with a growing family, Buddy decided his kids needed a future he couldn’t give them any longer.
She raised seven children and worked in the Louisville Zoo running a pony ride concession in the children’s zoo. Later she worked concessions at Monkey Jungle in Miami and Miami Metrozoo admission and concessions. She retired until she began teaching the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program in the Ruskin School system. She worked as a teacher’s aide until her beloved husband Buddy passed away on December 23, 1998. Father Jerry Hogan performed the ceremony for his service at their home in Gibsonton, Florida.
She later met Father Charles Watkins, a circus priest who was related to her father-in-law, Ira Watkins. In January 2009, Elsa and her daughter Rachél came to their first Circus and Traveling Show Ministry meeting. She enjoyed it so much and connected with her old circus friends, she came back every year. Elsa has shared her story with the Ministry sisters, clergy, and lay leaders of the Ministry. She is quick to volunteer and embraces her Catholic faith since she was a child. Growing up in Venezuela, Elsa went to school in a convent and to this day is very dedicated to prayer.
Rachél Watkins Rogers from Gibsonton, Florida is third generation circus and is the eldest of the Watkins children. Rachél and Jody Watkins were the two children who followed in their father’s footsteps. Rachél was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa, while her father was in the circus. Rachél worked with her father as a child in the family chimpanzee act, Watkins Famous Chimps.
When her parents left the circus in 1965, Rachél began working in zoos as they went through a transition to zoo animal work. She performed for 8 years with her father training chimps, ponies, dogs, a bear, elephants, and did aerial work of trapeze, swinging ladder, and web at the Louisville Zoo. When the show ended Rachél and Buddy worked in the elephant area where animal training was a needed skill.
Rachél was involved in many facets of zoological work as a zookeeper serving on national committees and the Board of Directors of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), and served on Scientific Advisory Groups, was a Studbook Keeper for the Cuban Amazon parrot, and participated in legislative advocacy in Washington, DC of the Government Affairs Committee of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Rachél also has been involved with the Ministry since 2009, and at the request of Father Jerry was the first person to manage the Facebook page for the Ministry. She has been a lay volunteer for 14 years with the Ministry and has attended all the meetings except during covid. Rachél has been acting sort of in the capacity of the herald, voice of the show people, and presents topics of concern during Ministry meetings. Rachél also served on the Board of the Circus and Traveling Show Retirement Project in Seffner, Florida, two years as Secretary and two years as a Director from 2018 to 2021. Her motto is ‘After Zoo, Back To Circus!’