Dressed in native Polish attire, young parishioners participate in the Presentation of the Gifts.
Dressed in native Polish attire, young parishioners participate in the Presentation of the Gifts.

The newest chapter in the long history of Lakewood’s Catholic community unfolded Oct. 24 as hundreds gathered with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in Holy Family Chapel for a Mass inaugurating Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and the installation of its pastor, Divine Word Father Guilherme A. Andrino. Bishop O'Connell was principal celebrant of the Mass.

“My dear friends, because I am aware of your pastoral needs and I am very confident of Father Andrino’s qualifications for the Office of Pastor, I now commend him to you as your pastor,” Bishop O’Connell said after the letter of appointment was read to the congregation at the start of Mass.

Photo Gallery: Father Andrino installed as pastor of Lakewood parish.

“The Society of the Divine Word, which has long been established in the Diocese of Trenton, is well-known throughout the world for its missionary endeavors,” the Bishop continued. “Today on World Mission Sunday, we pray for this great order in the Church, we pray for its leadership, we pray for its priests, brothers, confreres. We pray in a special way that God might bless them with vocations in these days of need.”

A New Beginning

Days before the celebration, Father Andrino spoke enthusiastically of the members of the large and diverse community of faithful who would unite for this first major parish-wide event since St. Mary of the Lake and St. Anthony Claret Parishes officially merged in June, 2020.

“It’s the first big event since the pandemic,” said Father Andrino during an interview with The Monitor. “The parish is doing well as it moves to being united. There is so much good stuff going on here. It is great that we have so many volunteers helping us to manage and a great staff. We have very young people, elder people, at least 30 different traditions and cultures. So many people are working together.”

Heritage of Faith

It’s often written that the first Mass in Ocean County was celebrated in 1850 for a very small group of Catholics in a private home located between the bodies of the water for which Lakewood is named.

Over the 171 years that followed, the small group blossomed into diverse communities of more than 30 different cultures in two parishes – St. Mary of the Lake Parish in downtown Lakewood – and St. Anthony Claret Parish, nestled between Ocean County Park and Lake Shenandoah County Park on Route 88.

In fact, when those faith communities merged June 1, 2020 to become the new Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish under the care and leadership of the Divine Word Missionaries, parish records listed 4,486 families on its rolls, Father Andrino said.

Mass is celebrated in three languages – English, Spanish and Polish at three worship sites: St. Mary of the Lake; St. Anthony Claret and Holy Family, said Father Andrino. He first arrived in St. Anthony Claret Parish in 2015 as parochial vicar and worked with the community through the linkage which began in 2019.

Bishop O’Connell named him pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in July.

Father Andrino, who entered the Divine Word Missionaries in 1990 in Brazil, served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament – Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish in Trenton before arriving in Lakewood. He is serving his second term as the New Jersey District Superior for the religious order.

Accompanying him on this journey in the new merged parish are Divine Word Missionary Fathers Pedro L. Bou, the former pastor of St. Anthony Claret, Father Pelagio C. Pateno and Father Jan Pastuszczak.

“We try to have community among us and gather for Morning Prayer before Mass on Mondays,” Father Andrino said. Parishioners have responded to the Monday Morning Prayers by joining the Fathers in prayer, he said. “It shows that we are working to make a family.”

Outlining the scope of this large family which embraces eight different communities, a hospital and a cemetery, Father Andrino noted that a total of 699 children and adults are registered in the parish’s thriving religious education programs coordinated by some 60 volunteer catechists and assistants. He sees the significant infusion of children as a signal that the parish has a strong future ahead of it.

“When you look to the number of kids, you see the (parish) is alive for many years to come,” Father Andrino said.

“And, we have 23 organizations and ministries in various languages and 180 volunteers serving them. So far, we are moving along. Challenges go with that but we are meeting them. We are working to keep the heart of faith warm.”

“We want everyone to feel at home and work together as family. This is the face of the Church. If we don’t see the Church as family, we don’t understand Jesus.”