A month’s travels among the faithful



Sharon Fileccia hugs Bishop Dennis Sullivan following the fifth anniversary Mass of the parish of the Holy Spirit in Mullica Hill on Pentecost Sunday. Photo by James A. McBride
Sharon Fileccia hugs Bishop Dennis Sullivan following the fifth anniversary Mass of the parish of the Holy Spirit in Mullica Hill on Pentecost Sunday.
Photo by James A. McBride

In The Merry Month of May:

I opened the New Jersey Knights of Columbus Annual Convention with Mass in Wildwood which allowed me an opportunity to thank and praise the Knights for their support of the church through Right to Life programs and other issues critical to society, such as, religious freedom. The K of C are Catholic men who contribute their talent, time and treasure and we are ever thankful to have their witness among us.

The Mass concluded with second graders from Cape Trinity Grammar School, who had recently received their First Holy Communion, crowning a statue of the Blessed Mother. This traditional Marian devotion in the month of May expresses love of and honor for the Mother of God. The ceremony was accompanied by robust singing of a hymn to Mary whom many in the church, like myself, had learned as children. The gusto singing as the boys, handsome in their new suits, and the girls, in their beautiful white dresses, reverently carried flowers to an image of the Mother of God… “O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.” I noticed tears welling in the eyes of some Knights. Devotion to Mary is an important component of Catholic spirituality. Mary brings us to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. Praying to the Blessed Mother reminds us that we are God’s children who seek the intercession of our Heavenly Mother.

I also attended a Crowning of Mary at Holy Trinity School in Westville Grove. On that occasion it was the sweet singing voices of the children and their fervent reading of the prayers that brought tears to the eyes of those in attendance. A goal of Catholic education, whether in our Schools or in parish catechetical programs, is to teach prayer and to expose children to the traditions of our Church.

I had the great pleasure to attend a production of “Les Miserables” performed by students of Camden Catholic High School. It was a five star production as good as a Broadway show. The singing, the orchestra, the professionalism of the actors, and the sets were worthy of a Tony. To familiarize teenagers with the literature of Victor Hugo, who authored the book that was adapted for the musical, reinforces Catholic social teaching about our responsibility for the poor. The standard of artistic excellence of that production demonstrates the excellence of our Catholic schools. If only we could convince our state politicians to help us maintain them as an option for parents.

Two significant diocesan events occurred in May, the ordination of Permanent Deacons and the ordination of a transitional deacon. The latter will be ordained a priest next year. Deo Gratias. I beg you to   pray for vocations to the diocesan priesthood. There are encouraging signs that young men in our diocese are hearing and responding to the Lord’s call. Our new nine permanent deacons will offer a variety of ministries in our parishes. Theirs is a service of Charity, Sacraments and the Word. What would our parishes do without the multi-faceted service of our deacons who contribute so much to parish life?

May is traditionally the month for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. As I travel around the diocese celebrating Confirmation I witness the joy of the families, the excitement of the youngsters and the pastoral labors of parish ministries and staffs. The seriousness of the parish programs of preparation is impressive. Young lives and families have contact with the church through catechetical preparation, which must be of excellent standards. On the morning of First Holy Communion at the parish of Saint Joachim in Bellmawr, I stopped by before the Mass, having been invited by the children whom I visited during their catechetical class last October. The beaming parents and the innocence of the children dressed in their First Communion finery remind us that we are God’s children who learn at an early age to love Him and His Church through participation in the Sacraments and Sunday Mass.

On Pentecost Sunday I celebrated the fifth anniversary of the parish of the Holy Spirit in Mullica Hill. Three parishes merged to form one parish. Not easy to make happen, but absolutely necessary in order to have a vibrant parish of which Holy Spirit is a fine example. Mergers of parishes will continue in our diocese. That can be a work of the Holy Spirit depending on the commitment and understanding of the clergy, staff and the parishioners.

More than 2,000 Catholic teenagers from the dioceses in New Jersey enjoyed a day at Six Flags Amusement Park at the conclusion of which they came together for Mass. I was the celebrant and terribly proud of our teenagers and their parish leaders, who in an outdoor stadium were as reverent as if they were in a Cathedral. The screams of those on the rides were drowned out by Catholic youth cheering for Jesus.

In case you’re interested I didn’t go on any rides.