By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

From an historical and interreligious perspective, it would be hard to find folks in the greater Freehold area or those who research the Catholic heritage of New Jersey uninterested in this change in status, said Father Edward M. Jawidzik, St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral’s parochial vicar.

Father Jawidzik, a member of the Freehold Township Historical Commission, writes on history, and two of his recent articles appear in the current issue of The Recorder, the recently relaunched newsletter of the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission.

St. Robert Bellarmine first made history by becoming not just the only Catholic church in Freehold Township, but also one of 11 Monmouth County Catholic parishes descended from its mother church – St. Rose of Lima, also in Freehold, which was founded in 1871.

As parish and Co-Cathedral, St. Robert Bellarmine stands in the heart of an area rich in religious tradition that dates to Colonial times, said Father Jawidzik. The great honor bestowed on St. Robert Bellarmine, he said, is a reflection of the “wonderful people who built a young church” into a thriving parish of nearly 4,500 families, whose caring approach to the needs of all lend a “very dynamic Catholic presence” to the wider community.

Indeed, Rabbi Melinda Panken, spiritual leader of Temple Shaari Emeth in nearby Manalapan, was among the religious leaders who acknowledged what the elevation means to the area which has a large population of people of varying faith traditions.

“We’re all kvelling [joyful] over here,” said Rabbi Panken, a member of the Freehold Ministerium, who participates in a number of outreach programs with St. Robert Bellarmine as well as the innovative, ongoing Three Faiths Panel involving members of Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions.

“It’s an honor to us all that St. Robert’s will have this recognition,” she said. “We are looking forward to [participating] in more programs there. The elevation in status makes it more exciting, even symbolically, as a place to be.”