Sea to shore wedding celebration


ATLANTIC CITY — “The feast of the Assumption of Mary invites us to lift our hearts to the glory that awaits us. … Where Mary is, we hope to be.”

Bishop Dennis Sullivan, with Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam, goes into the surf to cast out a wreath and ring into the waters on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15. —– Photo by Mike Walsh

These were the words of Bishop Dennis Sullivan in a packed Boardwalk Hall here during a Eucharistic Celebration on Aug. 15, marking the feast of the Assumption, which commemorates the Catholic doctrine that God assumed the Virgin Mary body and soul in heaven at the end of her earthly life.

After the noon Mass, the bishop and faithful descended upon surprised beachgoers along the Atlantic City boardwalk and beach, where he and Mayor Frank Gilliam entered a waiting boat. Assisted by local beach patrol, the vessel made its way into the rough waters, where Bishop Sullivan threw a ring and wreath into the waves. 

On the Atlantic City beach onlookers are eager for a glance at Bishop Dennis Sullivan, who led the Wedding of the Sea Eucharistic Celebration and procession to the sea that day. Photo by Mike Walsh

This tradition is symbolic of the relationship between the city and the sea, and commemorates an event in the life of the bishop of Cervia, Italy, Paul Barbo, who later became Pope Paul II, during the 15th century. During a violent storm on the feast of the Assumption, he threw his pastoral ring from the boat he was traveling in, and the storm was calmed.

The Mass and procession to the ocean was part of the day-long Wedding of the Sea celebration that took place in Atlantic City, sponsored by the Parish of Saint Monica.

“The festival was a big hit, with a great crowd,” said Betsy Fenwick, a member of the planning committee for the Wedding of the Sea festival, adding that people enjoyed the entertainment and the multi-ethnic cuisine, which included Spanish, Vietnamese and Italian foods. The plentiful sun was appreciated, as well.

“We were grateful and thank God for the fair weather,” she said.

“We do it all to serve God’s people, and for his glory and to honor our Blessed Mother.”

Vietnamese dancers perform during the Wedding of the Sea liturgy at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

A Catholic tradition at the Jersey shore

Father Mark Cavagnaro, pastor of Saint Brendan the Navigator Parish, leads the Wedding of the Sea blessing on the Stone Harbor beach on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. Photo by Maria Toci D’Antonio

The night before, on the Vigil of the Assumption, Bishop Sullivan presided at Notre Dame de la Mer Parish in Wildwood at a similar Mass, followed by a procession and casting out into the deep.

Recent first communicants who participated in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Vigil Mass at Saint Ann Church, Notre Dame de la Mer Parish, Wildwood, process to the sea with the faithful for the Wedding of the Sea ceremony on Aug. 14. Photo by John Kalitz

Parishes that also celebrated Wedding of the Sea festivals on or near the Assumption included Saint Brendan the Navigator, Avalon; Our Lady Star of the Sea, Cape May; Holy Trinity, Margate; and Saint Damien, Ocean City.