Bishop Galante issues decree establishing Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish

Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced today that the parishes of St. John, Collingswood, and Holy Saviour, Westmont, will unite and the new parish resulting from the consolidation, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, will be established Oct. 6, 2010.

The announcement establishing the new parish has been made in a formal decree, which is published in this edition of the Catholic Star Herald (See pages 20-21).

It is the 25th decree issued by Bishop Joseph Galante in a diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes announced two years ago to strengthen parishes and improve pastoral care to the people of the diocese.

Father Edward M. Friel, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, whose boundaries will be those of the two existing parishes, will serve about 2500 families. The seat of the parish will be St. John Church. Holy Saviour Church will also be used as a worship site for the new parish.

More than 100 suggestions were made for a name for the new parish. In November 2009, 10 possible names were provided to all parishioners from both parishes, as well as the following groups: members of the diocesan deaf community; Good Shepherd School personnel and students; religious education and youth group program participants. All were invited to provide input into the name selection process by indicating their first, second, and third choices.

In all, 537 people voted for their preferences. In late November, the Naming Committee met to consider the submissions. The Committee concluded that the Core Team should submit four proposed names to Bishop Galante. The Naming Committee was confident that each of these names enjoyed wide support among various groups in our new parish, and each proposed name modeled values that are reflected in our parish community.

These four names were ultimately submitted to Bishop Galante by Father Friel and the Core Team. The bishop was informed of the process that was used to select names for consideration, as well as the reasons why each potential name would be a good fit for our community. Bishop Galante made the final decision, taking this input into consideration. The new name given was Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Said Father Ed Friel, priest convener for the merger, “The parishioners of Holy Saviour and St. John have been dedicated to the needs of the poor within their parish boundaries and in the city of Camden for many years. They joined their resources in the Social Justice Ministry well before the idea of merging parishes was introduced. Some members of the Social Ministry group have stated that they were inspired by Blessed Teresa to reach out to the poor in our own area. It is an honor to have Blessed Teresa of Calcutta our patron and model. With ultimate faith in God, she built a new community dedicated to compassion, and reflecting Christ’s love for all of God’s people.”

The 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth was Aug. 26. Sept. 5 is her feast day.

Noting that the merger process was challenging, Father Friel expressed his gratitude to the eight members of the Core Team, the many volunteers and to Sister Bonnie McMenamin of the Office for Deaf and Disabled Ministry for their commitment to bringing the people of Holy Saviour and St. John together as one new parish.

“I have been impressed with how the members of the Core Team respected the gifts and talents of each other. As a group they tried to respect the history and traditions of each parish and the Deaf Community but also tried to be open to the many new possibilities in the new parish,” he said.

“I am very thankful to the many committee volunteers from both parishes that have worked to unite our two communities. (There were an estimated 75-100 people who were involved in the nine Transitional Committees). It was humbling to see people who were strangers in the summer of 2009 work so well and become friends.

He added that some committee members said that at first they got involved to get a task completed and maybe try to advocate for their own parish’s interest. Then they got to know people from the other parish and gained an appreciation for the other parish’s traditions and history. “It changed from an ‘us and them’ mentality to ‘we are united as Catholics above and beyond any parish boundary line.”

The Hospitality Committee sponsored several events to bring the two parish communities together. There were Wine and Cheese nights, and the Christmas Trees on Parade event in December. Christmas Trees on Parade was held on two nights at Mc Daid Hall where 20 Christmas Trees that were decorated by various ministry groups from both parishes were on display. It was great to see people come together to share their talents and get to know each other.

The diocesan-wide parish consolidations seek to reverse downward trends in religious practice by strengthening parishes, improving outreach, and providing a range of ministries that will better serve the needs of the people. The consolidations also address a decline in the number of diocesan priests available for ministry, as well as demographic and population change in the diocese.

The reconfigurations are a result of more than a year of study by parish and deanery planners, who considered population and demographic trends, the number of diocesan priests available for ministry, Mass attendance and trends in religious practice. The study by deanery and parish planners found that while many parishes individually lacked the means to address key pastoral priorities, improved pastoral care could be achieved by uniting certain parishes through consolidation. These pastoral priorities include the need to engage laity more actively in parish ministry, more opportunities for faith formation for all age groups, expanded ministry to youth and young adults, the fostering vocations to priesthood and religious life, well-celebrated liturgies, and compassionate outreach to inactive Catholics and those in need throughout the diocese.

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