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ANNUAL BLESSING: Hundreds gather for prayers, Bible readings, songs

Shedding light on dangers to fleet

Published in the Asbury Park Press 06/20/05

The Rev. Andrew Reitz of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, Brant Beach, blesses the fishing boat Monica during the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony at Barnegat Light on Sunday.

Fishing boats pass by during the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony at Barnegat Light.

BARNEGAT LIGHT ? Scott Carman, a 42-year-old dock worker who spent 15 years working on a fishing boat, is well-acquainted with the dangers facing commercial fisherman.

"There were plenty of times we almost got run over" by freighters, he said. "We made it through hurricanes ? the waves were three stories high."

So the significance of Sunday afternoon's 27th annual Blessing of the Fleet in the Barnegat Inlet and the preceding ceremony on the docks in Barnegat Light ? where hundreds of tourists, boaters and, of course, commercial fisherman gathered to hear the words and the prayers of clergy from different local churches ? was obvious to Carman.

"The priest is giving us a blessing," Carman said on a dock lined with fisherman and their families and friends barbecuing in the late-afternoon sunshine. "And we need it. Every day out there it's dangerous."

Nearby, throngs of people concerned about the safety of local fisherman stood praying for them, and listening to Bible readings by clergy and songs by the The Valley Forge Boys Choir.

Marie Logue, a Princeton resident who spends her summer weekends at her Barnegat Light home, came to show her support for fisherman, she said.

"It's an awfully dangerous way to make a living," Logue said. "It's a very touching, meaningful ceremony.

"We've had a home here for 14 years and gotten to know and respect the people who have been here a lot longer than us."

And Sunday's blessing was a way to show it.

"You want them to go out there and come back safely," said Earl Miller, of Woodbury. "I've been out there when it's rough, and you know you believe in God when you're there."

After the ceremony, commercial boats and pleasure boats would sail through the inlet for the blessing and then out into the Atlantic.

Ted Weeks has been sailing into those waters his whole life. The 39-year-old Barnegat Light native ? whose boat, Panther, was parked nearby ? has been working on boats since he was 12, he said. Weeks described himself as a religious man and said he remembers the first Blessing of the Fleet here.

"Yes, it means a lot, being a fisherman," he said. "It's nice to see a lot families and friends come support us. Every year I look forward to this.

"You fish for a living, you want this blessing."
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