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Wildwood Mayor Explores Faith’s Diversities, Asks Questions

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By Rachel Rogish

WILDWOOD – Across America, many city halls opened their doors to the public once more. Virtual meetings may remain, but personal interactions are returning. 
For Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron, personal interaction is paramount. Whether as an elected official, businessman, or helping to serve communion at Notre Dame de la Mer Parish, Byron said he remains committed to making life better for the community. 
The mayor admits his shortcomings, struggles with doubt, and questions various aspects of rite and ritual. Yet, the quest for personal and spiritual growth leads him on, despite obstacles. 
Altar Server
“Childhood lays the foundation,” Byron, 65, said July 20, while seated in his office. The mayor attended St. Anne’s Church with his family. 
“I was expected to go to mass,” he added. 
He describes his parents as “good, Catholic people” and is thankful for them ensuring he received a faith-based education. 
From fourth to eighth grade, Byron served as an altar boy, participating in various services and functions; i.e., weddings, funerals, and baptisms. 
“It didn’t mean as much as it does now,” Byron reflected. 
Today, Byron has come “full circle” and serves alongside his son. According to the mayor, he is one of the oldest altar servers in America. 
“I would rather be known as the guy who serves mass with his son,” Byron explained. 
Diversity and Questions
Three Bibles occupy Byron’s office. Every morning when he arrives, Byron said he rests a hand atop one of the Bibles. The mayor said he always finds inspiration from reading its pages. 
Seeking God also leads Byron to attend services at other local churches. 
“There is only one God. I’m thankful for the opportunity to broaden my horizons,” he explained. 
Byron speaks at different religious functions, including Eureka Baptist Church, in Wildwood. In January 2020, Byron met Martin Luther King III while former President Donald Trump held a rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center. 
A Democrat, Byron stands by his principles while seeking to make city hall a welcoming environment. 
“Faith helps me understand people’s problems. Everyone has their demons,” he said. 
While loyal to his roots, Byron questions certain aspects of religious tradition. Does the Bible – Christianity’s blueprint – forbid priests to marry? Byron said he wonders if fewer scandals would occur if priests married. The mayor also questions the “love of money” within some of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. 
According to Roman Catholic teachings, only deacons are allowed to marry while in positions of ecclesiastical authority. 
However, in the Marionite, or Eastern Catholic Church, priests may marry before ordination. 
Despite his questions, Byron said he rejoices to see a “diverse” congregation coming to Notre Dame de la Mer. He hopes all believers will “go back to the foundation” of their faith. 
Brighter Skies
Byron said he works with people of all belief systems for the city he loves. He loves Wildwood’s people, history and prospects.
“My actions speak for themselves,” the mayor said. 
He embraces the fact that not every resident/taxpayer approves of his decisions. He spoke of lost friendships, due to politics, with tears. 
Yet, Byron stands committed to helping Wildwood recover from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 
“I want to be a statesman,” he added. 
Thankful for his wife, Sheri, family and friends, Byron said he will keep striving to do “the right thing.”
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact thewriter at rrogish@cmcherald.com.

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