By Lois Rogers | TrentonMonitor.com, Correspondent
The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption, Aug. 15 is both a holy and a festive time for countless faithful around the world, including the Trenton Diocese which embraces her as its patroness.
The feast will be observed with vigils on Aug. 14 and Masses on the day itself in parishes throughout the four counties of Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean and some parishes, including St. Catherine in Middletown, will celebrate with solemn novenas.
In Epiphany Parish, Brick, it has become customary to add to the flavor of the celebration with not only a novena, but a feast in the Blessed Virgin’s honor.
This year will mark the fourth time in as many years that the traditional Italian feast that’s a hallmark of the day throughout Italy and in many urban areas of this country will unfold from Aug. 13, 14, 15 and 16 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. each night.
Highlighting the feast will be the now familiar tribute to Our Lady – “Mary’s Garden of Light” – in which a statue of the Blessed Mother that graces the interior of the church all year is positioned prominently outside. She’s surrounded by candles that faithful enjoy lighting as they pray for their special intentions.
Also special this year, said Kim Lorentzen, parish director of religious education and co-chair of the festival, is a customized keep sake prayer card of the Blessed Virgin to take home from this free event.
The nine day novena begins on Aug. 7 and runs through Aug. 15 each morning following the 9 a.m. Mass except for Sunday when it will be held following the noon Mass.
Feast goers can expect a wide variety of delicacies to enjoy again this year, said Lorentzen. There will be a seafood shack with fresh fruit of the sea, traditional Italian favorites by Tony’s Sausage; Louie Linguini who offers pasta of all kinds; to Pizza by Angelotti. Sweets galore will be available as well.
As is traditional, there will be a midway with rides, nightly entertainment including dance contests for all ages and various craft vendors including the popular religious item stand by Maryann Mosko, Lebanon, whose goods are so sought after, Lorentzen said, that many come mainly with a visit to her stand in mind.
Lorentzen said the festival has grown over four years and this year between 12,000 and 18,000 people are expected to attend.
The event is an integral part of the parish budget, she said, helping to defray the costs of the large number of outreach programs Epiphany offers including Helping Hands, St. Vincent De Paul, the Knights of Columbus, the parish food bank and the parish participation in Interfaith Neighbors.
“The great thing about the feast,” Lorentzen said, “is that it brings everyone together. Everyone volunteers and works and helps out. It shows the community that we are a Catholic parish that is very much a part of the community.
“This is a feast, not just a carnival. It has a very important religious component and its brought many people to the church. They come to church because they found us through the feast.”
Other celebrations for the Feast of the Assumption will be held at St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, on the vigil of Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. in the church. For information, call 732-780-2666.
St. Catherine Parish, Middletown, will celebrate a Solemn Novena Aug. 6 to 14 each night at 7 p.m. in the church at 110 Bray Avenue. The evenings will include special music, preaching, Novena devotions, Mass and a prayer basket. The Rosary will begin each evening at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome. For information, call 732-787-1318.
For the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Deal, will hold its annual Blessing of the Water Aug. 15. Immediately following a 5 p.m. Mass which will be celebrated in the church, Father Douglas A. Freer, pastor, will join parishioners and guests in a procession a few short blocks to the beach at Hathaway Ave. The procession, with police escort, is expected to begin around 6 p.m.
The Blessing of the Water, an annual tradition in the Deal parish, is custom in many coastal regions across the United States as well as in Europe. According to the parish, the custom originated in 15th century Italy, when a bishop was traveling from Venice during a storm at sea. The bishop reportedly prayed and threw his pastoral ring into the sea from the ship, and the waters were calmed.
Blessings take place each year in Atlantic City, Camden, Long Island, N.Y., and in other coastal cities and seaports, as well as including the faith communities based along the shore in the Trenton Diocese.