Protesters agree to end vigil at St. Mary Church, Malaga

A group from the former St. Mary Parish, Malaga, agreed Sept. 19 to end their eight month-long vigil in the church. The protest began in response to a planned merger between St. Mary’s and nearby parishes that would close the Malaga church.

In 2008, Bishop Joseph A. Galante announced that St. Mary Parish would merge with surrounding parishes. As part of the merger process, St. Mary Church would close.

The merger is just one of many in the Diocese of Camden, as part of a diocesan-wide reconfiguration designed to strengthen parish life and pastoral care to Catholics.

After an initial decree stated that St. Mary’s would close, and the merged churches formed Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, Bishop Galante announced a revised decree earlier this month, effective Sept. 7. It states that “St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Malaga will remain open for weddings and funerals, for devotional exercises, for Eucharistic Adoration, for the celebration of the Eucharist on an occasional basis and for para-liturgical exercises.”

In a meeting with Father Allain Caparas, pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, the Save St. Mary’s group ended their vigil, but expressed their desire that St. Mary’s return to being a stand-alone parish, with weekly Sunday Mass.

Save St. Mary’s has also filed an appeal with the Vatican, asking them to reverse Bishop Galante’s decision.

The group has to “observe the parameters of the decree,” said Father Caparas, who called the Monday meeting “productive and positive,” while expressing his desire for all Catholics involved in the merger to come together as a prayerful parish.

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