After his installation as bishop of Camden, Bishop Joseph Galante met with each parish and with various groups in “Speak Up Sessions” to discuss their hopes and concerns for the diocese.
After meeting with more than 8,000 men and women- lay, religious, and clergy — in more than 140 sessions in 2005-06 — six key pastoral priorities were identified: lifelong faith formation, youth and young adults, compassionate outreach, liturgy, lay ministry, and priestly vocations.
The needs were great and parishes lacked the resources to address them. To this end, a five-phase parish planning process began in the fall of 2006, with parish and deanery planners, made up of lay, clergy and religious, taking steps to strengthen the diocese.
From September to December 2006, “Gathering God’s Gifts” was initiated with pastors, who established parish planning teams. The Diocesan Demographic Report was released, which highlighted trends that would affect the Camden Diocese.
Upon reviewing all aspects of parish life, such as buildings, finances and Mass attendance, the parish planning teams completed parish data reports, and in May 2007 submitted recommendations for the reconfiguration of the parishes in their deaneries.
During the summer of 2007, the Diocesan Planning Commission reviewed these recommendations and gave feedback to the deaneries in the fall. Deanery planners then refined their recommendations in early 2008. These refined recommendations were again reviewed by the bishop, Diocesan Planning Commission and Presbyteral Council.
On April 4, 2008, Bishop Galante announced his intentions for the reconfiguration of parishes, “after prayerful reflection and study, and extensive consultation, and in order to address our pastoral priorities by calling back those who have abandoned the faith, by providing compassionate outreach and offering lifelong faith formation, by giving nourishment through good, sound liturgy, by reaching out to our youth and young adults, (and) to revitalize parish life by improving care to the people of God,” he said.
Each parish merger was led by a priest convener and core team made up of parishioners of each parish involved. After consultation with the Diocesan Merger Review Committee, comprising authorities from human resources, liturgy, and canon law, each parish core term indicated to the bishop their readiness to merge.