Following are brief bios of commission members, organized by their county assignments, and including a glimpse into their background and vision for the future of the Diocese.
Father René Pulgarin
Father René Pulgarin, pastor, Christ the Redeemer Parish, Mount Holly, was ordained May 15, 2004 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, by Bishop John M. Smith, where he would serve as parochial vicar. He was assigned as parochial vicar in St. Paul Parish, Princeton, in 2008. Father Pulgarin has served the parish community of Christ the Redeemer since July 2011. As of July 1, he will become pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Keyport.
Deacon Thomas F. Kolon, M.D.
Deacon Dr. Thomas F. Kolon is an associate professor of urologic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia; associate director of urology, as well as pediatric urology fellowship program director at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
He was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Trenton in 2011, and currently serves in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, where he is the clergy director of the respect life committee. Deacon Kolon is also president of the CHOP Ethics Committee.
Deacon Kolon completed his undergraduate work in biology at Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.; earned a master of science in physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University, Washington, and received his doctor of medicine from Georgetown School of Medicine.
Deacon Kolon is a former commander in the United States Navy Medical Corps. He is a past president of the Society for Fetal Urology; Pediatric Task Force chair of the American Urological Association/American Board of Urology Exam Committee; and chair of an American Urological Association Guidelines panel, among other merits.
“I am honored to serve on the Diocesan Planning Commission,” he said, “and look forward to exploring ways for parishes to partner and collaborate with each other in order to enrich their ministries and enliven their Christian faith.”
As a trained accountant and the person who maintains the budget for her home parish of St. Rose, Belmar, and St. Rose Elementary School, Stephanie Engelstad knows the significance of balance sheets. “I think the financial resources of the Church and the Diocese are an integral part in this project. The condition of the buildings and the balance sheet should be an indication of how to move forward with the future of the parish structure,” she said. Engelstad also served as former member and chair of the parish finance committee and still serves as current part-time business manager.
Engelstad and her husband Gary, who is director of strategic partnerships, United Methodist Homes Foundation, have four children – all of whom attended St. Rose Elementary and High Schools. “I sincerely appreciate the complexities and difficulties of Catholic schools in this economy. However, I believe that they truly educate the whole person, academically, socially and spiritually. I am personally committed to maintaining strong, financially viable schools.
“My hope for the Faith in our Future endeavor is that each parish community recognizes the importance they have in their community and in the larger Diocese of Trenton. Each individual parish has strengths that can benefit all and should be recognized. Every parish cannot be everything to every parishioner. We must consolidate our resources to build a stronger network of the Church, to serve the Lord as best we can.”
Msgr. Richard LaVerghetta
Msgr. Richard LaVerghetta, pastor, St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, brings his passion about the role of the parish to the Faith in Our Future planning commission.
“The parish is the heart and soul of Catholicism. It is within the context of parish life that Catholics grow in their relationship with God,” he has said.
Msgr. LaVerghetta was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John C. Reiss, May 24, 1986. His assignments have included parochial vicar of Epiphany Parish, Brick; diocesan director, Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries; adjunct professor of homiletics in Seton Hall University, South Orange, and pastor, St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.
Msgr. LaVerghetta was appointed as diocesan secretary of Pastoral Life in 1998, overseeing the departments of Worship, Parish Life and Spiritual Renewal. He has served the parish community of St. Joan of Arc since 2007.
In 2008, Msgr. LaVerghetta was named Chaplain to His Holiness with the title Reverend Monsignor, and in 2011 was appointed a member of the Episcopal Council for Clergy Personnel.
“Since 1986, I have been fortunate to live and serve in parishes in all four counties of the Diocese,” said Msgr. LaVerghetta. “I am very pleased to see that Faith in Our Future’s first goal is to ‘strengthen and enliven’ our parishes. The Church’s future depends on strong, vibrant parishes. I hope my experience in parish ministry can lend a hand in this important planning process.”
Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress
For nearly 50 years, Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress has served in an expansive outreach of ministry in New York, Delaware and New Jersey, including elementary school teacher, parish director of religious education, pastoral associate, social service case worker, parish social ministry coordinator for two New York counties, as well as executive vice president and CEO of Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County, N.Y. She was also a committee member in the Archdiocese of New York during a re-configuration of parishes in 2007-2008.
In July of 2011, Sister Joanne assumed the role of diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services, in which she oversees the 12 Catholic social service agencies and offices of the Diocese, as well as the parish social service outreach programs.
