The calendar may indicate it’s still summer during the first few weeks of September, but at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Stephen’s, Kearny, things will be in full swing as the church opens its doors for a visit from Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the new archbishop of Newark, and the clergy and parishioners from the entire West Hudson Deanery.
A few days later, the parish will pause to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks with a remembrance Mass.
It all begins Thursday, Sept. 7, when Cardinal Tobin makes his first visit to a Kearny parish. In truth, he’s coming to Kearny to visit the entire Deanery, which encompasses all six Catholic Churches of Harrison, East Newark and Kearny.
St. Stephen’s was chosen to be the site for the Mass, presumably, because it can accommodate a large number of worshippers. The pastor of Saint Stephen’s, and the dean, the Very Rev. Joseph A. Mancini, in a recent email to the other pastors said
“We may be one of the smallest deaneries parish-wise, but we want to have the largest attendance!”
There are 26 deaneries in the Archdiocese of Newark and Cardinal Tobin began his visit to the deaneries earlier this year and finished about half around June. The visit to the West Hudson deanery will be the first one of the fall cycle.
So just why is Cardinal Tobin making the rounds around the archdiocese?
“He wants to get out to meet the priests and the people using the deaneries,” Father Joe said. “The idea is to host one evening in each deanery, starting with a dinner for the Cardinal and the priests where the Cardinal can meet the priests, listen to them and hear their ideas, hopes and concerns. Then Mass at 7:30 p.m. and then a town hall-like discussion after Mass where the parishioners can meet the Cardinal.
“He wants to hear the hopes, dreams, fears of the people. He makes it clear he has no agenda. He comes to listen first.”
The local deanery here is special and unique for many reasons. Diversity is one of the main reasons, and as such, Father Joe says that while Mass will be celebrated primarily in English, the Prayers of the Faithful (think: “Lord, hear our prayer”) will be offered in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish, the four most-spoken languages in the area.
And, the offertory hymn (the hymn at the presentation of the Gifts), “Pescador de Hombres,” will be sung in each of the four languages.
“Though Bob (Maidhof, St. Stephen’s music director) will lead most of the music, we invited the other parishes to send a singer, maybe an organist, to join St. Stephen’s music ministry for the song.”
Now for those who know Father Joe personally, you know there are very few priests, if any, who know how to put on a liturgical celebration quite the way he does.
But because Sept. 7 is just a regular, ordinary Mass celebration — and not a Sunday Mass or feast day — he decided to keep the liturgy more simple. As such, there won’t be a brass section or percussion section, as he often assembles for Mass.
But that’s perfectly fine, he says, partly because of Cardinal Tobin’s preference for simplicity.
Still, expect a tremendous “celebration.”
And, take note — there will not be a collection at the Mass.
“Nope, no collection at this Mass,” he said. “We want people to come, celebrate, and enjoy the evening. No pressures of a collection.”
Remember — this night is open to all. You don’t even have to be Catholic to attend. Father Joe has one major wish from the night.
“We’re hoping for big attendance, Having a Cardinal as the archbishop of Newark is something that no one ever thought possible, given the proximity of Newark to New York and Philadelphia which have, historically, had a Cardinal-Archbishop. This is a big deal for Newark and Cardinal Tobin has already proven himself to be a true pastor – one who listens to everyone,” he said.
And given there are two major archdiocesan agencies in Kearny — the Redemptoris Mater seminary on Passaic Ave. and the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center on Belgrove Drive — attendance should be immense.
“We’re expecting the seminarians from Redemptoris Mater will be here so the visit of the Cardinal also gives us hope in the future of the priesthood,” Father Joe said.
And knowing how Father Joe does things, there’s no reason why attendance won’t be the best of 26 total deaneries in the entire archdiocese.
Sept. 11, 2001 remembered
Four days after the Cardinal’s visit, on Monday, Sept. 11, St. Stephen’s will once again host a Mass of Remembrance to mark the 16th anniversary of the terror attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., at 7:30 p.m. in the church.
We asked Father Joe why it’s important to have a remembrance Mass each year — and without hesitation, he said, “We can’t forget what happened that day.
“We can’t forget the sacrifice the people made that day. The people who died didn’t realize they were making a sacrifice, but they truly did. They didn’t choose heroism, but heroes they were.”
Father Joe also recalled all the people in the Twin Towers who were above the areas where two jumbo jets slammed into each of the towers.
“The stories of the people above the impact zones — think of that for a second,” he said. “How do you face that? How do you face knowing you’re going to die? That’s what heroism is. That’s what bravery is. Yes, this is the 16th anniversary, and it would be easy for people to just move on and forget what happened that day. But that cannot happen.”
Father Joe says this Mass, like the Cardinal’s Mass, will be a simple one.
“Like the sacrifices people made on 9/11, we come together in the context of the sacrifice of the Mass. It’s what we do, as Catholics.”
But take note — the Mass is not just for Catholics. People of all faiths are welcome to come and to remember.