At a press conference June 5, Bishop Dennis Sullivan, declaring this a “great day for Atlantic City,” announced the formation of a new parish for the famous resort community.
The new parish, named the Parish of St. Monica, will be formed as the result of the merger of four Atlantic City parishes: Our Lady Star of the Sea, where the bishop spoke, St. Nicholas of Tolentine, St. Monica and St. Michael. The new parish will have as its boundaries the entire city. The changes will take effect July 1.
The bishop noted that the patronage of Saint Monica has deep roots in Atlantic City, having served as the former name of the current Our Lady Star of the Sea Church and as the name for the current parish located on Pennsylvania Avenue.
He also noted that the fourth-century saint was an African woman known as an evangelizer who lived among people of various cultures, traits that the new parish will emulate as it ministers to the diversity in the city, including Catholics of European, Vietnamese, Latin American, Caribbean and African American backgrounds. The bishop noted that St. Monica was also a mother and wife, significant in this Year of the Family in the Diocese which has been celebrated in preparation for the World Meeting of Families and the Apostolic Visit of His Holiness, Pope Francis.
Bishop Sullivan unveiled a painting commissioned by the Diocese specifically for the new parish. It depicts St. Monica standing on the Boardwalk with the Atlantic Ocean behind her and surrounded by three children who represent the multi-ethnic Catholic population in Atlantic City. It was painted by Camden artist and Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath, OSFS (Oblates of St. Francis de Sales).
“We are looking to the past with deep appreciation of the tradition and bringing it to the future,” said the bishop, affirming the Church’s commitment to Atlantic City. Speakers at the press conference included Atlantic City Mayor Donald A. Guardian, who praised the presence of the Catholic Church and its social service ministries in the city, which remains a priority for Catholic Charities.
The bishop likewise affirmed the importance of Catholic Education in the new parish and specifically highlighted the diversity of its student population. Our Lady Star of the Sea Regional School has served the Atlantic City community for more than a century and will remain an important part of the Church’s mission in the City.
At the press conference, the bishop introduced the new pastoral staff for the parish under the direction of Father Jon Peter Thomas, pastor, and parochial vicars Fathers Thanh Q. Pham and Fernando Carmona. “I am giving Atlantic City some of the best of our clergy as a sign of our commitment to the City,” said the bishop, noting that the new priests, ages 33, 34 and 42 respectively, will bring energy and creativity to their priestly ministry. The bishop also thanked pastors Msgr. William A. Hodge and Father Joseph Luong Pham and administrators Fathers Jeffrey Cesarone, O.Praem, and Yvans Jazon, for their service to the four parishes.
The move was the culmination of a two-year study of the Atlantic City parishes which focused on the best way to serve the Catholic population and to provide resources so that the Catholic presence in Atlantic City may grow and flourish.
Plans call for the new parish to use the current Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Nicholas of Tolentine churches for worship and meeting space. The other two church properties will become the property of the new parish, which will determine their future use.