By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
On July 1, one of the most diverse parish communities in the City of Trenton – Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd – will become part of the oldest parish in New Jersey – Sacred Heart Parish – bringing together the legacy built on hundreds of years of treasured faith traditions, rich cultural customs and a deep devotion to Our Lord and his holy Church.
The decision to merge the two Trenton parishes and close the Bellevue Avenue church that has been home to Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish, resulted from the Diocese’s Faith in Our Future initiative, a multi-year consultation that aims to strengthen parish communities for the future.
On June 24, during the last Sunday Mass to be celebrated in Blessed Sacrament Church, a letter from Bishop O’Connell was shared: “As your Bishop and Shepherd, I write to you with a heavy heart that no doubt mirrors your own this weekend ... A mixture of emotions fills your hearts, I know. The Risen Lord, however, is the cornerstone of our Catholic faith. New life is possible in Him only as the old life passes away. The treasured legacy of your parish cannot be doubted for it is written with the lives of all those who worshipped here up to the present moment. Together, we celebrate them with joyful and enduring gratitude. The time has come now for change, as difficult as it may seem in the moment.”
Bishop O’Connell, in his letter, reiterated that Father Dennis Apoldite, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, along with other parish clergy, staff and parishioners, are ready to “embrace you with open arms and full hearts.
“Join them with hope; add your gifts to theirs; lift up your hearts and voices together joyfully to the Lord,” the Bishop stated.
In preparation for the July 1 merger, Father Apoldite and those parish leaders responsible for its implementation have made a number of changes to accommodate and welcome their newest parishioners and the lived experience of faith that they bring with them.
Father Apoldite said the longstanding Gospel Mass that had originated in Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish and continued in Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish, will be celebrated each Sunday in Sacred Heart’s Holy Cross Church at 10 a.m. Also, as a way to bring his new faith community together and give parishioners a chance to become acquainted, a Mass and picnic will be held July 8 from 1 to 5 p.m. on the grounds of the Mercer County CYO, 453 Yardville-Allentown Rd., Yardville.
“The parishioners of Sacred Heart are ready to welcome our new parishioners and do understand the emotions that go with moving from one parish to another,” he said, referring to previous restructuring that involved multiple parish communities in Trenton over more than a decade. Last year, Sacred Heart Parish merged with Divine Mercy Parish and the merger resulted in Sacred Heart Parish having two worship sites for Masses and other sacramental celebrations – Sacred Heart and Holy Cross Church. An example of the diversity of the parish will be further reflected especially on Sundays. After the 10 a.m. Gospel Mass, a Mass in Polish will be celebrated at noon, Father Apoldite said.
Angela Patterson, who has been with Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish for more than 30 years and worked as the parish secretary for more than nine years, plans to continue attending Sacred Heart Parish. Patterson said it’s her hope that the Gospel Mass will be well-received and that many of the current ministries will be incorporated into parish life at Sacred Heart.
“The beauty that our parish brings is diversity,” she said, adding that the children are encouraged to become involved in the life of the parish at a very young age.
It is her hope that Sacred Heart Parish will not only embrace our parishioners but will embrace the culture and kinship which make up our congregation,” she said. “More than anything, I pray that our parishioners will feel welcome and enjoy worshipping in our new site.”
In a written greeting to Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd parishioners, Divine Word Father Fleury Lunimbu, parish administrator said, “My dear sisters and brothers, this is the time to keep our faith which is not related to a building but to our relationship with God. To each and every one, I wish you all the best in the Church of Sacred Heart.”