GLASSBORO — Church, education and civic officials met in Glassboro on Friday, Oct. 1, to talk about the future of St. Bridget Parish here and how it can best serve Rowan University and the surrounding community.
The church should be integral to the life of the school and town, Bishop Joseph A. Galante said in a meeting with Rowan University President Donald J. Farish and other school officials and Glassboro Mayor Leo McCabe. Also attending were other diocesan officials and representatives of St. Bridget and Rowan’s Catholic Campus Ministry/Newman Club.
The meeting took place at Hollybush, a campus building that was the site of a hastily prepared 1967 summit with President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin with the goal of alleviating Cold War tensions.
The breakfast meeting last week could not have been more cordial, with everyone expressing enthusiasm for the relationship among church, school and community.
In May Bishop Galante announced that St. Bridget would become both a territorial parish for the Glassboro community and a personal parish to serve the particular needs of the Rowan University community.
With an expansion of Rowan University and the related redevelopment of Glassboro now underway, Bishop Galante last July wrote to parishioners stating that “the university’s development plans may present a unique opportunity for the church to address a fundamental pastoral concern in this area of the diocese, in particular, the spiritual and pastoral needs of the growing student population here.”
The university has about 11,006 undergraduate and graduate students.
“Education without formation is incomplete,” the bishop said, stressing the importance of pastoral care for young people. “Education can be gotten off a computer. Formation needs relationships.”
Dr. Farish stressed the same theme, saying that “education is not just the accumulation of credits.”
Higher education does not necessitate a divorce between education and faith, he said. He noted that a majority of Rowan students are Catholic.
Dr. Parish is currently serving his 10th year as president. Rowan is the fastest growing higher education institution in the region.
Off campus, Dr. Farish has strengthened relationships between the university and its surrounding communities. He works closely with Mayor McCabe and other Glassboro community leaders in planning the redevelopment of the municipality’s downtown and improving its school system.
Mayor McCabe expressed his obvious delight with both parish and university. A member of St. Bridget Parish, he said he wants Glassboro to be a “quintessential college town.”
St. Bridget’s originally was intended to consolidate with Saint Catherine of Siena (Clayton) and Nativity (Franklinville). However, Bishop Galante decided to modify that configuration in order to more fully explore the possibility of establishing the university parish.
Given the various approaches that exist for campus ministry at universities, as well as logistical questions that required further study, Bishop Galante last summer directed that a task force be commissioned to explore the feasibility of the university model.
Father Matthew C. Weber, pastor of St. Bridget, said that the diocese, the school and the town were all going through a period of significant change, but change can be “a sign of vitality.” “What is key here is collaboration, partnership,” he said.
He noted that the parish’s Hispanic population is growing rapidly. He also said his parish team is enthusiastic about the future of the parish and has already become more involved in local social justice efforts.