The Gazebo on Belmar Beach
The Gazebo on Belmar Beach

In an inaugural event for the parishes that comprise Cohort 19, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and faithful from five Monmouth County shoreline parishes will gather for the celebration of Mass at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 13 at the gazebo at Belmar Beach.

The Mass will bring together the parishes of Cohort 19 – St. Catharine-St. Margaret, Spring Lake; St. Rose, Belmar; St. Mark, Sea Girt; Ascension, Bradley Beach, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Avon. Parishioners and guests from all five parishes, as well as from the community at-large, are invited and encouraged to attend.

 “It will be a first-ever event for Cohort 19, and we are all excited to have Bishop O’Connell with us in beautiful Belmar,” Msgr. Edward Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, said with a smile.

The Mass will be a time during which parishioners can pray, share camaraderie and focus on the goals laid out in Faith In Our Future, which was commissioned by Bishop O’Connell in 2015 to strengthen and enliven parishes of the Diocese.

Msgr. Arnister said thoughts to hold the Mass originated in the spring, when members of his parish pastoral council – focusing on evangelization – began looking for ways to reach out to persons who have either been away from the Church or were looking to reconnect. One member suggested having a Mass at the gazebo, which is on Ocean Avenue at Belmar Beach. He noted that the event is patterned after an annual Mass St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish holds on a beach in Avon.

When asking for Bishop O’Connell’s approval to hold the Mass at the gazebo, Msgr. Arnister said the Bishop not only approved but also expressed interest in attending. “And that’s when I invited him to celebrate the Mass,” Msgr. Arnister said.

Msgr. Arnister said the idea eventually evolved into a Cohort-related event with representatives from each of the parishes serving on the committee. Priests from the Cohort parishes are invited to concelebrate the Mass, and there will be a mix of parishioners involved in the Liturgy, serving as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, readers, greeters and choir members. Members of the Msgr. Thomas U. Reilly Council, Knights of Columbus, will also assist.

A selection of Spanish hymns will also be provided by members of the Spanish choir in St. Mark Parish.

Irene Gallagher, a parishioner from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, has designed a banner for the Mass that will be hung in the gazebo. The banner depicts a cross made up of different faces, representing the people from the Cohort coming together as one, Msgr. Arnister said.

Msgr. Arnister also noted the full cooperation of Belmar’s City Council, which is assisting with the Mass setup, as well as arranging for parking permits and police presence.

Msgr. Arnister said he sees the Mass as an opportunity for the Cohort 19 parishes to support one another in ministry. “The parishes in our Cohort realize the need for greater collaboration as we implement Faith in Our Future,” he said. “We need to find ways for the parishes to connect with each other, as well as with the entire community.”

Msgr. Arnister recommends Mass attendees bring beach chairs and to dress appropriately. He noted that there will be a “very limited” number of parking spaces made available along 5th and 6th Avenues near the gazebo. However, a bus will be available to transport parishioners from the Acme parking lot (near the Belmar train stop) beginning at 8:45 a.m.

“If possible, we also encourage those close enough to walk or ride a bike,” he said.

As a Cohort-wide event, Msgr. Arnister also emphasized that the Mass at the gazebo will not impact the celebration of the regularly scheduled Masses in any of the Cohort parishes that day. All Mass schedules in the five parishes remain intact. In the event of inclement weather, the Mass with Bishop O’Connell will be moved into the nearby newly renovated Taylor Pavilion, 500 Ocean Ave., Belmar.