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Mary, Star of the Sea

Parishioners gather on beach for faith sharing with
At Prayer with Mary


Many New Jerseyans have one primary destination in the summer: the beach.

The sands of the Atlantic coast provides a place for getting a tan, swimming and surfing, playing volleyball and Frisbee, and just unwinding.

And for 27 members of a parish in Long Branch, the beach this summer also provided a setting for drawing closer to the Virgin Mary.

Deacon Eugene Somma of St. Michael’s Church on Ocean Avenue led the group, which gathered on the beach in North Long Branch, in At Prayer with Mary,a resource from RENEW International.

At Prayer with Mary, written by Father John Phelan and Brother James Posluszny, both members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, provides seven sessions that include prayer, scripture, personal reflections, faith sharing, and commitment to gospel action in everyday life.

At Prayer With Mary
Members of St. Michael Parish, Long Branch, NJ, gathered on the beach at North Long Branch
for faith-sharing with
At Prayer with Mary.

Deacon Eugene said that small groups at St. Michael’s have been using RENEW faith-sharing materials for about ten years, including Why Catholic?, ARISE Together in Christ, Lenten Longings, and Advent Awakenings.

“Our people wanted to do something in the summer,” he said, “so for two seasons we took Longing for the Holy—a RENEW resource based on the writing of Father Ron Rolheiser.

“That’s twelve sessions: We did the six the first year and six the second.

“We met on the beach. It’s only two blocks from my house. For once, I didn’t have to go far. It made sense to me. We have this beautiful beach, and why not? It’s always much cooler at night there than anywhere else.’’

The group took last summer off, Deacon Eugene said, but he was inspired to resume the seaside sessions when he learned about At Prayer with Mary,which RENEW published last year:

“I said, ‘Ah, hah! The Holy Spirit is speaking to me. This is the summer book.”

Deacon Eugene said the resource was “very, very well received.’’

He said the technique of putting oneself into the gospel reading gave the participants new insights into how Mary may have felt and what those around her might have been thinking:

“Each member tried to take the scripture reading and find insight into how we live it out in today’s world.’’

In addition to its seven faith-sharing sessions, At Prayer with Mary includes an appendix that places familiar Marian prayers such as the rosary and the “Hail Mary,” “Memorare,” and “Hail Holy Queen” in their historical and spiritual context.

An optional DVD, Rosary Stars, from Family Theater Productions, a division of Holy Cross Ministries, can be integrated into the sessions of At Prayer with Mary. On the DVD, 20 men and women, including actors and athletes, share their Catholic faith and pray decades of the rosary.

An optional music CD is available, and the lyrics to songs suggested in each session are included in the book.

For more information on At Prayer with Mary, click here.

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