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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monthly Archives: October 2011
Thursday

Redemptorist Author, Missionary, Pastor, Professor, and a Roman Catholic Priest who survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria, Rev. Joseph William Oppitz, CSSR, died on October 6, 2011 under the care of his religious community in the St. John Neumann Residence at Stella Maris in Timonium, Maryland.
 
Father Oppitz was born on August 12, 1926 in Baltimore, Maryland. He professed his first vows on August 2, 1948 and final vows on September 2, 1951. He was ordained a priest on June 21, 1953 at Esopus, NY.
 
From 1954 to 1956 he studied at the Angelicum in Rome where he received his doctoral degree in Philosophy. For nearly twenty-two years of his priesthood he taught at various levels in the Redemptorist seminary formation system of the Baltimore Province and at Dunbarton College in Washington DC.
 
From 1982 to 1984 he served on the mission team and was a part-time parish priest at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Philadelphia, PA and St. Wenceslaus Parish in Baltimore, MD. From 1985 to 1986 he served as parish priest in St. Mary’s in Annapolis. From 1986 to 1993 he continued to serve as a missionary and part-time parish priest in Ephrata, PA. He continued to serve as a pastor in Pittsburgh, PA retreat master in Canandaigua, NY and itinerant missionary until his retirement in February of 2000 first to the St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs, NY and finally to Stella Maris in Maryland.
 
He counseled the scrupulous and enlightened the curious at the Redemptorist Information Center in DC. His enthusiasm when preaching and teaching had a riveting effect on his listeners. No one ever fell asleep when Father Oppitz was in the pulpit or in the classroom. He introduced students to the importance of making fine distinctions. Under his tutelage they learned to distinguish between vincible and invincible and culpable and inculpable ignorance. When he taught ethics he offered practical examples of the principle of double effect and when he taught philosophy he expounded on the difference among essence, form, matter, substance, and accidents. But above all he prodded his pupils to learn how to think and to never be afraid to wallow in “wonder” which he insisted was the beginning of true wisdom.
 
Father Oppitz is perhaps most fondly remembered for his captivating rendition of what he called “The Sinking of the Andrea Doria: One Man’s Story.” Here are a few excerpts from the tale in Father Joe’s own words.
 
Only the men in my immediate family ever crossed the Atlantic by boat: my father, on a troop ship during the First World War, my brother on an L.S.T. during the Second World War, and myself on a vessel bound for its own battle with disaster in 1956.
 
After defending my thesis in Rome, I traveled to Genoa to board the Andrea Doria and head for home. The ship was 697 feet long and had all the latest safety devices, the most recent and sophisticated radio and radar equipment, a series of up-to-date safety compartments, such that it would be impossible for the ship to ever sink. We left Genoa on July 17 but before heading out to sea we docked in Naples to welcome the last of our 1706 souls on board.
 
As soon as the gangplank was fixed in place, about a dozen Neapolitan vendors came racing to the decks, each carrying a sack filled with souvenirs to be sold to those of us already onboard. The first merchant saw me and probably said to himself, “Aha, an American tourist for my first sale of the day.”  He came on the run, opened his satchel, and started his pitch. “Authentic gold rings, bracelets of pure silver, diamond ear rings. Make your girlfriend happy!”  I assured him that I had no girlfriend. His clever reply was: “Even Americans have mothers!  So buy something for your mother.”  I told him I had all the souvenirs I needed in my trunk down in the hold. Then he went on the attack: “That’s the trouble with you Americans!  You come over here and you don’t respect our customs. And one of our customs is that if we do not make the first sale of the day, we will have bad luck. So you have to buy something!”  I replied, “Look buddy, if you don’t stop bothering me, I’ll have that cop throw you off this ship and then you’ll really be in bad luck.”  Well, I had heard some elegant curses in my travels, but this fellow topped them all. He spit on his index and middle finger and gave me the Malocchio—the “evil eye”—and yelled, “I hope you have bad luck on the way home.”  There you have it. We were a cursed ship even before we launched into the Atlantic.
 
The rest of the trip, until the night of July 24 and the morning of July 25, was delightful and uneventful. The weather was mostly sunny and warm, the waves were moderate and relatively calm, and we passengers were totally relaxed.
 
The last day began with the usual sunshine. However, toward late afternoon a fog began to roll in on the horizon. By suppertime, the fog became one of the topics of conversation, especially among those of us who had never experienced fog at sea. It was discussed, not with any fear or apprehension, but rather with a sense of gratitude that we were on the Andrea Doria, a ship equipped with the very latest technology and a Captain with many years of experience. Indeed, I recall that before the final evening dinner, a group of us were talking about the fog, and one of the men, Mr. Cianfarra, a New York Times correspondent, joked that it would be nice if we had a collision in the fog so he could “scoop” the other reporters back in NYC.
 
