LONGPORT – The faithful attended 10 a.m. Mass at Holy Trinity Parish’s Epiphany Church Thursday, Aug. 15 to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, which Catholics believe is the day Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven.
The annual tradition includes a procession from the church on 29th Avenue to the beach where Pastor Pawel Kryszkiewicz blesses the sea. Parishioners sang the “Ave Maria” and other devotional hymns along the route, before joining Fr. Kryszkiewicz in the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer.
More than a hundred worshipers gathered at the shore’s edge, some collecting sea water in little bottles to pass blessings onto loved ones, pets and those who are suffering. With assistance from members of the Longport Beach Patrol, Fr. Kryszkiewicz boarded a surfboat and they rowed out past the waves where he tossed a wreath of flowers into the sea.
Anne Hennessy, 95 of Rosemont, Pa., has been attending the celebration for 12 years with her son and daughter-in-law, Joe and Kelly Hennessy, who plan their summer vacation around the holy day.
“It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition,” she said. “I come for the blessings. I bring water back for the sick. My grandmother used to come. It was the only time she would ever go into the ocean.”
It was Michele Mulkern’s first time participating in the procession in Longport, but she has attended similar ceremonies in other shore communities, she said. On Thursday, she and her husband Kevin accompanied Miriam Brusco, 83, of Ventnor, who attends the Longport Blessing of the Sea every year.
“The Blessed Mother means everything to me,” Brusco said. “She helps me all the time. If I can’t get my earrings on, I say a Hail Mary, and she helps me get them on. And after numerous back surgeries, I say a Hail Mary and she helps me climb the steps.”
Longport Mayor Nicholas Russo, Commissioner Jim Leeds and Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman attended the ceremony.
The shore town’s tradition is modeled after similar ceremonies in Italian cities that bless the sea to protect seafarers and fishers who take their livelihoods from the sea.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary as dogma in the church’s belief that after her time on Earth, the Virgin was assumed into heaven body and soul.