Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced today that three new parishes will be established on September 22, 2010 through the consolidation of seven existing parishes.
The announcement establishing the new parishes was made in three formal decrees, which are published in this edition of the Catholic Star Herald.
• St. Teresa, and St. Maria Goretti both located in Runnemede will unite to form Holy Child Parish. The new parish will be located at St. Teresa Church. St. Maria Goretti Church also will serve the new parish as a worship site. Father Raymond Gormley, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.
Holy Child Parish, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve about 2590 families in Camden County. The cornerstone for the original St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus Church was set in September 1927 while St. Maria Goretti Parish was formed and Mass first celebrated in August of 1965.
• City of Camden parishes, St. Bartholomew and St. Joan of Arc will unite to form St. Josephine Bakhita Parish. The new parish will be located at St. Bartholomew with St. Joan of Arc Church remaining open as a worship site for the new parish.
Father Gerard Marable, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.
St. Josephine Bakhita Parish, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve about 880 families in Camden County. Recognizing that the first Mass celebrated with the Black Catholic Community in Camden was in March 1940 when St. Bartholomew was a mission church, the Bishop has also decreed that St. Josephine Bakhita Parish will also serve as a personal parish for the African American Catholic Community in the county.
• Holy Name and Our Lady of Mount Carmel/Fatima parishes will unite with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the city of Camden to form the Parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The parish will be located at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel/Fatima Church also will be used as a worship site by the new parish.
Father Matthew Hillyard, OSFS Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named rector of the new parish. “One of the strengths of our merger is that the new Cathedral community will mirror more and more the multi-cultural nature of the Church in the city. We will benefit from the rich diversity within our community: race, language and culture. Bringing about unity within that diversity will be an exciting goal and challenge,” said Father Hillyard.
The Parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve about 945 families in Camden County.
Reflecting on the merger of St. Bartholomew and St. Joan of Arc, Father Marable said, “The merger process invited me into the faith of eight people on the Core Team on a regular basis. It also exposed my faith to them. I feel enriched and challenged by this experience of laboring to bring forth a new parish.”
He said the process was not easy, but he expressed the hope that any pain and fear “will be transformed into marks of glory through the dynamic mission and ministry of St. Josephine Bakhita Parish.”
One of the Core Team members for the St. Josephine Bakhita merger, Steve Pipito, who is from St. Joan of Arc Parish added, “The merger process has been enriching. Melding peoples of different races, cultures, and ethnicities has been challenging, but the core group of parishioners from St. Bartholomew’s and St. Joan of Arc are committed to being welcoming to all.
“With two worship sites serving primarily African-American and Hispanic faith expression and traditions, we look forward to sharing our common bonds: a deep rooted faith and love for Jesus!” he said.
Since June 2009, 22 decrees have been issued by Bishop Galante in a diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes, with 16 consolidations remaining that now are being prepared for by Core Teams and their Priest Conveners.
The reconfiguration announcement in April 2008 followed 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.
Planners through their recommendations sought ways to strengthen parish life in each area of the diocese 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.
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.
In conjunction with the parish reconfiguration process, additional efforts are underway to more effectively respond to the needs of parishioners. With the Pope Benedict XVI calling on lay people to assume responsibility with clergy for the life and mission of the Church, the diocese in January 2009 instituted the Lay Ministry Formation Program, an initiative formed in conjunction with nationally-recognized institutions to educate laity in parish ministry through college-level certificate and degree programs, with most delivered at satellite locations within the diocese.
Hundreds of parishioners now are enrolled in the program, many of whom serve in religious education, youth and young adult ministry, adult faith formation, Hispanic and Black Catholic ministry, parish life, family life, ministry to seniors, and liturgy.
Programs also are offered for lay persons involved in pastoral administration, Catholic schools, and parish business management.
The Program has been undertaken in partnership with the College of St. Elizabeth (Morristown, N.J.), Georgian Court University (Lakewood, N.J.), the Center for Ministry Development (Naugatuck, Conn.), the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center (New York, N.Y.), St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia), Neumann University (Aston, Pa.) and University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio).
Additionally, Bishop Galante has worked to strengthen diocesan offices by eliminating the compartmentalization of ministry and by integrating functions and resources for greater emphasis on the key pastoral priorities. This will provide more focused support for parishes at the diocesan level so that parishes may provide more faith formation opportunities for parishioners of every age and take local steps to advance key pastoral priorities that will better serve the needs of parishioners.
Editor’s note: For more information about the Lay Ministry Formation Program, see http://lmfp.camdendiocese.org/