“It is my hope that together with the members of the [Diocesan] Planning Commission, we can carefully and respectfully review the parish and cohort proposals from a diocesan perspective, so that we can offer our best insights to Bishop O’Connell,” said Sister Joanne.
Robert J. Dunne III
For the past 23 years, Robert J. Dunne III, his wife, Paula, and their family have been members of St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction. There Dunne serves as extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, reader, catechist, men’s RENEW group leader, and as a member of the parish finance committee.
For most of his professional career Dunne worked on Wall Street at Salomon Brothers, Inc. Later he opened and ran a tutoring business and, most recently, self-published a book, “909 Days that Changed the World,” a chronological rendering of the public life of Jesus Christ. Dunne has also served 10 years on the diocesan finance council and is currently the chairman.
Dunne believes that both the pastoral and financial planning of the Diocese go hand in hand. “Creating strong, vibrant, and inviting Catholic, faith-sharing parishes and communities is absolutely essential for the long-term success of our call: to pass on the beauty of our faith to those who come after us,” he said.
Dottie Guerrasio and Peter, her husband of 25 years, are members of St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, where she has served as a catechist and member of the baptismal preparation team. Guerrasio currently serves the parish community of St. Anthony of Padua, Hightstown, as director of religious education. She has also served as youth minister and director of religious education in St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood.
Guerrasio, who is a commissioned lay ecclesial minister, holds a master’s degree in theology from Georgian Court University, Lakewood. She has also received certification as a youth minister, is a commissioned annulment advocate and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Guerrasio and her husband are the proud parents of two daughters, Olivia and Isabelle, who are attending college.
Father Gerard Lynch, O.SS.T.
Trinitarian Father Gerard Lynch, pastor of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, has been a priest for 42 years. Prior to his current pastorate, he served nearly three decades in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Asbury Park, now part of Mother of Mercy Parish. He has also served his religious community as provincial secretary, treasurer, ministerial conventual and director of novices.
Sharing insights on the Faith In Our Future initiative, Father Lynch cited he believes that parish planning should be “a living document created with a review component so that it is always relevant to day-to-day life.”
He called the parish a place is where the life of the Church is lived and where “we seek to instill a ‘renewed’ and vibrant faith,” and encouraged the same amount of time and energy put into the planning process to be allocated to the implementation process.
“Simply and emphatically expressed, I believe that without a plan you perish,” said Father Lynch. “Pastoral planning is only significant when there is successful implementation to follow.”
Nanci J. Bachman
Nanci J. Bachman, pastoral associate and director of adult faith formation in St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, has served the Catholic Church for nearly 15 years. In 2006,she was commissioned a lay ecclesial minister in the Diocese of Trenton, and in 2010, she completed the spiritual director program in the Upper Room, Neptune. Bachman, who earned her master’s degree in theology from Georgian Court University, Lakewood, is also an associate with the Sisters of Mercy. Prior to working full-time for the Church, Bachman spent more than 20 years in pharmaceutical industry management, both domestically and internationally.
Bachman explains, “When I first heard that one of the goals of the Faith in Our Future Initiative was to strengthen and enliven the parishes as well as diocesan sponsored organizations and ministries, I was hopeful about the opportunity for our Diocese. I am now humbled by this invitation and opportunity to collaborate with the other members of the commission. By standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us in the Diocese, and by learning what parishes need today to serve our communities, I believe that together we can secure and insure our future for a vibrant Church here in the Diocese of Trenton.”
Sandra P. Lopez
Sandra P. Lopez serves as diocesan coordinator of Hispanic ministry initiatives, and since 2000 has served as a catechist in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. She was certified as a spiritual director in 2014, and is also certified in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s training in Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers. She has worked with the Hispanic community in the Diocese since 2002.
James Trainor is the parish manager in St. Joseph Parish, Keyport, as well as lay trustee and finance committee co-chairman in St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Freehold.
Trainor also operates small-business consulting practice through Bluecrest Holdings, LLC. He earned a master's of business administration degree in corporate finance and strategic planning from Fordham University and has extensive professional experience advising individuals and organizations on financial, operational and strategic issues.
"All organizations experience points at which forces (either external or internal) prompt directional change through the creation of opportunities and challenges," Trainor wrote. "Without assessment of the changing environment and proper planning, organizations run the risk of having their futures dictated to them. My strategic scoping and analytical skills will add structure and direction to this process through the identification of key issues and recommendations for change."
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry currently serves as pastoral associate for St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Freehold. Her lengthy service to the Church began while an intern in graduate school in Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass., when she served as the director of religious education for a small parish in Newton Upper Falls.
