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.”
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.
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.”
A Catholic tradition at the Jersey shore
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.
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.