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Local church unveils veterans memorial

The Herald - 9/8/2022

Sep. 8—WEST MIDDLESEX — When Mass concludes this Sunday at Church of the Good Shepherd Parish in West Middlesex, parishioners will not just commemorate 9/11 — they'll unveil a monument dedicated to military veterans from the parish.

The ceremony will include a blessing prayer, a flag ceremony performed by the local VFW members, and a flag raising by the parish's vets. "Taps" will be played by members of the West Middlesex Jr. Sr. High School band.

There will also be a memorial plaque featuring parishioners who contributed to the monument, along with their family members and branch of service.

"There's been a couple years where first responders and their equipment were the centerpiece of the picnic," Rev. Glenn Whitman said. "But this year, we're also recognizing the monument and the anniversary of 9/11."

In 2018, the church held a "Blue Mass" to recognize first responders from throughout the area.

The memorial's development took several years, starting with a marble slab the Church of the Good Shepherd had left over from a major renovation in the early 2000s.

Not wanting to waste the slab, the parish's previous pastor eventually transferred the slab to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sharon, where Whitman once served.

Officials at St. Joseph considered using the slab at either St. Mary's Cemetery or St. Rose Cemetery, but financial issues preventing anything from moving forward, Whitman said.

All the while, Good Shepherd parishioner and Navy veteran Theodore Hennessy had discussed wanting to do some kind of veterans memorial or monument over the years.

When Whitman arrived at Church of the Good Shepherd in 2017, he heard Hennessy's ideas and knew of the slab sitting at St. Joseph without a purpose.

"It took a few years because of COVID intervening, but we decided to marry the two ideas during the pandemic," Whitman said.

Hennessy had done some research and Gealy's Memorials helped with engraving the slab, which features the phrase "All gave some, some gave all," the emblems of the different branches, and two names: the late Msgr. Salvatore Mitchell and recently retired Msgr. Robert Male.

Both men served as Navy chaplains and were former pastors at Church of the Good Shepherd. Anonymous parishioners also donated toward two flag poles, one for the American flag and the other for the Papal flag of the church.

Organizers also had footers dug and gardens planted to accompany the monument, the release states.

"They (Gealy's) did a great job with it, and we're grateful for Ted's idea and the support of our parishioners and veterans and first responders," Whitman said.

When the monument is dedicated, however, the man who came up with the idea to honor veterans from the parish will be missing. Hennessy, who also was president of West Middlesex Area School Board, died unexpectedly in August.

First responders from Mercer, Trumbull and Lawrence counties are invited to the Mass, and then later get first-dibs at the picnic's food. The first responders' equipment will also be on display during the picnic, as well as games for children.

Church officials are taking concerns regarding COVID-19 into account, which is why the picnic will feature finger foods including hotdogs and Rita's Italian Ice. This will allow parishioners to eat while staying mobile, instead of groups of people congregating around picnic tables.

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