“Summertime an’ the livin’ is easy.” So begins the classic song written by George Gershwin. The delightful music puts you in a “summery” mood; it’s almost like a lullaby. No one sings it better than Ella Fitzgerald, says I.
The “livin’” was not easy this past summer with the senseless gun slaughters in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, and as I write this reflection (Sunday, Sept. 1) another violent gun assault against bystanders is reported in Midland and Odessa, West Texas. More than 50 people died in mass shootings in the month of August alone. Almost every two weeks an active shooting takes place in our country. Will this ever end? What is causing this epidemic? Why are our elected officials unable to produce effective legislation on the sales of assault weapons? There is no “easy livin’” for any of us who at any time may be victims of gun violence.
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have addressed this issue: Here is some of what they have to say: “Let us resolve to make the sacrifices necessary to end the violent killing that saturates our nation.” (after the Gilroy, California shooting in July); “The Catholic Conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence” (after the shooting in Dayton, Ohio); “These horrific onslaughts demonstrate unequivocally the undeniable existence of evil in our society. … all people of good will and Catholic leaders must work tirelessly to root out the causes of such crimes” (after the Odessa, Texas shooting). Solutions are possible. Much prayer is needed but there has to be political will and that seems to be missing.
In the midst of the tragic events, there were many grace-filled events. Events that inspire hope and bring much joy.
On Sunday, Aug. 18, I celebrated Mass at Most Precious Blood Church, our Vietnamese parish, in West Collingswood during which three young men made final vows and solemn religious profession in the Congregation of the Holy Family. The assembly was filled with joy as they witnessed the forever commitment of these young seminarians. In the United States this past year, 5% of those who were ordained priests are either American born Vietnamese or born in Vietnam. Given the paucity of vocations to the priesthood from our parishes, don’t be surprised if one day your parish priest may be one of these young men!
In August I was delighted to participate in the WEDDING OF THE SEA at Wildwood on the Vigil of the Assumption and at Atlantic City on the Solemnity, Aug. 15. Nearly 5,000 people attended both celebrations. This ceremony dates back to the year 1000 to Naples, Italy and the action of the bishop at that time who calmed the waters around the city by petitioning God as he threw his episcopal ring into the raging waters. That this ceremony continues to attract people tells us about the power of “popular religion” which bears the mystery of God. There is a connection between the Sea, the ministry of the bishop, the Mother of God and the Church. The Wedding of the Sea lifts the veil that separates the Holy from us and I would add, it’s a lot of fun!
On Sunday Aug. 4, I installed a new pastor for the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Berlin, Father Michael De Leon, who is a member of a Filipino religious community, Alagad Ni Maria. Not only did the parish get a new pastor, it also got three other young priests who will serve in various ministries in our diocese while they live and assist at the Berlin parish. What a gift to the parish and to the church of Camden. I am delighted to welcome the priests of the Alagad Ni Maria to our diocese. May God speed their ministry in South Jersey.
This year in Hammonton the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel produced its 144th outdoor festival and procession. I salute the men of the society for keeping this Italian-American Catholic tradition alive. It takes a lot of work. The week-long festival and the concluding outdoor procession are a tribute to the deep faith of the 19th century Italian immigrants to Hammonton and their American-born descendants who keep this tradition alive. An annual summer highlight for me is to offer Mass on July 16 for the Society and pray in thanksgiving for their pioneer immigrant ancestors who brought their Catholic faith to America.
A few weeks of summer remain. … May you enjoy some “easy livin’.”
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden