St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral has become the chosen site to host Baccalaureate Masses for graduating seniors from St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. This photo shows the school’s 2015 graduating class and their families. Ken Falls photo

St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral has become the chosen site to host Baccalaureate Masses for graduating seniors from St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. This photo shows the school’s 2015 graduating class and their families. Ken Falls photo

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

The elevation of St. Robert Bellarmine Church to Co-Cathedral is meaningful on many levels, say a host of faithful from around the Diocese and members of the community at large.

More than a few offered their insights on the positive impact the change in status would translate to, especially for Catholics on the eastern side of the Diocese.

Among them were Father Garry Koch, pastor of Holmdel’s St. Benedict Parish; Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Mary Agnes Ryan, diocesan director of Catechesis; and Mercy Sister Donna M. D’Alia, director of religious education in St. Rose Parish, Belmar.

All three pointed to the central location of the parish as an asset.

Having St. Robert Bellarmine as Co-Cathedral reflects “the reality of shifting demographics,” Father Koch said.

The population has altered significantly from urban centers when the Diocese was founded in 1881, moving eastward along the coast, he said, adding that a co-cathedral in this geographic region “will enable more people to feel like they can participate” in diocesan events. He said he was looking forward to taking his parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults candidates to the Chrism Mass there this year.

Sister Donna sounded a similar note about the geographic location of the Co-Cathedral, saying, “It makes a lot of sense to have [events] that are close to that population center.”

Ample and accessible parking was high on the list of attributes noted by Sister Mary Agnes, whose department has held its spring formation day for catechists and catechetical leaders in St. Robert Bellarmine Church for three years.

So many Diocese-run events were already being held there, she said, that to “have them in a co-cathedral adds dignity to the site. It’s an honor for the parish, and they are happy to consider themselves of service to the Diocese.”

Mary Dauden, parishioner in St. Paul Parish, Princeton, agrees that the location of St. Robert Bellarmine was a good choice for a co-cathedral.

“I think it’s a great idea and a smart strategic decision to offer a geographically centralized location in our Diocese that spans across four large counties,” she said. It will provide “easier access to many of the Diocesan administrators, ministerial offices and parishioners.”  

“It’s highly likely that our family would make the trip going forward,” Dauden added.

“St. Robert Bellarmine has always been a warm and welcoming parish whenever I have had the opportunity to visit for a Retreat day or special Mass,” said Rose O’Connor, parishioner in St. Mary Parish, Bordentown, and marketing director in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton. “The church and parish facilities are beautiful and accommodating.  I look forward to attending diocesan events at both the Cathedral in Trenton and at St. Robert Bellarmine. What a blessing this will be for our Diocese.”

O’Connor’s husband, Robert, a teacher in Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, and Bob Dunne of St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, echoed her enthusiasm.

“The central location of St. Robert Bellarmine makes it accessible to people from all around the Diocese,” Robert O’Connor said. “With St. Robert sharing some of the diocesan responsibilities, hopefully, more people will be able to participate in diocesan-level events and Masses.”

“I think the designation of St. Robert Bellarmine Church as a co-cathedral, because of its central location among other reasons, has the potential to draw together people from all over the Diocese for services, celebrations and special events,” said Dunne, who has served 10 years on the diocesan finance council and is currently the chairman. “This in turn will give all of us the opportunity to identify ourselves as not only local parishioners but also common members of the Diocese of Trenton as we strive to build God’s Kingdom here on earth.”

Joseph Deroba, principal of St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, and a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in neighboring Freehold Borough, opined that the elevation makes sense. “Doing this shows that [the Church of Trenton] is going in the right direction.”

The cooperation already offered to the wider Catholic community by St. Robert Bellarmine will only increase, said Deroba, who noted that being able to hold SJVHS’ Baccalaureate Mass there annually has been a boon to parents and students.

The size and scope of the building allows parents and graduates to attend, said Deroba, who added that last year, more than 1,000 people came out for the event. “I can’t say enough of how it accommodates the needs of our people.”