By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Kristyn and Dylan Wagner have an eye on the future.
Not only are they expecting their first child, a boy, in October, the two grew up in St. Elizabeth Parish, Avon, which as of July 1, merged with Ascension, Bradley Beach, to form the new parish of St. Teresa of Calcutta.
“It’s a new opportunity,” Dylan Wagner, 29, said of the merger. “Yes, the [baby’s] baptism will be celebrated here and all of the other Sacraments. We have a lot to look forward to.”
Photo Gallery: Inaugural Mass for St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish
Photo Gallery: Inaugural Mass for Our Lady of Fatima Parish
Indeed, if anything embodied faith in the future for St. Teresa of Calcutta at its inaugural Mass, it was the hundreds of faithful in attendance July 1 in Ascension Church. The parishes of Ascension and St. Elizabeth were two of 14 across the Diocese to officially merge that day as part of the Diocese’s Faith in Our Future initiative.
Hope was certainly present in the opening words of Father Dean Gaudio, pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, and in the homily he preached.
Father Gaudio, formerly the pastor of St. Elizabeth, expressed joy in seeing “a lot of familiar faces” known to him from his years of service in that parish. He said he was moved by the welcome and response of the combined community “to the day at hand.”
In his homily, Father Gaudio focused on the Readings of the day, specifically, the Gospel of Mark 5:21:53, which focuses on two healings by Jesus. The first involves a lowly woman afflicted by hemorrhages that have rendered her an unclean outcast for 12 years. The second concerns Jarius, a wealthy synagogue official, who begs Jesus to heal is gravely ill daughter.
“I love Mark,” said Father Gaudio, “because he shows the humanness of the disciples” as they try to downplay the need in both cases for intervention by Jesus, who persists and restores vitality in both instances, because of the depth of the faith of those who sought his healing powers.
“Jesus asks people to believe,” Father Gaudio said. “He touches us in order to help us and heal us.”
The pastor drew a connection to the faith of Mother Teresa who, he said, recognized the face of Jesus in every human being and never rejected anyone in search of healing.
He asked those in attendance to pray for the new parish that bears the now-saint’s name and called upon God to “give me the grace to be a good and worthy pastor.”
In remarks after Mass, Father Gaudio signaled his approval of the new logo for the parish, designed by one of its young members, graphic artist Ashley Oldakowski. Her design depicts the sun and a wave, which echoes the blue and white stripes of St. Teresa’s habit superimposed with a cross.
“The logo depicts our beautiful location with the beach and the wave of faith – the image of the water of conveys new life through the Sacraments,” he said. “It encourages everyone to bring that wave to other people!”
During the social that followed, Sharon Delaney and her husband Richard – who have been worshiping in Ascension Church and St. Elizabeth for 35 and 18 years respectively – shared memories of a courtship born out of their daily Mass attendance. That romance blossomed into marriage and a family that now includes two sons, Thomas, 11 and Robert, 9, who attend the religious education program.
“We think the merger will be great for the community,” she said. “The kids go to the same schools, the families shop at the same stores.”
The atmosphere was one of hopeful anticipation, too, for Pat Leonard, Eileen Comer and Pat McGillen, who between them, have more than a century of sacramental and social life in St. Elizabeth – now one of St. Teresa’s two worship sites. In the beginning, the women said, they did have some concerns about how the merger would affect both parish communities.
“There will be a lot of changes, but we are hopeful,” McGillen said. “We have to be.”