She also served as pastoral associate for 17 years in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, and as coordinator for children’s catechesis in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, while providing intergenerational sessions for families. Schlameuss-Perry has also served on a number of diocesan committees and commissions, and has provided presentations as a master catechist at parishes across the Diocese.
“I am personally invested in the Church of the Diocese of Trenton — I believe that this is a crucial time and opportunity to allow the Spirit to work in and through us as we plan for the future,” Schlameuss-Perry said. “I am excited to see the ways that parishes can work together to really evangelize the people in our communities in new, creative and cooperative ways. I hope that my experience, love for God and God’s people and pastoral perspectives will come in handy on this commission,” she said.
Since moving to New Jersey from Brooklyn in 1967, Robert Abatemarco and his family have been members in St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, with a brief time in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting.
Abatemarco began his 41-year career in Catholic education as a history teacher in what was then St. Joseph High School, Toms River. For the past 21 years he has served as principal in Red Bank Catholic High School. True to his family’s commitment to Catholic education, Abatmarco’s children are all graduates of St. Joseph Elementary School, Toms River, and Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River. Now, marking a third generation, Abatemarco’s grandchildren are students in St. Joseph Elementary School.
Father Harold F. Cullen
Father Harold F. Cullen serves as pastor, St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake.
Father Cullen previously served as weekend pastoral assistant in St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, for more than 20 years. In 2005 he was appointed by Bishop John M. Smith as pastor in St. Jerome Parish, West Long Branch. St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Deal, was twinned with St. Jerome Parish in 2009, and Father Cullen assumed the pastorate of both parishes.
Father Cullen was appointed to his current pastorate in 2013. He is also a licensed psychologist and a state and nationally certified school psychologist.
Father Guilherme A. Andrino
As a Divine Word Missionary, Father Guilherme A. Andrino belongs to a religious order that has served the Diocese of Trenton for almost 80 years, ministering to the poor and to immigrants from African and Hispanic countries.
Presently, Father Andrino is parochial vicar in St. Anthony Claret Parish, Lakewood, where he also serves as youth coordinator and catechist in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults process. He has served for some seven years with African and African American ministry in the Diocese, and with the Brazilian-Portuguese communities in Long Branch and Riverside. Father Andrino also served for two years as vocation director for his community.
Father Andrino sees his experience working with a variety of communities as a unique strength that will be of service to the Faith in Our Future planning committee.
He said, “Pastoral planning for me is important because it gives some perspective of the future of the lives of parishes throughout the Diocese. It helps the parishioners to know better their own parishes. At the same time, it gives the opportunity for parishioners of different parishes to engage in a process of building bridges and the kingdom of God, because the entire process is to be conducted in prayer.”
Father Daniel Kirk
Father Daniel Kirk, parochial vicar in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, considers pastoral planning to be of great importance “at both the diocesan and parochial level. Without such efforts, ministry can end up becoming simply reactionary as opposed to what it should be, which is forward-thinking.”
Father Kirk serves the parish in various ways, including attendance at parish finance and advancement councils, as well as school board meetings. Father Kirk also serves as chaplain to the local Knights of Columbus Council and liaison to St. Benedict Elementary School’s athletic association.
In addition, Father Kirk, who has an advanced degree in spiritual theology from the Angelicum University, Rome, serves as part-time chaplain in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel; chaplain for the local chapter of Legatus International, and as assistant vocations director for Monmouth County.
“I would hope that through my personal efforts and that of the planning commission, what will come through this process is a better situated Diocese of Trenton, able to respond generously to the spiritual needs of the people of God entrusted to us, and to build up the Kingdom of God here in central New Jersey,” said Father Kirk. As of July 1, he will become administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson.
Deacon Michael Mullarkey serves the Diocese of Trenton as spiritual director and trainer in pastoral care. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, retired police officer and board-certified chaplain, who holds a master’s degree in human development from Farleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, and a master’s degree in theology from Georgian Court University, Lakewood.
Mullarkey has served as a deacon in The Church of Epiphany, Brick, for the past 20 years. He and his wife, Sandy, have been married for 43 years and have four adult children and four grandchildren. They serve together as ministers of consolation, Virtus trainers, disaster response crisis counselors and trainers in emotional and spiritual care in disasters.
"My interest in pastoral planning has been inspired by the clear priority it is receiving at the diocesan level by continuing the recitation of the 'Faith in Our Future' prayer every week throughout the Diocese," Mullarkey wrote. "My continuing education and participation in serving as a deacon in the community will hopefully allow me to be guided in the best ways to prayerfully respect the concerns reflected by this process."
