Pastor’s Desire Takes Root in Fertile Soil

NORTH CAPE MAY — A little more than a year ago Father Ernest R. Soprano went to see Eugene Sole to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

During the visit the two men talked about wine and vineyards, an interest they shared.

Sole was the son-in-law of Toby Craig of Cape May Winery. Father Soprano is pastor of St. John Neumann Parish, North Cape May, a parish that encompasses several wineries. One of his dreams is to have the parish supply its own altar wine.

“What happens when a pastor’s desire strikes at the heart of a family who is accustomed to reaching out to others and is suffering the loss of the well-loved dad and husband?” Father Soprano said.

After the 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday, Aug. 11 — exactly one year after Sole’s death — Father Soprano and parishioners left the church and walked a short distance to where young grape vines are staked to the ground. There the priest blessed the parish vineyard.

“Eugene had spoken to his wife, Betsy, about a vineyard,” Father Soprano explained. “They truly enjoyed the idea that I would like to have a vineyard dedicated in his name at our parish. At this same time, their younger son, Jackson, was exploring ideas for his Eagle Scout project.”

Jackson, with family and friends, planted Catawba grapes on May 26 in memory of his father as his Eagle Scout project.

“They will be used as altar wine for our parish when they come of age,” said the pastor. “It is our prayer that this gift of time, talent, and treasure will inspire others. The hope is that as they develop and mature, our CCD students and the youth in our parish boundaries may learn Jesus’ story about the vine and the branches and remember Eugene’s story of faith and outreach as he made his final journey home.”

In his homily during Mass, before the dedication, Father Soprano said, “That vines can be planted, grow to produce fruit, and be made into wine is a blessing. To be able to present this same wine at Mass on the altar and to have it consecrated to truly become the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is beyond words – unfathomable!”

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