Video: Prayers unanswered

updated 11/7/2006 10:58:57 AM ET 2006-11-07T15:58:57

A fisherman who found a bag of 300 letters to God — many addressed to a New Jersey minister — floating in the ocean off Atlantic City will give most of them to the late clergyman’s daughter.

Bill Lacovara, an insurance adjuster, found the letters in a shopping bag in the surf under a pier last month. They included everything from a man asking God to let him win the lottery to a teen asking for forgiveness for an abortion.

About 150 of the letters were too damaged by the water to be legible. He placed the remaining ones up for auction on eBay but canceled the auction after more than 25 people pushed the price past $550.

Lacovara said Monday he plans to give the letters to Vanessa Cooper, daughter of the Rev. Grady Cooper, a former associate pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Jersey City who died nearly two years ago.

Many of the letters were addressed to the Rev. Cooper, but others simply said “Altar.” According to the text in several letters, they were intended to be placed on a church’s altar and prayed over by the minister, the congregation or both.

Some letters from 1973
“I apologize to anyone who was insulted,” Lacovara said. “It was never my intention to offend anyone. I was looking at these more like antiques.”

He said he and his family have received many hostile letters and phone calls from people upset that the letters were put up for auction, and said it never was his intention to profit from them.

Lacovara said he heard from individuals and churches across the country who were interested in obtaining the letters so their own congregations could pray over them.

It’s still not clear how the letters, some dating to 1973 and most unopened, ended up in the ocean. Lacovara speculated that someone cleaning out Cooper’s former home found the letters and, instead of tossing them in the garbage, set them out to sea as a sort of final tribute to the authors.

Vanessa Cooper could not be located for comment Monday. Lacovara said he will probably ask her to meet him next week on the beach by the Steel Pier — the same spot where he found the letters.

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