At 10 P.M., on July 25, the Andrea Doria was just one mile south of the Nantucket Shoals and the Nantucket Light. The area from the Nantucket Light to the Ambrose Light has been called the “Times Square” of coastal waters due to its heavy traffic in a somewhat confined space. Forty-five minutes later, our Captain Calamai saw a blip on his radar, roughly 17 miles away and bearing four degrees to his right. Whatever the ship was, it was on his starboard side and on a parallel course but heading toward Europe. Calamai was convinced that the two ships would pass each other with no chance of a crossing situation. On his radar there was about a half mile distance between the two ships.
 
At 11:05, just six minutes before the collision, the Stockholm was four miles distant but bearing 14 degrees over the Andrea Doria’s right bow. Therefore, Calamai made a slight change in course to his left so as to place more water between the two ships as they passed right to right.
 
Three minutes before the crash, the Stockholm was just 2 miles away but still could not be seen nor could any sound of its fog horn be heard. Our Captain stepped out unto the right wing of the bridge to see if he could sight this mystery ship. Finally he saw the glow of lights just 1.1 miles away and bearing directly over the Andrea Doria’s bow. This was just 100 seconds before the collision. At that moment it became obvious that the Stockholm was making a sharp right turn directly into us. Calamai ordered a hard left in a desperate effort to avoid a tragedy. Fifteen seconds more and the two ships would not have collided at all. The hard-left turn was the correct decision in what is called an “in extremis” condition. Calamai was probably praying for a miracle that would bring us safely away from the Stockholm’s icebreaker prow. That miracle never came. The Stockholm, at practically full speed, knifed almost halfway through the Andrea Doria’s right side just below the wing where Calamai had been standing.
 
The collision took place at 11:20 P.M. The bow of the Stockholm was crushed in the impact making a huge hole in the Andrea Doria and ripping open her starboard side like a can opener. When the mangled Stockholm floated free, the ocean poured into the gaping wound of the Doria which made us list severely to the right. This happened so quickly that all the lifeboats on the port side became absolutely useless. As the Stockholm floated out of the wound it was obvious that it had lost 75 feet of its own bow. Another major problem was that, after the impact, the Stockholm could not be stabilized because its anchor had fallen. As it circled in the turbulence, it almost hit into us again!
 
The majority of those who were killed were crushed to death in their beds. The “miracle girl” of the catastrophe was young Linda Morgan. She was in the last cabin to be crushed before the Stockholm floated away. Unbelievably, the impact actually rolled her up in her mattress and she wound up safe within the mangled debris of the Stockholm’s crushed prow.
 
My own personal miracle had taken place the day we left Genoa when I was forced to change my cabin. Had I not changed quarters I would have been killed in one of the cabins that was completely destroyed. The actual length of the gash was 40 feet wide through seven of the Andrea Doria’s eleven decks.
 
My first appointment back in the States was to St. Mary’s in Annapolis, Maryland. It was there that I began a long career of “Sinking the Doria” starting at the Naval Academy and working my way through many Communion Breakfast talks, Society Dinners, Guild Luncheon’s, and so forth. And now, with the resurgence of public interest in the Titanic, I am looking forward to the year 2006 which will be the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Andrea Doria, when the Doria-Lecture may well begin all over again.

 

Rev. Joseph Oppitz, C.Ss.R.

  • Born: August 12, 1926
  • Professed: August 2, 1948
  • Ordained: June 21, 1953
  • Died: October 6, 2011

 

Services

Viewing
Tuesday, October 11
10 a.m.
Main Chapel
Stella Maris
2300 Dulaney Valley Road
Timonium, MD

Funeral Mass
Tuesday, October 11
11 a.m.
Main Chapel, Stella Maris

Burial
Redemptorist Cemetery
St. Mary’s Church
Annapolis, MD

Wednesday

"Above all, love your calling in life, your daily duty, your daily work. Everything with the purest intention, and when difficulties arise say: O Jesus, I embrace my cross, I kiss it, I want to carry it after you until death." (From "Sincerely Seelos: The Collected Letters of Blessed Francis X. Seelos")

Today we celebrate the feast of Blessed Francis X. Seelos, a 19th-century Redemptorist who clearly loved his vocation. He was known for his cheerful disposition even in the face of difficulties, and his down-to-earth, gentle manner attracted many people to him.

