Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced today that the parishes of St. Patrick, Woodbury, Most Holy Redeemer, Westville Grove and St. Matthew, National Park will unite and the new parish resulting from the consolidation, Holy Angels Parish, will be established April 21, 2010.
The announcement establishing the new parish was made in a formal decree, which is published in this edition of the Catholic Star Herald.
The decree states that consolidating the individual communities and uniting them as one new parish is necessary to provide more effectively for the pastoral needs of the faithful, to assure the vitality of parish life, to provide for a better stewardship of resources, and to provide for the optimum use of clergy, religious and lay personnel.
Reverend Monsignor Joseph V, DiMauro, who has overseen the consolidation as Priest Convener, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.
Holy Angels Parish, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve about 4,600 families. The seat of the parish will be Saint Patrick Church. St. Matthew Church also will be maintained as a worship site, and Most Holy Redeemer Church will be used for school liturgies, as well as for baptisms, weddings and funerals. It also will serve Saint Yi Youn II John, the Korean Catholic community that heretofore has been located at Holy Rosary, Cherry Hill.
The parishes are not only geographically proximate, but they also share a common history. St. Patrick Parish was founded in 1877. St. Matthew, originally a mission of St. Patrick, was incorporated in 1915 and became a parish in 1942. St. Ann’s in Westville—also a mission of St. Patrick’s—served Westville Grove until Most Holy Redeemer was established as a parish in 1958.
Consolidation to address challenges, improve pastoral care
The decree establishing Holy Angels parish is the tenth issued by Bishop Galante in a diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes announced for the six counties of the diocese in April 2008. The reconfiguration is designed to strengthen parishes, to revitalize parish life by advancing major pastoral priorities identified at Speak Up sessions, to improve spiritual care to parishioners by providing needed ministries, and to reverse downward trends in Mass attendance and sacramental practice.
The reconfiguration also seeks to address the challenges of changing demographics, a decline in weekly Mass attendance and religious practice, and a decline in the number of diocesan priests available to serve in ministry.
Bishop Galante’s April 2008 intention to combine the three parishes followed a period of study and consultation with deanery planners, the priest dean, the Diocesan Planning Commission and the Presbyteral Council of the diocese who concluded that the individual parishes could be made stronger if they were united.
Parishioners from the three parishes were represented on the Core Team that prepared the parishes to unite: Leon Sumoski, Ellen Orzeowski and Craig Gallagher, from Most Holy Redeemer; Joan Weinhoffer, Jim Straub, and Gaspare DiLorenzo, from St. Matthew, and Sarah Keller, Sabastian Balestrieri and Mary Lodge, from St. Patrick.
The Core Team members met for the first time on November 20, 2008 to begin to tend to the necessary administrative, pastoral, canonical and civil preparations for merger. On May 27, 2009, parishioners of all three parishes were invited to gather for a prayer service to select the name of the new parish. In explaining the selection of Holy Angels, the Core Team noted, “God gave us angels to guide and protect us. As servants of God, the angels are instruments of God’s hidden providence. They preserve us from harm, give God’s wisdom and strength to humanity, and accompany us on our journey through life. We need guidance and protection. There are three archangels…we are three parishes merging into one. ‘He has given his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways’ (Ps 91).” The new parish feast day is September 29, the Feast of the Archangels.
Last August, Monsignor Di Mauro and the Core Team wrote to Bishop Galante to indicate that they had completed their preparations and requested an onsite evaluation by the Diocesan Merger Review Committee. An on-site visit on October 22, 2009 by seven members of the Diocesan Merger Review Committee confirmed the parishes’ readiness to merge.
A lot of good to come
“Everyone has done an enormous amount of work to get to this point,” said Core Team member Joan Weinhofer, who has been a parishioner of St. Matthew for 17 years. “We have tried in all our work to anticipate the impact on each of these communities, and especially with Msgr. DiMauro’s leadership, to be sensitive to the concerns of parishioners from all three parishes. We’ve had great communication all along the way, everyone’s been kept informed, so we all know where we’re going, which has helped address the natural anxiety that comes with change.”
But, she said, there’s more to be done. “The reality is that, despite all the work that’s been done so far, our work is now really beginning. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing how good we can be. There are a lot of good things to come. It will be absolutely awesome once we have everything in place,” she said.
Leon Sumoski has been a parishioner of Most Holy Redeemer for more than 20 years. He acknowledged that the preparations for consolidation took a long time. “In some ways, I wish it could have been a faster process. It’s been difficult for many people, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Mr. Sumoski, who is in the choir with his wife, said that often times it has been hard to get volunteers to help with parish ministries. “It’s been tough since we didn’t have enough volunteers. With the new parish, with more parishioners, the work can be shared and more can get done. I’m hopeful that with the new parish, there will be more opportunities for everyone.”
Monsignor DiMauro said a collaborative, hopeful spirit carried the day. “We have together worked very hard to do the work that will prepare these wonderful parish communities to unite,” said Monsignor DiMauro. “I am grateful for the marvelous work of our Core Team members, our consultor members, our parish priests, as well as the patience and prayerful support of our parishioners. We today feel a great sense of optimism and excitement about Holy Angels Parish and all we will be able to accomplish together, with God’s grace, as we dedicate ourselves to serving one another in the name of Jesus Christ.”