By Maria Ferris | Correspondent
A sense of community and camaraderie was unmistakable among those who gathered Aug. 27 for the Mass commemorating St. Monica Parish’s 65th anniversary and the annual festival that followed.
“I love the people of St. Monica. It’s a very family, community-oriented parish, and it’s a loving parish,” said Deacon Mike Principato, who has been part of the Jackson parish for 10 years.
Photo Gallery: St. Monica Parish 65th Anniversary
A late morning Mass celebrated outside the church in the shadow of towering trees preceded the day’s festivities, which were held on the feast day of the parish’s patron saint. Father Alex Enriquez, parish administrator, who celebrated the Mass, invited Father Tom Petrillo, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, to concelebrate and serve as homilist.
In his homily, Father Petrillo reminded the crowd of more than 200 that Jesus never leaves his people alone, that he is always by their side to help.
“We must arrange to meet with him and talk with him on a regular schedule,” Father Petrillo said. “We call this daily prayer.”
“Jesus loves everyone,” he continued. “I don’t care what you may have done or what you are doing now. The important thing is you have a friend in Jesus. Go to him. He is waiting,” he said, encouraging all to talk to Jesus about their hopes, dreams, doubts and problems.
The Mass was celebrated at an altar made by Mark Piznik, a parishioner of 30 years, whose handiwork can also be found inside the church. In addition, there was a 50th anniversary blessing for parishioners Jack and Maryann Mahoney.
The Gift of Friendship
Roughly 220 wristbands were sold for the festival fundraiser that took place after Mass, where parishioners enjoyed games, rides, music, food and activities such as face painting.
“It’s a nice, warm parish,” said Alice Stephens, festival chairwoman and parishioner for 21 years. “The people here are generous.”
Explaining that the event takes months of planning, Stephens credited the people involved in its preparation, as well as the volunteers from the Knights of Columbus and Women of St. Monica.
Longtime friends and parishioners Ada Trematerra and Cathy Sedano, who were in charge of the tricky tray, put together 84 baskets from donated goods. Sedano referred to the job as a “labor of love.”
Jim Scatigna, grand knight of the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council, said the festival not only means a lot to the parish, it also sends a message to the community.
“Maybe it’s something they want to join,” he said. “Join, look what we do. We’re a family together.”
That message of friendship certainly rang true for Eileen Laus, a member of the parish choir who attended the event with her family and friends. She’s been a parishioner for about five years.
“We had been away from the Church for a long time, and from the day we came in, everybody treated us like family,” she said. “Everybody was very welcoming.”
Betty Cole, 91, and her husband William, 98, a World War II veteran, both joined the parish in 1995. They turned out for the day’s events with three generations of family.
“I really love this church. It’s a happy place,” said Betty Cole, who recently returned from a white water rafting trip down the Colorado River earlier this month.
Her great-granddaughter, Chloe Barber, agreed. “I really like being here because I get to see cousins that I haven’t seen in a bit of time.”
Adding his thoughts, Deacon Christian Knoebel, who has been a parishioner for 20 years, said the festival is “a terrific time to come together as a parish, celebrate the Lord’s gift of grace in our life as a parish community.”