‘A place for celebration’: A new chapel is dedicated in Ocracoke

OCRACOKE – The Catholic community of Ocracoke Island welcomed Stella Maris Chapel by celebrating a dedication Mass Oct. 31. Bishop Luis Rafael Zarma presided.

The 1,200-square-foot chapel on School Road, which seats about 80, took 15 months to construct. The chapel is part of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church in Buxton, which is located on Hatteras Island. Its pastor, Father Fred Smuda, O.S.F.S., will help to oversee the chapel and celebrate Mass there as schedules allow.

The new chapel is the only Catholic church on the island. Before Stella Maris, the Catholic community on Ocracoke celebrated Mass at various locations, including the neighboring Methodist church, or took a ferry to Buxton for Mass there.

Also present for the dedication Mass were Father Jim Sabak, O.F.M., director of divine worship, Father Bill John Acosta Escobar and Father Jairo Alberto Maldonado-Pacheco, pastor of St. Ann in Edenton and dean of the Albemarle Deanery in the Diocese of Raleigh.

Two members of Father Fred’s order, the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, were present. Father John Kolodziej, O.S.F.S., the provincial, and Brother Daniel Wisneski, assistant provincial, gathered with the community as well.

Mass began outdoors with introductory rites and the presentation of the chapel to the bishop. Blessing and sprinkling of holy water followed.   

Music was performed by the Holy Trinity Choir, which used vocals, guitars, a stand-up bass and tambourines. The group is from the Nags Head area and the following musicians shared their gifts at dedication: Tacundo Alvarez, Lizette Perez, Emmanuel Tadeo Perez, Christian Ortiz, Roberto Velazquez, Miguel Rodrigez, Jose Rodrigez, Rosbeli Tovar, Xochil Martinez, Bonifacio Perez Morales, Iris Kerr and Rafael Guarnizo. 

Readings were shared by Nancy Carlson and Maria de los Ángeles Ortiz.

In his homily, the bishop talked about the name of the chapel, which translates to Mary, Star of the Sea. He said that Mary moves people to Jesus and invites them to the chapel to listen to her son. He spoke in English and then shared the homily in Spanish, too.

“Every Mass is an opportunity to listen to Jesus,” he said, adding that the point is for people to know Jesus and then know themselves. “This is a place for celebration. Enjoy the place. Enjoy the celebration … every time you have the opportunity. All of us together, every Eucharist.”

Father Fred led the Litany of the Saints and Bishop Luis anointed the altar. Incense was shared, and the altar was covered with a cloth by Gloria Benitez Perez, Yaneth Camacho, Rocio Trejo and Antonia Ortiz. The candles were lit by Vanessa Perez. 

The gifts of bread and wine were presented by Martha Garrish, Martha Elena Esparza, Erika Badillo and Daphne Bennick.

Highlights of the chapel include a statue of St. Anne and the child Mary, a statue of St. Joseph and stained-glass windows. A stained-glass star window at the back of the chapel was created by artist Wayne Cain using German antique glass.

Outside of the chapel are walking paths, and natural areas for sitting. One features a statue of Mary, and the other a statue of St. Francis.

“The community of Ocracoke … [is] responsible for planting the beautiful shrubbery and flowers and helped plant the trees and plant the grass. So, they’ve built their gardens; they have built their pathways,” said Gibbs Bricker of Our Lady of the Seas.