Msgr. Peter Joyce, second from right, pastor of Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Marmora, concelebrates Mass on Sunday, Aug. 12, the feast day of the parish’s patron saint, with, from left, Father Armando Rodriguez Montoya, Father Robert Gregorio and Msgr. John Conahan.
MARMORA — Like the patchwork banners representing the three churches merged to form the Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe here, the beauty of the whole was underscored by the careful stitching that brought the pieces together.
More than 400 parishioners joined at the Church of the Resurrection last Sunday to celebrate the feast day of their patron saint, the first such celebration since Bishop Joseph Galante’s decree last November merged Resurrection, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Mission in Goshen and St. Casimir’s of Woodbine.
“Let us concentrate on our likenesses, rather than our diversities; we are all dedicated faith-filled Christians with one goal in mind — to become one church family under our beloved patron saint,” said Betty Cashman, 90, in comments before the start of Mass.
Standard bearers carrying the three piecework banners walked down the center aisle and placed the banners in holders on the altar, as the choir struck the beginning notes of the opening hymn, “Canticle of the Sun.”
Church members from all three communities decorated the squares of each banner to represent hopes for the newly formed parish; each banner was bordered in blue, giving the different pieces a common background.
Six altar servers led the entrance procession up the main aisle, which was flanked by members of the Knight of Columbus in full dress uniform.
Msgr. Peter Joyce, the pastor of the merged parish, celebrated the Mass. He was joined by Msgr. John Conahan and Father Armando Rodriguez Montoya, both of St. Maximilian Kolbe; and Father Robert Gregorio of St. Joseph’s, Somers Point, former pastor at Resurrection.
The Mass was said in English, with the exception of the second reading, which was delivered by Jose Santiago, of Woodbine, in Spanish. Santiago, who has attended St. Casimir’s for the last 38 years, was a member of the core team that helped coordinate the merger.
“I knew that it would all come together. We have worked on it for more than four and one half years,” he said later, at the parish picnic. “I couldn’t wait for this day.”
In his homily, Msgr. Joyce commented on his 15 months as pastor. “That means I have spent more time in those seats in this church,” he said, gesturing at the row of altar servers, “than I have in this seat, as pastor. It is kind of a wonderful thing.”
Msgr. Joyce was raised in Upper Township and served as an altar boy at the Church of the Resurrection, including the Mass dedicating the church building in 1977.
Immediately following the Mass, parishioners gathered outside the church for the dedication and blessing of a new sculpture honoring St. Maximilian Kolbe.
The bust was unveiled by the artist, Felicia Stephenson. “Because I restore art, I am exposed to a lot of different styles. This was my first sculpture. I got a lot of help from God. The more I learned about St. Maximilian Kolbe, the more I wanted him to look approachable,” she said. “This was a man who loved so much that he willingly gave his life for a stranger.”
According to Msgr. Joyce, Stephenson also helped with the newly designed parish logo — which features a butterfly, a symbol of “the promise of new life,” representing the Church of the Resurrection; a lily, representing St. Casimir Parish; and a rose, speaking to St. Elizabeth of Hungary Mission. In the center of the logo are two crowns, signifying St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Born Raymond Kolbe in 1894 Poland, Maximilian Kolbe was ordained a priest in 1918. During the Second World War, he died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz, in Nazi German-occupied Poland, on Aug. 14, 1941, after volunteering to take the place of a man selected to die by starvation. He was 47.
Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe in Oct. 1982, calling him the “patron saint of our difficult century.”