Diocesan News

War Heroes Remembered at Field Mass at St. John Cemetery

Memorial Day Field Masses were held at four different cemeteries around the Brooklyn diocese, while a Mass in Lawrence L.I. was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto. Above, Auxiliary Bishop James Massa celebrated the Mass at St. John Cemetery in Middle Village, May 27. (Photos: Melissa Enaje)

Auxiliary Bishop James Massa was the main celebrant May 27, and in his homily, he summarized the significance of the day and its relationship to faith.

“We gather on Memorial Day when our country remembers the fallen heroes of war,” Bishop Massa said. “The veterans who made great sacrifices for freedom and the many others who helped build a nation, which despite its flaws is our beloved home. By remembering the dead, by holding our beloved deceased before God and prayer, we ourselves take on what is best in them – the virtues of faithfulness, generosity and meekness.”

Field Masses were also celebrated in other cemeteries run by the Catholic Cemeteries Office. Those include Mount St. Mary, Flushing; Holy Cross, Flatbush; Most Holy Trinity, Williamsburg; St. Mary Star of the Sea, Lawrence L.I.; and St. Charles/Resurrection, Farmingdale, L.I.

Msgr. Michael Reid, whose the spiritual moderator of the Catholic Cemeteries Office, concelebrated the Mass in Middle Village and reminded those gathered under a huge white tent in the middle of the field of a special anniversary. For 140 years, Catholic Cemeteries has provided a sacred final resting place rich in tradition for the many Catholics who have passed onto eternal life. Out of the 140 years, Msgr. Reid said he has provided spiritual guidance for the organization for 23 years.


Praying For the United States

The final prayer recited was for the United States, and guests offered prayers for life and liberty and that the president and all government leaders would serve with integrity.

After Mass, Bishop Massa blessed pins that showcased the American flag and that were distributed to the guests. Ushers also passed out small American flags that were to be placed on the field and tombstones for those who were commemorating a loved one.

“May we commend these souls of the faithful departed to God’s loving, loving embrace and may we ourselves cherish the faith and sustain them that prepares us for eternal Beatitude – happiness with the father son and the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Massa said.

I lost a lot of my family in World War II,” said Marianne Schon, a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs who came to the United States from Austria when she was just 17 years old. “Religion has been the most important thing.On a warm, sunny and solemn Memorial Day, more than 100 faithful gathered at St. John Cemetery in Middle Village for the diocese’s annual field Mass.

Marianne Schon, a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills, said she not only cherished her faith – “the most important thing in her life” – but also the United States for the opportunity to rebuild her life after the tragedy of war.

“I’m a product of World War II,” Schon said. “I grew up in Austria, and because of poverty, I came here and I built my life here. I had all the opportunities given by this country. I was only 17 when I came, and I’m grateful and honor the United States forever. It’s my second home, it gave me all the opportunities, but I will be forever grateful for being here…

“I lost a lot of family in World War II – my dad died soon after because of illness. I’m grateful to be in this nation,” she said.

Schon recalled that when she first came to America, she worked as a housekeeper in Manhattan and frequented a parish in Greenwich Village. Eventually she became a nurse, and for 40 years worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

“Religion has been the most important thing,” she said. “It carried me through everything. I was only 17 when I came here. I didn’t know the language, but I always stayed near God and I always went to church from the very beginning.”