The Beacon — Beacon June 18, 2015
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Highland Lakes Parish Celebrates Two Major Anniversaries
Michael Wojcik

Celebrate formation of parish, dedication of church with Bishop

HIGHLAND LAKES On Sunday, June 14, Bishop Serratelli helped Our Lady of Fatima Parish (OLF) here — which began by serving vacationing Catholics in the summers and has been blessed with a diverse, multi-generational faith community — mark two major anniversaries: 60 years since the church’s dedication and 50 years since the parish’s formation.

Tucked in a bucolic pocket of eastern Sussex County, OLF — a small parish of about 600 families — “is like family,” observed Msgr. Robert Carroll, the pastor since 2000, who concelebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with other visiting priests for the anniversaries last Sunday with Bishop Serratelli, who was the main celebrant and homilist.

“I enjoy being a parish priest and the people here are lovely. It’s a nice mix of people of different ages — from senior citizens, whose children have moved out; parents, who have kids in high school or college; and young couples, who are starting families,” Msgr. Carroll said. “Up here, the parish also is surrounded by so much natural beauty, which is lovely.”

Also concelebrating the Mass were Msgr. William Stober, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Branchville, who retired June 11, and former OLF parochial vicar; Msgr. William McCarthy, a retired diocesan priest; and Franciscan Father Vincent Grogan, a former OLF weekend assistant. Assisting at the liturgy was Deacon William Aquino, who was ordained to the permanent diaconate by Bishop Serratelli on June 5. Among those attending the liturgy were members of the family of Msgr. Aloysius Busch, founding OLF pastor, who died 2009, and also Presentation Sister Margaret Muller, who had served the parish previously.

OLF also prepared a spiritual bouquet for Bishop Serratelli, which was presented to him during his visit. Parishioners pledged 22 liturgies over the next year and a half and praying of the rosary for the Bishop’s intentions, Msgr. Carroll said.

The Mass with Bishop Serratelli continues OLF’s ongoing series of anniversary events. Already, the parish welcomed the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal for a threenight mission in May. A small group of parishioners became consecrated to the Blessed Mother as part of a DVD program, “33 Days to Morning Glory: a Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Conse - cration.” OLF created “Our Lady of Fatima Parish Voices,” a book about its various ministries and about what the faith community means to its parishioners. The parish also has received a blessing from Pope Francis, Msgr. Carroll said.

Also for the anniversaries, Msgr. Raymond Kupke, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, Haw - thorne, and diocesan archivist, will visit OLF to celebrate Mass on Saturday, June 27 at 5p. m. and then speak about the history of the parish at 6:30 p.m. The parish will hold its picnic on the property in July, Msgr. Carroll said.

Since OLF’s last anniversary 10 years ago — to mark 50 years since the church’s dedication and 40 years since the parish’s formation, the parish has added “Celebrate Fatima”: a series of devotions that take place from May to October that honors the Blessed Mother, spreads her message to the world and brings together the parish and local Catholic communities. These monthly events focus on the spirituality of the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, who promoted Our Lady’s message, after she appeared to them on several occasions in 1917.

“It’s important to get people to know about the story and hear Our Lady’s message. This [the series] is a way to get more information out about it,” said Msgr. Carroll, who organizes “Celebrate Fatima,” devoted to the parish’s patron, with a team of women from its Legion of Mary.

Also, OLF has formed Antioch retreat programs for teens and adults and Legion of Mary morning and evening prayer groups, which have been visiting shut-ins and conducting a door-to-door census, in part, to “reach out to people, who have fallen away from the Church.” Meanwhile, Msgr. Carroll has been offering Mass in Spanish twice monthly on Sunday afternoons, followed by a social, and Father Pawel Szurek, temporary administrator of Ss. Cyril & Methodius Parish, Boonton, and former OLF parochial vicar, returns to celebrate a monthly Mass in Polish, also followed by a social, Msgr. Carroll said.

OLF started as a faith community in 1941. Mass was said on Sundays in the summer in Vernon Fire House for Catholics, who vacationed in the hills and at the lakes of the area. The next year, Mass was moved to the original Club House at Highland Lakes for the summers.

As the needs of Vernon and Highland Lakes Catholics grew, Msgr. Christian Haag, pastor of St. Monica Parish, Sussex, established a permanent Sunday schedule in 1950. Vacationing priests celebrated Mass during the summer in the Club House and, during the winter, in a small one-room building that once was the Highland Lakes Club activities office and, at one time, was a beauty shop.

Also, the beauty of Highland Lakes had been attracting a greater number of people to the area. To meet those needs, the church was built on land donated by a local congregant. Bishop James McNulty dedicated the structure on June 26, 1955. Then, a 300- seat church was built. Almost 10 years later, Bishop James Navagh established Our Lady of Fatima Parish on June 18, 1965. Then, the parish encompassed about two-thirds of Vernon and served St. Francis de Sales Mission Chapel in McAfee. Until its founding as a parish, OLF was a mission church of St. Monica’s.

To better serve the increasing influx of parishioners, OLF built a parish hall in 1967. The parish also built a rectory adjacent to the church and renovated the church sanctuary.

Looking back at the past and ahead to the future, authors of one of the parish’s official histories once observed, “The growth of Our Lady of Fatima Parish was only possible with the involvement of countless parishioners over the years. The main source of strength and inspiration has always been the weekend Eucharistic celebrations. Much has been achieved over the years, and there will always be more we can do under the guidance of Our Lady of Fatima.”