Visions of improved youth ministry, responses to the opioid crisis and long overdue church repairs


Youth Ministry. Help for those affected by the opioid crisis. Improvements to church interiors, and computer upgrades.

These are just some of the ways South Jersey’s Catholic parishes plan to use the funds generated by the Catholic Strong campaign, a diocesan-wide $50 million effort to strengthen church communities, schools, and diocesan ministry services.

“If we want our parish to be strong, then repairs need to be done,” notes Father Joseph Pham, pastor of Infant Jesus, Woodbury Heights.

Each parish will receive 70 percent of the funds raised toward its individual goal, with the other 30 percent heading to the diocese.

The needed improvements at Infant Jesus Parish include the replacement of sidewalks and curbs, and interior renovations such as carpeting and better church lighting at its two churches, Saint John Vianney and Saint Margaret; and expanded services for youth ministry and nursing ministry.

The parish’s Catholic Strong Committee has gotten the word out on the campaign through wine and cheese receptions, phone calls and door-to-door visits.

“Our opportunity now as a parish, is to make sacrifices for the next generation, as our parents and grandparents did,” said John DeMareo, one of the committee members working hard to strengthen the Infant Jesus community.

His fellow committee member, Mike Frain, admits that initial contact with parishioners about Catholic Strong have been “a challenge,” but that, in the end, “the interactions have made a positive impact.”

The church’s physical improvements will be aesthetically pleasing, Frain believes.

“They’re a form of evangelization — a beautiful altar, a beautiful church, beautiful stainglass will bring people back,” he said.

The heroin and opioid epidemic is now recognized as a national crisis, and the diocese and its parishes will use the campaign’s funds to provide better support and assistance to the addicted and their families.

To help those affected in his Gloucester County parish, Father Raymond Gormley, pastor of the Parish of the Incarnation in Mantua, hopes to create a healing and addiction support ministry in his parish.

With the campaign kicking off right after Christmas, Incarnation has held four donor receptions, and this weekend, Father Gormley plans to speak to all of his 3,800 families during Masses about the opportunity the South Jersey faithful have to strengthen the Catholic Church’s legacy for generations to come.

“So far, the campaign has been received warmly,” he said, and “the people have a good understanding of its importance” and their responsibility.