Catholics throughout the world joyfully observed the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Aug. 15, commemorating Mary’s body and soul being assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life.
Faithful of the Diocese marked the day with Masses and processions scheduled from morning to night. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated the Diocese’s feast day with a Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. The Diocese of Trenton, which was founded in 1881, has the Blessed Mother, under her title of Our Lady of the Assumption, as its patron saint.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mass for the Assumption in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral
PHOTO GALLERY: Mass for the Assumption in Seaside Heights
The assumption is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s “crown of glory,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily.
“Given her unique role in the Lord Jesus Christ’s life and ministry and her own uniqueness as conceived without sin and sinless, God saw fit to free her from the bonds of earth by assuming her, body and soul, into heaven when her time on earth had finished,” the Bishop said. He noted that while the Blessed Mother’s name – Mary – is mentioned only 16 times in the Gospels and that otherwise she is referenced as Jesus’ mother, he said, “her presence and importance in Church history has exerted a powerful influence on the community of faith, art, music and literature from the very beginning.
“Where she has gone, we who believe in her divine Son, are sure to follow,” Bishop O’Connell said. “May she intercede for us, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Several parishes along coastal Monmouth and Ocean Counties, including St. Junipero Serra, Seaside Park, held Blessing of the Sea ceremonies. After Masses, congregants processed from their respective churches to the ocean to witness the tradition that dates back to 15th century Italy when a bishop traveling from Venice encountered a fierce storm at sea on the Feast of the Assumption. Praying for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the prelate tossed his pastoral ring into the waters, which immediately became calm.
After the blessing of the water, the congregants were invited to wade into the ocean and fill bottles with the blessed waters to transport it back home.
St. Junipero Serra parishioner Michele Sperduto and her husband, Don, have attended the Assumption Mass and blessing of the ocean for the past 25 years, the last 15 of which they have actively participated in the procession from the church to the beach. While Michele has carried the holy water each year that the priest uses to bless the ocean, Don helps with transporting the statue of the Blessed Mother which is mounted on a platform.
"People from all over come to see it -- different parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York," Michele Sperduto said.
"The Blessed Mother is my patron saint and I pray to her everyday," she added, and this celebration of the Assumption "is something very special to me and to our parish."
Conventual Franciscan Father Michael Lorentsen, pastor of St. Junipero Serra Parish, principal celebrant of the Mass, reflected in his homily on how Mary's Assumption into heaven "gives us all hope for eternal life.
"Mary is the first and most perfect disciple," he said. "Mary totally embraced and followed the Word of God," and likewise, that's what we are called to do as followers of Christ -- embrace and follow the Word of God.
Father Michael Lorentsen, pastor of St. Junipero Serra Parish, Seaside Park, blesses the ocean following the Mass he celebrated for the Assumption in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Seaside Heights. Hal Brown photo