This wooden statue of Jesus adorns Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South Orange. The parish's men's prayer breakfast group this month marks its 20th anniversary of fellowship and Scripture readings. The Wednesday morning forum provides faithful inspiration to early risers and commuters.
The parish's men's prayer breakfast gathers at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays to reflect on the coming Sunday's Gospel reading and to help each other bear the crosses of everyday life.
"It completely changed my spirituality," said Joe Williams, one of the first cadre of men, who moved to the Jersey Shore upon retirement. "Up to then I attended Mass every Sunday, but did not experience the depth and full meaning of the Gospel, nor the support of other men."
In February 1987, Rev. Msgr. Philip D. Morris-the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows at the time-encouraged the men of the parish to begin this ministry and laid out a format. The first handful met that year on Ash Wednesday. Today (Feb. 21) marks the 20th anniversary of that initial gathering.
The group, with an average attendance of 15 to 17 faithful early risers, meets for a light breakfast then gathers around a table in the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha room in the pastoral center. After announcements and introductions, the group leader reads the Gospel and others reflect on the Scripture reading. The prayer breakfast closes with prayers and a hymn.
"It has enhanced my spirituality because of my focus on reflecting on the Scriptures, rather than merely reading the Scriptures," Sam Giuliano, a longtime parishioner, noted.
Msgr. Morris, currently the pastor of Saint John the Baptist Parish, Hillsdale, recently reflected on his purpose in forming the weekly breakfast two decades ago. He said his aim was to establish "a forum for reflection that men could apply to their personal and professional lives, in which they could grow to share their personal faith, to feel comfortable and supported in praying together and to develop a spirituality based on the Gospel teachings of Jesus Christ." Msgr. Morris has initiated a similar group at St. John's Parish.
Rev. Msgr. John E. Doran, who served as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows for nearly a decade, supported the early morning ministry and often came to the meetings. In addition, he always attended to distribute ashes on the first day of the Lenten season. Msgr. Doran recently was tapped as the vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Newark, (see The Catholic Advocate, Jan. 24). He said he enjoyed the fellowship of the men at the breakfast and was inspired by their reflections and prayers.
(A former editor of The Catholic Advocate, Greg Tobin is a senior adviser for communications at Seton Hall University and the author of numerous books on the Catholic Church.)