This past two weekends our parish of Notre Dame de la Mer in Wildwood had two distinguished guests celebrating two events that included our wonderful parishioners. Bishop Sullivan joined us for the Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our patronal feast day, to celebrate Mass and travel in procession to the ocean for the traditional Wedding of the Sea. It is always such a joy and an honor to have the bishop of our diocese come and share this special day with our parish family. He delivered another of his wonderful homilies where he cleverly wove together the life of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, the Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German occupied Poland during World War II, with the theme of the Assumption. Bishop Sullivan shared the story of his recent visit to Auschwitz during the World Youth Day Gathering with the seminarians of our diocese. Many were present for our parish celebration. At the heart of Saint Maximilian’s courage and inner peace through the horror of Auschwitz was his love of Jesus and Mary.
The other guest of honor at our parish this past weekend was His Eminence, Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Haiti. He was in our area to celebrate his 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood with family and friends here in the United States. He celebrated Mass here at Notre Dame de la Mer at our regular Saturday evening vigil Mass, to the great surprise of parishioners and visitors alike! Cardinal Langlois shared with our parish many of the needs of his diocese and homeland still being experienced by so many in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.
This past January our parish elementary school, Cape Trinity Catholic, and our high school, Wildwood Catholic, joined with a local organization, Hand to Hand Mission, on a mission to Haiti. Our mission was under the direction of our parochial vicar, Father Yvans Jazon, a native of Haiti, to bring much needed school supplies to various schools that we visited and to visit an orphanage as Father Yvans baptized almost 30 children, whose godparents were members of our mission group. We hope to go again this January to bring much needed lighting fixtures for young students.
When Father Yvans first announced the mission at Mass last year, the first person to approach him with the desire to be part of the mission was one of our model students from Wildwood Catholic High School, Julianna Roche. She and her mother Julie were enthusiastic members of the mission. So many of the young people we met in Haiti were impressed by the outgoing Julianna who spoke with great eloquence and spiritual maturity about how this mission was touching her in ways she had not anticipated.
At one point in the trip Father Yvans handed me his cell phone and told me Cardinal Langlois would like to speak to me. He thanked our parish for coming to Haiti and for our willingness to reach out. I shared with him how much more we have received from the faith and warmth of the people entrusted to his spiritual care. What a blessing it was to have the cardinal right here at our parish last week to thank us personally for our care and concern for his people in Haiti. Cardinal Langlois is one of the youngest cardinals in the world and the first ever from Haiti. He is beloved in Haiti and he agrees with Pope Francis that the church must focus on issues of social justice and the poor. In Haiti and beyond Cardinal Langlois says this focus is not simply financial, as he explains, “Many people can have money, but they are very poor, they don’t have the right riches.”
After traveling to Haiti and meeting with both the parish council and finance committee of Notre Dame de la Mer Parish, we agreed that we will attempt to help the church in Haiti and continue our annual missions with Hand to Hand Mission. Cardinal Langlois asked us to help the retired priests of Haiti in their time of need. They have no facility for the sick and elderly priests and the cardinal would like to build a rest home for them. Our parish will help with this much needed project as our commitment to help the church of Haiti. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti in their time of need!
Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.