By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
St. Anthony of Padua Parish is known as an anchor of faith and mercy in the greater Red Bank area. And on April 8, worship of God and service to his people converged as Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., followed the celebration of Mass with the blessing of a new outreach center.
Photo Gallery: Bishop celebrates Mass, blesses of St. Crispin Social Ministry House
The church was full to overflowing on this Second Sunday of Easter which was also Divine Mercy Sunday. The timing seemed just right as Bishop O’Connell urged all in attendance to join “Catholics throughout the world to celebrate God’s mercy, ‘living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him ….”
It is that Divine Mercy, he said, “which unites us together today here in St. Anthony of Padua Parish as we dedicate a new ‘house of mercy,’ St. Crispin’s Social Ministry House, named for a Franciscan Friar, St. Crispin of Viterbo, who, like Franciscan friar St. Anthony of Padua, loved and served the poor by showing divine mercy.”
“As a center offering a food pantry, clothing distribution, financial assistance and other social services,” the Bishop said, “St. Crispin’s House is a concrete sign here in Red Bank of God’s love and mercy. It is fitting that today, Divine Mercy Sunday, we dedicate a building but also renewed hearts and minds in a renewed commitment to show Divine Mercy to those most in need.”
Bishop O’Connell recalled how it was St. Anthony of Padua pastor Father Alberto Tamayo’s vision for the parish to link the diocesan Faith to Move Mountains’ initiative and the start-up funds needed for St. Crispin’s Social Ministry House.
Drawing from an interview Father Tamayo gave to a local newspaper, the Bishop said, “It was our pastor, Father Tamayo, who two years ago, related that ‘Our vision here really is, as a church, our main role is to give worship to God. We also see ourselves as part of the community. If the community has needs that we can help with, we have an obligation to address those needs.”
In his remarks, Father Tamayo said he appreciated having the opportunity to thank the Bishop in person for the part Faith to Move Mountains played, noting in a follow up interview that the campaign had contributed some $200,000 to date.
He thanked parishioners Richard and Peggy Santulli and the family of the late Oscar and Mary Jo Green for the significant part they played in building St. Crispin House. The Santullis donated approximately 70 percent of the building cost, he said.
The new structure is on two lots where the family home and garage of the late Oscar and Mary Jo Green once stood. It was donated in their memory by their daughter, Gina Mancusi and her husband, Dave and family members who were present at the Mass along with the Santullis.
In reflecting on the day, Father Tamayo called it a “perfect way to express what we are doing and why we are doing it. … To begin with the highest form of worship and then go to the blessing of St. Crispin house means this is not just a social service agency,” he said, but a place where “everything flows from the worship of God.”
As the Mass concluded, Bishop O’Connell, parishioners and guests, including municipal officials, crossed the parking lot from the church to the 4,500-square-foot building where the Bishop blessed the facilities. After, many of the hundreds in attendance followed the Bishop through the portal for a first-hand look at the spacious food pantry and storage areas, community meeting room and offices that provide privacy for those seeking counseling on financial assistance, immigration guidance and employment.
Brother Donald Ronning, director of St. Crispin House, is one of the priests and brothers of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri who serve the parish and its ministries.
While the tour was underway, he sat in the new office where he will conduct marriage preparation and spoke about what this new building will mean to the parish and the community at-large.
One of the most important changes, he said, is the size and scope of the food pantry which serves a significant number of low income and working poor residents in the community. “It was located in a closet,” he said. The volunteers worked very hard, he said, to make it work but it required a lot of effort. Just setting it up and breaking it down was a significant task, he said.
“Now, we’ll also have a place for more clothing distribution. There will be offices for services. We’re hoping to do computer training, offer job skills. The volunteers are so great. There are about 80 on the roles,” Brother Donald said. The new St. Crispin House is going to make volunteering much easier and more rewarding, he said.
Laura Pena, director of the food pantry, and Kim Santiago, volunteer coordinator, reflected on the impact the new ministry will have on volunteers and those who seek their help.
“I think this is a place where people feel comfortable, where they feel dignity,” said Pena. “I hope it is a place where they know we are here to help them and serve them the way everyone would want to be served.”
Santiago sees it as a harbor where “everyone can be united, where we can work together like God wants us to. Like brothers and sisters. We’re a big team.”
Any contributions to this new initiative may be sent to: St. Crispin Social Ministry House c/o St. Anthony Church, 121 Bridge Ave., Red Bank, N.J. 07701.