Melissa Dayton 
Melissa Dayton 

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

As Melissa Dayton arrives to St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, as the new faith formation director, she brings a wealth of ministerial experiences that spans some 25 years.

“I think I have experience in many different ministries that work in a parish setting well,” she said, citing roles ranging from service coordinator and religion teacher in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, to previous positions in parishes including St. Mark, Sea Girt; Holy Innocents, Neptune, and St. Catharine-St. Margaret, Spring Lake, where she facilitated groups for women, mothers and teenagers and conducted Scripture studies.

With her husband, Chip, the Daytons, who are members of St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, have run high school junior and senior youth ministries as well as marriage and family offerings. She added that she and her husband also minister to young people from around their country through their nonprofit organization, “You Cannot Be Replaced.”

Dayton, who holds a master’s level certificate in Church and ministry from La Salle University, Philadelphia, is a commissioned lay ecclesial minister and has diocesan certification in youth ministry. She admitted the faith formation coordinator position will be quite different from teaching at Notre Dame, but she is excited to be working with families again.

“I have a heart for parents and parents with children,” said Dayton, and as the mother of eight children, the oldest of whom is newly ordained Father Christopher Dayton, “I will definitely be in my wheelhouse.”

She added that while rearing children is challenging, she sees how faith formation opportunities can also provide a wonderful source of security, spiritually and emotionally, for families as they strive to live out their faith.

“Parents are the primary educators of their children in our Church and often there is a feeling that they are alone and there is not much available” to support them, Dayton said. “I hope to share my resources and be able to give back to the younger families of St. Benedict Parish.”

Adding to Dayton’s excitement about going to St. Benedict Parish is having the opportunity to continue the work of her predecessor, Denise Contino, who laid a firm foundation for the faith formation program. Contino is the new director of the diocesan Department of Catechesis.

Dayton also noted how she is looking forward to working in collaboration with St. Benedict pastor Father Garry Koch. “I’m not just going to work in a parish but I’m going to work for someone I respect and know and can collaborate with in a creative way.”