PORT ORANGE | The closing hymn at a Mass Dec. 17, 2023, was a bit of a shock to Mary DeSalvo.
Instead of joining in the recessional song, DeSalvo found herself serenaded by the entire congregation, led by the children of the parish, in a joyous rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Following Mass, a community celebration was held in the parish center with a cake for all to share. Though the cake was large, it couldn’t quite fit of all DeSalvo’s candles. As of Dec. 18, Epiphany’s oldest parishioner turned 104-years-old.
Father Karl Bergin, pastor, remarked, “We are so happy to honor Mary’s life and all the ways God has worked through her here at Epiphany.”
DeSalvo has been a member of Epiphany since 1975, a year after she moved to Port Orange from Manhattan, where she was born and raised. Since that time, she has been an active member of the church and was involved in a Catholic women’s auxiliary group for a number of years, where they engaged in service projects, outreach efforts, prayer, and fellowship. Professionally, she worked as a customer service representative in banking and in personnel at her husband’s Air Force base in the 1940’s.
At 104-years-old, DeSalvo still faithfully participates in the celebration of Mass each week, relying on fellow parishioners Vicky Hopkins and her son, John Hopkins, to drive her there. As ministers to the sick and homebound, they also bring DeSalvo Holy Communion on days she is unable to attend.
In addition to the song and the cake, there was one more surprise in store for DeSalvo, a personal letter from Bishop John Noonan.
“(It’s) not every day can I congratulate and bless someone who is celebrating a birthday of 104 years,” wrote Bishop Noonan. “It is an honor and privilege, Mary, to ask God to bless you with His love and care and we thank God for sharing you with us for all those years.”
By Elizabeth Wilson, Special to the Florida Catholic, January 04, 2024