St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, was enlivened with laughter, song and joy March 15 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the diocese’s Mother Church.
The 1,100-person seating capacity was nearly consumed, mostly by Hispanic members of the Cathedral parish, reflecting the many cultural and demographic changes that have taken place in Trenton during the last half century. Representatives from parishes across the diocese took part in a banner procession to show their solidarity with the church that is, in many ways, the center of the liturgical life of the diocese. People came from as far away as Epiphany Parish, Brick; St. Mary Parish, Bordentown; St. Ann Parish, Keansburg; Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, and as close as Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish, Trenton. The bilingual Mass was well attended with around 20 priests joining Bishop John M. Smith at the altar.
In welcoming the diverse and joyful congregation, Msgr. John K. Dermond, rector, expressed his confidence that the future is bright for the cathedral.
"The cathedral parish has a future in the city of Trenton, for the sake of the Church and the sake of the city," he said. "We don’t know what the cathedral or the city will look like in another 50 years, but we know we want to be present here."
Bishop Smith’s homily was translated into Spanish by his secretary, Father Cesar Rubiano. The cathedral choir was joined by three Spanish-language choirs during the Mass.
The bishop reflected on the history of the cathedral, from the establishment of the diocese 128 years ago, to the devastating fire of 53 years ago that took the lives of the rector and two staff members. He explained that a cathedral is called such because it is the seat – or the 'cathedra' – of the bishop.
Observing the congregation made up of the smallest of children to the eldest of grandparents, the bishop stated that the vibrant Hispanic culture, with its family values, has enriched the cathedral life.
He praised the parishioners, as "living stones" of the parish, saying that, while the Mass was to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the dedication of the new cathedral, it was also to celebrate what God rejoices in – the people, the living stones of the Church.
The bishop asked those who were present at the original dedication to stand. A handful of parishioners stood as applause echoed through¬out the congregation. He then asked for members of the Cathedral Parish to stand, and again, applause showed appreciation for those who have continued to serve God in the Cathedral community.
Msgr. Dermond, who received a warm reception when he stepped to the pulpit, said the Sunday celebration was "fabulous. I’m grateful to the many different people who make these sorts of celebrations happen." He said he is proud to be the rec¬tor of a parish that is so vital. "The mergers of parishes in the city of Trenton have resulted in some very vibrant parishes, as I looked at the collaboration, I’m happy the growth will continue in the city with all the parishes we have left."
Many people commented to him, he said, how beautiful the ceremony was, and how happy they are to see the cathedral filled with people. They are also pleased because the people are engaged in good works in the community.
"Many good things will come out of this," he predicted.
At the ceremony, Ralph Herrara said that he and his family found a home when they moved to Trenton from New York City 11 years ago. "It has been exciting and pleasant to be a part of this Spanish community," where his children have received their sacraments, he said. "I wouldn’t change a thing about the cathedral."
Barbara Cabla was married in the old church. "The fire broke my heart, because it didn’t seem like my church anymore," she said. She came to the anniversary Mass to remember her connections with the cathedral. Her husband, Frank Uvegus, also recalled the fire, and said he was there and sadly watched it burn.
Dolores Sebasto returned from Ewing, where she is now a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel, because of her strong memories of the cathedral, both old and new. "It was my home parish," she said. "We did everything here, including the sodality. I was married here in 1955."
She recalled standing outside while the original cathedral burned in 1956, and how devastating it was to her so soon after her marriage. Her sister, Frances Rossadivito, now lives in Fort Meyers, Fla. She sang in the choir during the dedication of the new cathedral, Sebasto said, and Sebasto was certain she would have enjoyed the anniversary Mass, had she been able to come.[[In-content Ad]]