A parade banner is displayedbehind Bishop O'Connell as he preaches his homily in St. Rose Church, Belmar.
A parade banner is displayedbehind Bishop O'Connell as he preaches his homily in St. Rose Church, Belmar.
The lyrical strains of violinist Kathleen McGee-Daly’s airs rose through the nave of St. Rose Church, Belmar, as the congregants, bedecked in a sea of Kelly green, prepared to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Investiture Mass March 4.

PHOTO GALLERY: Belmar St. Patrick's Day Investiture Mass

As the Pipes and Drums of the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh of Old Bridge and the Jersey Shore processed up the center aisle, they were followed by past Grand and Deputy Grand Marshalls, members of the Belmar Lake Como Parade Committee, an honor guard of the Knights of Columbus, and the vivid St. Patrick banner.

Eugene “Chip” Cavanagh, this year’s Grand Marshal, proudly followed, preceding principal celebrant Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. and other concelebrating priests including Msgr. Edward J. Arnister, St. Rose Parish pastor.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on the ideals epitomized by the life of St. Patrick, noting that the Sermon on the Mount ended with, “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

The Bishop shared that Jesus didn’t consider this aspiration to be unrealistic because “with God all things are possible. St. Patrick believed that and lived a life of Christian generosity and humility and poured out his life in service … with breathtaking courage.”

Describing St. Patrick’s breastplate as a depiction of the protective and all-encompassing grace of God, Bishop O’Connell quoted from St. Patrick’s familiar prayer, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.”

Infusing cultural aspects into the Mass, the presentation of the gifts included vibrantly costumed dancers from the D’Arcy School of Irish Dance carrying symbols including holy water from Knock; potatoes, a symbol of pre-famine sustenance; turf, representing its use as a source of light and fuel; the shamrock, a metaphor for the Trinity and frequently presented as a gift of good will, along with the gifts of bread and wine.

Cavanagh has been spreading goodwill and dedicating innumerable volunteer hours to the community his entire life. Sheila Murphy, parade committee member explained, “His level of commitment, passion for tradition, and leadership, is the inspiration” for his choice as Grand Marshall.

With the unexpected passing of the parade’s previous chairman, Murphy related that Cavanagh promised “that he would keep the parade going and he has not just kept it going, he has continued to make sure it serves the community to the highest level possible.”

Cavanagh said he was honored to serve as Grand Marshall of the Belmar Lake Como St. Patrick Day Parade, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.  “St. Patrick is so meaningful because he is the patron saint of Ireland.  He is part of our Irish culture. It’s a very high honor for the Bishop to take time out of his busy schedule to come down and celebrate with us,” Cavanagh said.

Mass committee chair Patricia Feehery shared her gratitude, saying, “Having the Bishop come to celebrate is a privilege for our parish and neighboring parishes here at the Jersey Shore.  It reminds us that we have our Irish heritage and faith in common with the Bishop, and he values that in a similar way.”

Msgr. Arnister extended appreciation to those present at the Investiture, including singer Bobby Byrne, the St. Rose music ministry, members of the Mass committee, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Felician Sisters, and the Mayors of Belmar, Old Bridge and Manalapan. 

Proud of his parish’s enthusiastic tradition of hosting the Investiture Mass for 37 years, Msgr. Arnister said, “It is always inspiring to start out the month of March in Belmar.”