A man prays over a headstone on the grounds of Jesus Bread of Life Cemetery and Mausoleum, Mount Laurel, in remembrance of Memorial Day.  Georgiana Francisco photo

A man prays over a headstone on the grounds of Jesus Bread of Life Cemetery and Mausoleum, Mount Laurel, in remembrance of Memorial Day.  Georgiana Francisco photo

By Georgiana Francisco | Correspondent

The roar of two military jets was a vivid reminder of the reason why faithful gathered May 27 for Mass on Memorial Day in Jesus Bread of Life Cemetery and Mausoleum, Mount Laurel.

“Today was originally known as Decoration Day because people all over the world came to lay floral and flag decorations at the gravesites of the fallen,” said Father Michael Dunn, parochial vicar of St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, and St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton, who celebrated Mass.

“In many churches, the names of those who gave their lives for their country have been mounted on plaques in the vestibules, but how many times have we passed those names without giving them a thought?” he preached in his homily. “Today is reserved for us to remember those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice.” 

Similar sentiments were shared by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who not only reflected on servicemen and women in his Memorial Day message, but honored their sacrifice by participating in the Yardville-Groveville Memorial Day Parade.

“Sacrifice and dying for others is the very root of our faith,” Bishop O’Connell said in his message. “We need look no further than the Crucifix that is the central symbol of our religious consciousness to remember how the Lord Jesus redeemed us through his death and freed us from sin. The sacrifices made by our countrymen and women throughout American history are a reminder of Christ’s message.”

He continued, “The memory of those who have fallen should never be taken for granted or stray far from our consciousness.”

Those who have made the ultimate sacrifice were indeed remembered, as members of the Catholic community joined in the parade day festivities. Father Stanley Krzyston, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, and Father Carlo Calisin, parochial vicar of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, joined Bishop O’Connell in greeting the crowd from a car in the parade procession.

Residents of Visitation Home, the Yardville-based Catholic home for adults with disabilities, were all smiles as they waved from their van, and Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, was represented by the school’s Girl Scout troop.

In Mount Laurel, more than 50 faithful remembered the fallen in prayer during the service in which Deacon David O’Connor, director of the diocesan Department of Cemeteries, assisted.

Maple Shade resident Cathy Casey, of the town’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, came to honor three family members who served in the line of duty.

Casey’s grandfather, who was a soldier in World War I, “didn’t even know what a gun was,” she said. “He was sent to France within a short time, was handed a machine gun and became a member of the machine gun division in one of the largest battles of the war, the Battle of the Argonne Forest.”

In addition to her father, her brother served in World War II, and Casey’s husband, Joseph, served in Korea. Her husband, who was cremated after passing away seven years ago, now rests on the grounds of Jesus, Bread of Life Cemetery and Mausoleum.

“At today’s Mass, I prayed for them and for all those in service, living or deceased,” she said.

Rich Pauza of St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, served in the Army with his wife, Christina. The couple married in Fort McCoy, Fla., before Disney World was built, and have an official military marriage license. Pauza went on to serve in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Originally from Philadelphia, they resided in Marlton until his wife died and was laid to rest at Jesus, Bread of Life. “It’s been a good life, but it still hurts, so I come here three or four times a week to visit her, and the feeling is still so strong.”