As prefect of students in Cumberland, MD, in the late 1850s, Seelos once found himself mingling with a small group of seminarians who had formed a "laughing society." One member of the group cracked a joke and the other members were not allowed to laugh until they had all agreed how large a laugh the joke deserved. The scene is related in Fr. Michael Curley’s Seelos biography, "The Cheerful Ascetic:"

"Father Seelos joined the society one day to find out what it was all about. He could easily laugh at a joke, but unfortunately could not stop laughing at the signalled moment, and so was condemned to say several prayers. In ten minutes, when Seelos had two or three rosaries to say, he fled from the grinning group lest he be obligated to further penalties."

Blessed Seelos’ cause for canonization is underway. For more information, visit www.seelos.org.

"My Dear Child, have Jesus before your mind, and him as the ‘crucified,’ but most beloved Son of the Heavenly Father. Have him before your eyes and all those that have followed him on the narrow way. One look into the mystery of our Redemption, one look on the condition of this life,  one look on our real and happy life and a stream of light and strength will immediately gush into our souls, and all and every thing, which some moments before looked so dreary, takes on a bright appearance. It is the preparation of the Children of God for heaven." (From a letter to Miss Mary, November 14, 1864, "Sincerely Seelos")

 

Tuesday
Redemptorist Kevin Bellot, a native of the island nation of Dominica and a member of the Redemptorist community at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Mission Church) in Roxbury, will be among those ordained to the transitional diaconate October 8 at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill.
 
Bellot will finish his studies at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry this fall, and will spend his time as a deacon serving in Redemptorist parishes and ministries in the English-speaking region of the Caribbean.
 
Bellot, 28, the older brother to one sister, grew up in the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. He attended Catholic schools, and first felt called to the religious life during high school. Volunteering in the infirmary of the Christian Brothers, Bellot was touched by the simple acts of genuine service to another.
 
“The fact that you could dedicate your life to something without counting the cost, that was really what triggered the idea of religious life,” Bellot said. “When you’re tying the shoelaces of a patient, or helping them fix their clothes or walk down the hall so they can play cards, and they just smile at you. That smile had so much wealth in it, whether they could say thank-you verbally or not. I knew then that’s how I wanted to spend my life.”
 
Bellot joined the Redemptorists in 2001 and has worked in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in inner-city Philadelphia and New York. He completed his degree in philosophy and psychology at St. John’s University in New York, and professed his first vows as a Redemptorist in 2007 and his final vows in 2010. He is expected to be ordained to the priesthood in August 2012.
 
Of his vocation journey, Bellot said the path looked a lot easier than it turned out to be.
 
“It’s quite a journey. But the adventure is very good, and the mystery behind that adventure is what really pushes me on,” he said. “It’s absolutely worth doing! And the fact that I’ve had to work a lot harder than I imagined makes me appreciate it even more.”
 
The Redemptorists serve in parishes and retreat houses, and preach parish missions throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. They maintain permanent missions in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the independent countries of Dominica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies.
 
Bellot is one of 11 Redemptorists studying at Boston College and in residence at Mission Church, including four seminarians from Vietnam and two from Haiti.
 
Monday
Since their founding in 1732 in Naples, Italy, Redemptorists have traveled far and wide giving parish missions. In October, nine Redemptorist missionaries will bring their trademark down-to-earth preaching and the good news of God’s boundless love to eight parishes in the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ.
 
The Perth Amboy Regional Mission runs October 16-19, and will be preached in four languages — English, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish. Evening sessions will be held on each of the four nights at all eight parishes.
 
Msgr. Robert J. Zamorski, episcopal vicar for Middlesex County and rector of St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen, will be the principle celebrant for the closing Mass on October 19 at 7 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Church, 490 State Street, Perth Amboy.
 
Sometimes likened to a parish retreat or revival, parish missions are designed to reinvigorate faith, heal relationships, and bring a renewed spirit of evangelization to the community. Each night of the mission focuses on a different theme such as redemption, reconciliation, Mary, and the Eucharist. Rather than focusing on just one parish, regional missions encompass several communities in the same geographic region. Redemptorists from the U.S. and Canada recently preached a regional mission for the First Nations people in the Diocese of Grande Prairie in Alberta, Canada.
 
“A regional mission like this provides a great opportunity to reach out to all Catholics in the area, especially those who have drifted away over the years,” said Rev. Kevin MacDonald, coordinator of the mission and a Redemptorist currently stationed in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “The mission may be the catalyst for Catholics to reconnect to the faith community. The parishes involved have been making phone calls, knocking on doors, hanging banners, advertising in the newspapers and on television, all for weeks in advance of the mission. All are invited and all are welcome.”
 
The Redemptorists are active in several parishes in the Diocese of Metuchen, including Christ the King and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Manville, and St. Stephen’s in Perth Amboy. Two Redemptorists also serve as co-directors of the diocesan Hispanic Ministry office.
 
For more information about parish missions in your area, check out our calendar.