On Sunday morning, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Copeland Ave. was the setting for a special Mass honoring U.S. military veterans as well as the living and deceased members of the parish’s Holy Name Society. It was co-sponsored by the society and the Lyndhurst Veterans Alliance, comprising the local chapters of the American Legion, VFW, Amvets and Vietnam Veterans.
The Holy Name Mass has been a tradition for awhile, but, as Tom Witt, commander of the Veterans Alliance, explained, two years ago the decision was made to incorporate the military remem brance in honor of Veterans Day.
This was our first visit to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and we shall forever think of it as a simple country church in the midst of sprawling exurbia. There’s no stained glass, no marble pillars, no statues (other than in a small chapel at the rear and of Our Lady and the Christ Child near the altar). There is one large crucifix behind the altar and, on the side walls, small sculptures marking the Stations of the Cross.
For the most part, it is devoid of decoration. Even the ceiling above the nave, which in most Catholic churches can be fairly grandiose, features only plain wooden beams.
We mention all this not only because we were surprised, and delighted, with the simplicity, but also because that simplicity served as a poetic counterpoint to the specific, deeply emotional meaning of this particular tribute service.
Preceding the Mass, celebrated by the pastor, the Rev. Nazareno Orlandi, the Veterans Alliance Honor Guard, bearing American and veterans’ flags, processed up the main aisle, followed by Alliance and Holy Name members.
And the congregation, which filled the church, sang “America the Beautiful.”
The recessional was the magnificent “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Also sung was “On Eagle’s Wings,” which is often a part of a service but which could be seen to have special significance in advance of Nov. 11. The chorus:
“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Can you think of better sentiments to express to honor our veterans, especially those we have lost?
In introductory remarks before the Mass, Bob Thomson, president of the parish Holy Name Society, called upon the congregants “to remember in reverence those who have fallen” and “to pray for the health of those among us who are wounded in body and mind.”
Thomson also asked everyone “to acknowledge the sacrifices all service members and their families make to keep us safe.”
Of the veterans being honored, he noted, “We recognize their courage, commitment, integrity, service and sacrifice.”
(Editor’s note: Thomson’s was one of the most heartfelt tributes we have heard, and we wish we could quote it completely, however . . . We took some notes but presumed we could get the full text from the speaker afterwards, but when we met with Thomson later in the parish hall and asked for a copy, he said he had more or less “ad libbed.” Incredible. This man should be making speeches nationwide.)
The Lyndhurst Veterans Alliance had a full calendar in advance of Veterans Day. Yesterday, they took part in a program at Felician University in Rutherford.
There, they presented a history of the holiday from its post-World War I origins as Armistice Day, a POW/MIA remembrance, a recitation of John McCrae’s 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields,” and a history of “Taps” featuring two buglers from the Lyndhurst High School band.
Today, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m., the Alliance and the Township of Lyndhurst will sponsor a Veterans Day service at the World War II monument at New York and Delafield Aves. It will include a ceremony called “Post Everlasting,” during which papers bearing the names of all local veterans who have passed away since last Nov. 11 will be set aflame in an army helmet.
Also expected at the ceremony is World War II Army veteran Vincenzo (Jim) Geramita, 93, of Lyndhurst. Geramita served in Europe with the 94th Infantry Division, earning the Combat Infantry Badge. In 1947, he was among the vets declared eligible for the Bronze Star. But he didn’t receive his medal until this year.
On Sept. 12, at a ceremony at Fort Dix, the Army rectified its oversight and formally presented the award to Geramita and another overlooked WWII vet, Andrew Cella.
Today, most of our towns will hold Veterans Day programs. Try to attend one if you can. If you cannot, try to observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m., the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — marking the time when the guns of World War I finally stopped firing. And in that silence, recall the service and sacrifice of all our veterans, living and dead.
As Thomson noted in his remarks at the Mass on Sunday, “To a veteran, the greatest casualty is being forgotten.”