ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – More than 400 people sat in bleachers and lawn chairs under sunny skies for the first open air mass at the Municipal Yacht Harbor for the Our Lady of Perpetual Help St Agnes Parish Sunday morning. More than 300 then attended the Unity Brunch at the Shore Casino which immediately followed the mass.
Monsignor Sam Sirianni, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Pro-Cathedral in Freehold Township, con-celebrated the mass with the Rev. Fernando Lopez, parish pastor, and associate priests the Rev. Martin Biglin, Rev. Joseph Quinlan, and the Rev. Cosmos Maduckiwie, a pastor visiting Atlantic Highlands from his native Nigeria. Deacons Raymond Rainville and Robert Johnson also assisted.
Music directors Tom Elliott and Courtney Grogan, together with the combined choirs from both churches, provided the musical program during mass. Tricia Curtin and Kathryn Trinidad did the Gospel readings during the mass.
“Every ministry in the parish, from the Knights of Columbus and St. Vincent DePaul Society, to the volunteers at the Food Pantry and Thrift Shop worked together to make this a successful and spiritual day,” Lopez said after the mass. He also thanked the Atlantic Highlands Harbor Commission, Harbormaster John Amici and the Atlantic Highlands Police Department for their organized efforts to provide safety and security for the outdoor event.
The pastor thanked the many local businesses who contributed towards the Brunch program, notably Bernie and Kathleen Sweeney of the Shore Casino, the Harbor View Restaurant, Bahrs and Lusty Lobster company in Highlands, Middletown Jewelers in Campbell’s Junction and Capt. Hal Hagaman of the Sea Tiger fishing boat sailing out of the harbor, as well as Sea Streak ferry.
During the Brunch, Father Fernando acknowledged six nonagenarians who were in attendance, and led the group in singing Happy Birthday to those celebrating that day. Michael Burke provided a musical program of voice and guitar during the afternoon.
Chairman of the event Tom Gaffey said the success of the program was only possible through thee cooperative efforts of everyone in the parish and noted “It was truly a Unity Day,” the first of its kind.