Following is an excerpt from my contribution to "New Jersey Fan Club," an anthology published earlier this year by Rutgers University Press.
As described by the editor, on this page with ordering information, the book features personal essays, interviews and comics, offering a multifaceted look at the state's history and significance. My essay was about why I post images of New Jersey churches on Instagram every Sunday, and I wrote this about my favorite church:
My favorite church is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, which opened in October 1954. It was the site of my parents’ wedding on Thanksgiving Day -- November 24, 1955.
People flock to nearby Branch Brook Park every April for the Cherry Blossom Festival. New Jersey has more cherry trees than Washington, DC, with over 2,700 bursting into full bloom each spring.
It doesn't matter to this church. This church is always in full bloom.
Its magnificence is such that my mother, upon finding out she could secure the cathedral for her wedding, sought permission from her pastor in Garfield not to have her ceremony at her family's local church on Lanza Avenue.
Instead, Mom arranged for her immigrant Polish-speaking parents to take the first limo ride of their lives to travel to Newark, where her bridesmaids needed to stitch together two red carpets to cover the distance down the long center aisle.
Mom's wedding was an American fairy tale made possible by my wife's great-grandfather. He was one of the Irish day laborers who laid the stones when the cathedral’s construction began at the turn of the century.
My Babci was in tears when she beheld Sacred Heart. It appeared to her then, as it does to me now, the closest place to heaven in New Jersey.
Dad died before my parents could celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Yesterday, Mom and I visited his gravesite at Laurel Grove in Totowa and, just like every year, Mom placed a single red rose there.
|Mom and Dad, November 1955 and October 2005|