Students in the Catholic campus ministry in The College of New Jersey participate in a service project following Palm Sunday Mass during which they assemble Easter baskets for the young patrons of Mount Carmel Guild. Courtesy photo
Students in the Catholic campus ministry in The College of New Jersey participate in a service project following Palm Sunday Mass during which they assemble Easter baskets for the young patrons of Mount Carmel Guild. Courtesy photo
It was a prayerful week around the four counties of the Trenton Diocese as the faithful from the Diocese’s 97 parishes and other institutions commemorated the events of Jesus’ last week on earth by participating in liturgies and events on Palm Sunday and the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Following is a recap of parish observances and photos.

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ Palm Sunday procession in Rumson

Palm Sunday saw the Catholic communities of Sea Bright and Rumson join forces April 10, as they have for the past 12 years, in a traditional procession with blessed palms.

Gathering shortly before the 10:30 a.m. Mass, the group began in Sea Bright and processed across the Sea Bright-Rumson Bridge and commenced a short walk to Holy Cross Church, Rumson.

“The procession … was originally conceived to unite symbolically the two municipalities which comprise Holy Cross Parish,” said Father Michael Manning, pastor. “It has been a blessing to see families continue the tradition as their children grow – from hardly being able to hold a palm branch to carrying one of our banners.”

The procession draws supportive community attention in the form of honking horns from passing motorists, affirming the public witness of the faith, Father Manning noted.

“The weather is different each year - some years light rain, others bright sunshine,” he continued. “It's almost always windy, so everyone arrives at church quite invigorated for worship! People who participate find it a lot of fun besides being a prayer.”

College students join in Palm Sunday service project

Students of The College of New Jersey, Ewing, stayed after Mass on Palm Sunday April 10 to assemble Easter baskets for the young patrons of Trenton’s Mount Carmel Guild.

Inspired by an idea from a recent Catholic Campus Ministry meeting, the group had reached out to the Catholic social service agency to ask if they would like Easter baskets for the children; the answer was an appreciative “yes.”

“Each basket contained a large chocolate bunny and a variety of candies,” said Father Christopher Colavito, TCNJ’s Catholic chaplain, who purchased the baskets, candies and plastic eggs on behalf of the group. “They also included some religious items such as prayer cards and booklets with prayers.”

In all 15 baskets were assembled by the approximately 15 student volunteers and wrapped in cellophane before MCG picked up the donations the following day.

“We hope to grow [the project] and make it a Palm Sunday tradition for the ministry,” said Father Colavito. “We plan to increase it to at least 25 baskets next year.”

Spring Lake parish pastor on Holy Thursday: ‘Give yourself for love’

The congregation filling Spring Lake’s St. Catharine Church on April 14 listened to the familiar words of the Holy Thursday liturgy with a slight twist: that the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is meant to be lived every day by all the faithful.

“At the Last Supper, words we [know] by heart, Jesus said, ‘This is my body given up for you, this is my blood poured out for you, do this in memory of me,’” said Father Damian McElroy in his homily. “I remember a spiritual director talking to a group of student priests and he said, ‘Every time you hear those words … Jesus is talking to you. Give yourself. Give your body, give your blood, give your life.’” Welcoming the children especially to the evening celebration, and thanking their parents for bringing them, Father McElroy noted that the one question he has asked the most over the years is “How would you sum up the teaching of Jesus in one sentence?

“I think we can all agree on the sentence, ‘Love one another as I have loved you,’” he said, repeating the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. “The entire life of Christ is a lesson in love. And it’s a lesson we keep trying to learn … tonight is the culmination of the lesson. He invites us to gather together. You see, we’re not meant to follow Jesus as lone rangers; it’s not a ‘do it yourself’ thing. We follow him as his Church, as his living body – and we’re all so different, but he gathers us together.”

The washing of feet, Father McElroy said, was traditionally done by “the guy at the bottom rung of the ladder… That’s the role Jesus takes on – to be the least, not afraid to get his hands dirty. And he does this as an example for us; we should never be too proud to get our hands dirty.”

The words of consecration, he continued, to “do this in memory of me,” are meant to direct Christians to the sort of life they must live: a sacrificial one.

“Give yourself for love,” he said. “Live a loving, sacrificial life. Never live a greedy, selfish life – you won’t be happy anyway.”

The church building during Mass, Father McElroy said, becomes a classroom of love, “where in the course of the year Jesus teaches us by Word and example how to love our neighbor, how to be his Body.”

Pointing to the beautiful artwork for which St. Catharine Church is known, he emphasized, “Tonight we rejoice in having this beautiful church to worship in … [but] this is not a museum [or] art gallery – this is a living parish. This is the living body of Christ, where we spend our lives learning how to love one another.

To see more photos from Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper in Spring Lake Church, click here.

Cinnamison pastor reflects on finding the ‘good’ in Good Friday and the freedom it brings

Father Daniel E. Kirk, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, asked his congregation April 15 this question about the Lord’s Passion: “Where is the ‘good’ in Good Friday?”

“There’s something in this commemoration that reminds me of an old barbershop song,” he began his brief homily for the Good Friday service, “where the lines go, ‘Where’s the good in goodbye, and what’s fair in farewell?’ For years I have struggled with why we call Good Friday good. What good is there on the day we remember the most horrible death our Savior undertook?”

