Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced today the establishment of St. Damien Parish, formed through the consolidation of St. Augustine, Ocean City; St. Frances Cabrini, Ocean City; and Our Lady of Good Counsel, Ocean City on March 23, 2011.
The announcement establishing the new parish was made in a formal decree, which is published in this edition of the Catholic Star Herald (pp. 14-15).
Father Michael P. Rush has been named pastor of the new parish, for a six-year term.
The parish of St. Damien, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve approximately 2,300 families in Ocean City.
St. Augustine Church will be the primary worship site, with St. Frances Cabrini and Our Lady of Good Counsel being maintained as worship sites.
It is the 31st 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.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.
Core team members from the three churches mapped out the direction of the new St. Damien parish.
“My major hope for the merger is that all of the members of the new St. Damien Parish experience the same sense of community that has developed among the members of the Core Team,” remarked Edward Balotsky, from St. Frances Cabrini.
“It has been a real joy for me to work with this group and come to understand that our Catholic identity is not tied to a single location or building,” he said.
Dorothy McCrosson, a core team member from St. Augustine, agreed with Balotsky’s comments on the connection formed among team members, and their common goal of becoming one faithful parish community.
“I was honored to be part of this group of accomplished, thoughtful and committed people,” she said.
“We have set in place a framework which, in time, will make St. Damien parish a more cohesive congregation,” she added.
Father Edward Kolla, co-convener for the merger, praised the core team members’ “hard work and dedication…as well as their enthusiasm and optimism for the future of the church,” in the hope that the parish reaches “out to all segments of our population and (is) genuinely committed to the ‘new evangelization’ in Ocean City.”