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The Deacon's Bench

My wife and I have spent some vacation time in Ocean City, Maryland, and when not worshipping the sun, we’d worship at St. Luke’s — mentioned here as one of the places that finds its pews packed during the summer months:

Jimmy Burke offers some advice to soothe impatient drivers trying to enter or leave St. Ann Church’s parking lots in Bethany Beach, Del., for a summer weekend Mass.

“Please, don’t blame me,” says Burke, who directs traffic into and out of the lots. “That guy named Jesus from Nazareth keeps sending people here.”

And the people do come. Anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 people each weekend, he said, attend 10 Masses during the height of the beach season.

St. Ann’s traffic jams are a microcosm of the annual summer migration of vacationers to Delaware and Maryland beaches from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md., and Philadelphia, Pa.

Towns with less than 7,500 full-time residents swell into metropolitan areas of migratory sun-and-surf lovers, most of whom stay only a week or two at a time. Rehoboth Beach, Del., grows from about 1,500 residents to 80,000 during the summer – a relatively minor tidal wave compared to the transformation of Ocean City, Md., from a town of 7,000 to a city of about 350,000.

The seven beach-town churches from Lewes, Del., to Ocean City, Md., double the number of weekend Masses -to 41 at peak season – and businesses hire an army of seasonal employees to meet the tourists’ needs.

As I like to remind parishioners: vacation time doesn’t mean taking a vacation from church. God’s blessings make that blessed time off possible. Can’t we all spare an hour to thank Him?

Image: “An Ocean City Memory” by Paul McGehee

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