Father Kirk recalled the cruelty of the Roman executions and the Good Friday first reading from Isaiah about the suffering servant, who was “‘crushed for our iniquities … his resemblance was so marred that it was hard to recognize him, and that those who gazed upon him spurned him and held him in no esteem.’

“And yet, we will venerate the Cross – the very instrument of cruelty and punishment,” he pointed out, “and we will say ‘Behold the wood of the Cross on which is hung our salvation,’ and we respond, ‘Come let us adore.’

There may not be much good in the moments of the death of Jesus, Father Kirk emphasized, “but there is tremendous good in the freedom that it brings – the freedom that will be found not today, but shortly … the freedom that is found in the Resurrection, and the fact that we’ve been baptized into that same Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ that promises us all new life.”

For the first time since the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, the Easter Vigil was celebrated April 16 in Princeton University Chapel on the school’s campus – much to the joy of the students who attended and those who completed their Sacraments of Initiation.

To see more photos from Good Friday in Cinnaminson, click here.

Living Stations serve as Good Friday witness in St. Justin the Martyr Parish

Continuing a tradition begun 13 years ago, the Living Stations of the Cross were prayed in St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, on Good Friday April 15 under the direction of Deacon Fred Ebenau.

As leader of the parish youth group, Deacon Ebenau invited young participants as well as other members of parish ministries to enact the Living Stations. His son, Vin Ebenau, served as narrator and has worked with Deacon Ebenau to craft the script using the four Gospels.

“Each year we have made adjustments to the script,” Vin Ebenau explained. “I expanded it when I was a junior at Sacred Heart University for a Living Stations of the Cross based on what we have done at St. Justin’s.”

Living Stations Video

Originally a project of the youth group, unfortunately youth participation has dwindled, exacerbated by the pandemic. This year two youth group members, three youth altar servers, Deacon Ebenau, Deacon Jim Campbell and Deacon Jim Gillespie, deacon candidate Don Gries and five additional parishioners took on the various roles. Vin hopes to revive youth involvement in years to come.

“My personal feeling is that by putting together church events, telling stories like this and having youth involved is a critical way to bring youth back – not just to St. Justin’s but to Catholic churches [everywhere],” he said. “Faith in action is so important … I spoke after the Stations to the people in the pews and gave an unscripted plea for the youth to join us.”

Meanwhile those who did opt to participate “didn’t hesitate to get involved and help tell this story,” Vin affirmed. “We want everyone to share the pictures and video … but more so, share what they felt and experienced, and share that with youth in their family, friends and community.” 

Work of God around Princeton University campus remembered at Easter Vigil

Father Zachary Swantek, chaplain and director of the university’s Aquinas Institute, was principal celebrant of the Vigil Mass, which was concelebrated by Father Joseph Thomas, assistant chaplain. Music was provided by students of the Aquinas Institute Choir.

“Seven Princeton University students were received into the Church at the Easter Vigil,” Father Swantek attested, noting that 15 students were confirmed – one of which had converted from Orthodox Christianity; three students were baptized and seven received First Holy Eucharist.

“It was extremely moving to celebrate the Vigil in such a beautiful chapel in the heart of campus,” Father Swantek continued. “Many families and friends joined us, as well as some Protestants and non-Christian students who were there to support their friends, or who have felt welcomed by the Catholic community and have participated in our Bible studies, seminars or events, even they are not Catholic. God is definitely at work on the Princeton campus!”

Return to church for Easter a joy to behold in Holmdel

The Easter Masses in St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, saw a marked and heartening increase in attendance from the 2021 pandemic numbers, noted Father Patrick McPartland, pastor.

“For the Easter Vigil plus Sunday, church attendance was over 1800, with a full church and overflow into the hall at the 10 a.m. and 12 noon Masses,” he affirmed.

Father McPartland was principal celebrant of the Easter Vigil Mass, assisted by Deacon Mike Lonie.

“We had beautiful liturgies this year,” Father McPartland reflected. “The most meaningful [moments] were that this was the first time I washed feet as a pastor, we knelt for two minutes of silence for the Veneration of the Cross, and then processed forward for a sign of reverence.”

Perhaps most importantly, “It was good to see so many young families at Church!” he said.

In Forked River parish, Knights spend Easter Sunday spreading  Resurrection message 

During one of their recent meetings, the Father Capodanno Knights of Columbus Council 6522 in St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, decided they wanted to do something special for the children of the parish on Easter Sunday this year.

Since the parish has limited outdoor space and knowing the parking lot would be full that morning, an Easter egg hunt was not possible. And the Knights wanted to give them something more lasting than a hard boiled egg.

“We decided on plastic eggs to hand out,” said Grand Knight Michael J. Orak. “It was a good project for the council … we purchased and filled 300 eggs with stickers and little cloth bracelets with religious sayings on them like ‘He is risen,’ and ‘God is cool.’”

Five volunteer Knights of the council handed about 250 of the eggs to children following the 10 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass, much to the youngsters’ delight.

“They were so cute, all dressed up, trying to decide on which color egg they wanted,” Orak observed. “We hoped by handing out the eggs it would help in spreading the message of faith. We will plan to continue this next year.”

To see more photos from Mass on Easter Sunday in Forked River, click here.