Linda Quinn is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Whiting, where she has worked in various capacities for the past 16 years. Quinn completed the Diocesan Catechist Certification program and served her parish as coordinator of religious education for two years. In 2003, she assumed the responsibilities of parish business manager, the position she currently holds.
She was commissioned as a Lay Ecclesial Minister in 2007, and has earned a certificate of completion in the Diocesan Pastoral Care program. Quinn serves her parish as a reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and volunteers regularly in parish activities.
Quinn said she realizes the importance of budgeting and planning ahead for the future of the Churches in our Diocese, and is honored to be a part of the commission. She prays for the insight to serve it well. Linda has been married to her husband, Dennis, for 38 years and resides in Forked River. She is the mother of three sons and one grandson.
Father K. Michael Lambeth
Father K. Michael Lambeth, pastor, St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg harbor, was ordained May 21, 1994, In St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, by Bishop John C. Reiss. His assignments have included terms as parochial vicar in St. Catharine Parish, Spring Lake, and Epiphany Parish, Brick, as well as pastorates in both Sacred Heart Parish and [the now-closed] Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, both in Trenton.
Father Lambeth has also served terms on the diocesan building commission and council of priests, and as diocesan director of vocations.
Cynthia Craft and her husband, Deacon Philip Craft, have been members of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River for 21 years. They have three children and five grandchildren. Craft serves in St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, as director of religious education and served as youth minister for five years. She is also an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and helps her husband as a deacon’s wife when needed.
Craft, who is a commissioned lay ecclesial minister with a certificate in pastoral ministry, was employed for seven years in St. Pius X Parish as pastoral associate and served in youth ministry, liturgy and pastoral care, and as Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults director.
Craft believes pastoral planning is essential to the future of the Church. “As a wife, mother, grandmother and lay minister, I think it is important to look toward the future, planning for generations to come to ensure our faith remains strong and vibrant and to address any areas that need special attention,” she said.
“Our world is changing, our family dynamic is changing – and having been in many ministries, I feel I can bring to the process my experience and knowledge in these areas, lending support to the [Diocesan] Planning Commission as part of the final recommendations offered to Bishop David O’Connell next fall.”
Deborah Gallucci has been a parishioner in St. Luke, Toms River, since 2013, where she serves as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Before joining St. Luke, she was a member of St. William the Abbot Parish, Howell, where she taught religious education to second, third and fourth grade students; was a member of the finance council for three years, and served as president of the parish council for two years.
Gallucci, a certified public accountant, was commissioned as a lay ecclesial minister in 2013 and participated in a master’s in theology program in Georgian Court University, Lakewood, where she had previously earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2002. She is also a member of the development board of the Upper Room Spiritual Center, Neptune.
“I see the changes in our Diocese as the call of the Holy Spirit,” Gallucci said. “Pastoral planning, and the collaborative process it requires, is the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit will make known to church leadership what needs to be done so that the Diocese may grow and flourish.”
Having received a Catholic education at both the elementary and high school levels, Barbara Smith, a member in Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, earned a master’s degree in child development and family relations from the University of Connecticut. She worked as a social worker and director of admission of the Andrus Childrens’ Center, Yonkers, and currently serves on the board of Andrus on its executive committee and as chair of its program committee. She is also chairman of the Bay Head Yacht Club Foundation, which provides support for college scholarships to employees of the club and other local charities.
Edward Smith, a member in Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, is also a member of the finance committees of the Diocese of Trenton and Sacred Heart Parish. He serves as an informal advisor and supporter of the Visitation Relief Center in Brick. He is also a trustee, treasurer and chairman of the finance committee of St. Thomas More Chapel and Center at his alma mater, Yale, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He also earned a master’s degree from Harvard Business School.
Smith spent 30 years as an investment banker at major Wall Street firms, and is a board governance consultant and member of the faculty of the National Association of Corporate Directors Board Advisory Services Group.
Deacon John Notaro
Deacon John Notaro, a member in St. Dorothea’s Parish, Eatontown, serves his parish as the full-time director of religious education. He is an adjunct teacher of computer science in St. Rose High School, Belmar, as well as a Diocesan Virtus trainer.
Deacon Notaro holds a master’s degree in theology and doctorate in ministry, with specialties in Christology and Ecclesiology. He worked as a computer programmer on Wall Street and in a major New York law firm before turning to a career in education.