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This is my 20th Christmas outside of lower Cape May County. Over these years, I have written an annual Christmas reflection on the special people and holiday moments during my ministry at Wildwood Catholic High School, Saint Paul, in Stone Harbor, Star of the Sea, in Cape May, and St. Ann, in Wildwood.

Like most old people, I reflect on the past, and I realize how good God has been to me. Some of you may have read that I retired this past July. Well, yes and no. I retired from the Diocese of Camden but remain very active in the Diocese of Venice in Florida. Having dual citizenship made no sense.

I often regale the folks here with stories of South Jersey. I also recall the many lessons I have learned from some wonderful pastors and saintly parishioners that helped me become the priest I am today.

Monsignors Vincent Giammarino, Eugene Kernan, and Timothy Ryan were all mentors and friends. I will never forget Gracine McMenemy, Frank D’ Elia, Tridi DeRose, Dolly Stango, Joan Roach, Joan Hanlon, Ann Grant, Deacon Joe Pierce, and of course, Jim Larusso, of Muscle World Gym, among many others.

I’ve thought of returning to my former parishes but those who made them so special for me are, for the most part, now gone. There is an old saying, “You can’t go home.”

Even my old haunts are gone; no more Henny’s, no more Tridi Jo’s. The names of the parishes have changed, too. Saint Brendan the Navigator? Notre Dame De Le Mer? Where are they? The ghosts of Christmas past have moved on.

The only place I can now return to with the surety of finding my dear old friends is in my heart.

This will be my last Christmas contribution. The loving reflection of an old priest who is counting his blessings and is looking forward to seeing his old friends in heaven; if I make it there, and who realizes that because of them – every day is Christmas.

Orsi writes from Naples, Florida.

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