Bishop issues decrees establishing new parishes, St. Clare of Assisi and St. Michael the Archangel

Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced today that two new parishes will be established on September 29, 2010 through the consolidation of five existing parishes.

The announcement establishing the new parishes was made in two formal decrees, which are published in this edition of the Catholic Star Herald (see pages 16-19).

• St. Clare of Assisi Parish will be established through the consolidation of St. John the Evangelist in Paulsboro, St. Joseph in Swedesboro, and St. Michael in Gibbstown. The seat of the new parish will be located at St. Michael Church. St. Joseph Church also will be used as a worship site for the new parish. Father David Grover, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.

St. Clare of Assisi Parish, will retain the boundaries of the three existing parishes, and will serve about 3,760 families in Gloucester County.

• St. Michael the Archangel Parish will be established through the merger of Nativity Parish, Franklinville, and St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Clayton. The seat of the new parish will be Nativity Church.  St. Catherine of Siena Church also will serve the new parish as a worship site.

Father Jaromir Michalak, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.

St. Michael the Archangel Parish, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve about 1,740 families in Gloucester County.

Confidence and Gratitude

“We are ready to merge and to start our life as St. Michael the Archangel Parish. We will have some challenges, but together as a community we will build on the foundation established by the Core Team and grow to be a more dynamic community filled with faith, hope and love,” said Father Michalak when asked his thoughts about the future of the new parish.

Added Joyce Burnett, Core Team member, “The merger process provided an opportunity to take the best ideas, practices, customs and traditions from each of the parishes and to lay the foundation for a stronger, more vibrant parish.”

One of the members of the Core Team that helped develop the plan for St. Clare of Assisi Parish, Judy MacKenzie, is from St. John the Evangelist. Judy shared that the process is not only about the hope and joy of the future, but about recognizing that there is loss involved. “As a member of St. John, I had to express to the Core Team the sacrifices we were making and the grief parishioners were feeling, while doing my best to be sure that we as a team were putting in place a new parish that would be better and stronger than the individual parishes. I do feel that in the new parish we will have more resources and be able to do more for the people, especially when it comes to ministries.”

Father Dave Grover said that he was impressed with the number of people that came forward to assist with the planning process for St. Clare Parish. “That so many were willing to use their talents to develop the plans for this consolidation gives me confidence that the people of these three parishes will become one larger family of faith. It will take time, but I hope that we all look for inspiration to our patroness, St. Clare of Assisi, who offers us a model of collaboration with St. Francis in their loving service to Jesus and his people.”

Responding to the Needs of the People

“I am so encouraged by the dedicated work of our clergy, religious and laity in all of these parishes who have come together in a common mission to strengthen these parish communities for the sake of the faithful in South Jersey. This points to a most hopeful future for our Church,” said Bishop Joseph Galante as he issued the 23d and 24th decrees since June 2009.

The two most recent decrees are part of the diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes announced over two years ago to strengthen parishes and to address the priorities expressed by the people at “Speak Up” sessions that were held with Bishop Galante in 2005 and 2006. The priorities identified included 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.

Reconfiguration addresses challenges

Many parishes are struggling financially due to the changes in population and decline in Mass attendance and, as presently configured, lack the resources to provide needed ministries.

About a third of the parishes in the diocese are struggling with deficits and debt and are unable to meet basic financial obligations, according to the diocese. By uniting parishes through merger, the diocese hopes to create stronger parishes that will have greater resources with which to provide pastoral care to the people.

In conjunction with the parish reconfiguration process, additional efforts are underway to more effectively respond to the needs of parishioners. In January 2009, the diocese instituted the Lay Ministry Formation Program, an initiative formed in partnership with nationally recognized institutions to educate laity in parish ministry. In the fall of 2010, the diocese plans to increase its focus on the six Pastoral Priorities: Liturgy, Compassionate Outreach, Lay Ministry, Priestly Vocations, Youth and Young Adults, and Lifelong Faith Formation by bringing diocesan and parish resources together for more effective planning and implementation of the Pastoral Priorities. This collaborative effort will be called Harvesting Gifts for the Church of Camden.

Fresh enthusiasm for the faith

The planning initiatives of the diocese respond to the call of Pope John Paul II at the close of the Jubilee Year when he called on each diocese to assess its fervor and find fresh enthusiasm for its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities. He called on dioceses to draw up a detailed pastoral plan for the “formation and enrichment of the people involved [and to] search for the necessary resources which will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.” Last year, Pope Benedict XVI, meeting with the Bishops of Nigeria also stressed the importance of training and diocesan planning in order to create strong, vibrant parishes.

Editor’s note: For more information about the Lay Ministry Formation Program, see http://lmfp.camdendiocese.org/

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