Compiled by Christina Leslie | Correspondent
For the people of the Diocese of Trenton, 2016 truly was a Year of Mercy. Through Masses, school events, large-scale rallies and intimate gatherings, they and their chief shepherd, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated what it means to be a follower of the Catholic faith on the way to the Kingdom of God.
The Monitor was there to share it all in both print and social media platforms.
Major Events and Celebrations
• The Diocese of Trenton joined with Catholics worldwide to mark the continuation of the Year of Mercy. Thirteen parishes in the Diocese were designated by Bishop O’Connell to host a Holy Door, and Holy Hours for Families were held in each county. These doors were closed Nov. 20 to mark the end of the Jubilee Year.
• Faithful from across the four counties of the Diocese joined with others around the world to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision Jan. 22. Though many buses from the Diocese slated to bring pilgrims to the March for Life in Washington were cancelled due to an impending blizzard, others were diverted to Trenton’s Rally for Life on the steps of the New Jersey State House and a Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral with Bishop O’Connell as principal celebrant.
• About 60 couples from around the Diocese celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage during the 10th annual World Marriage Day Dinner-Dance held Feb. 13 in St. Pius X Church, Forked River.
• Bishop O’Connell presided at the Rite of Election in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, Feb. 14, and greeted more than 180 adults, teens and children preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. All told, more than 600 souls for the Diocese entered into full communion with the Church.
• Bishop O’Connell served as principal celebrant and homilist of a Mass held Feb. 27 during the annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Conference in St. Mary Parish, Middletown. About 700 men and boys from around the Diocese heard author and entrepreneur Brian J. Gail, former pro football player Kellen Clemens and Eternal Word Television Network television host Peter Herbeck share their stories of faith.
• An estimated 1,400 faithful from around the Diocese flocked to Donovan Catholic High School on the campus of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, March 19 for a vibrant, multicultural celebration for the Year of Mercy.
• The Diocese celebrated the 17th annual Blue Mass for Law Enforcement March 29 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Hundreds of officers, civic officials and civilians witnessed Bishop O’Connell preach a homily which melded appreciation for their service, deep concern for their welfare and faith in their devotion to their mission to protect and serve.
• Bishop O’Connell shared frequent reflections about his “Pilgrimage to the Heart of Mercy”: an 11-day trip to Italy beginning April 4 with members of the Diocese of Trenton family. The group visited Rome, Siena, Assisi, Pisa and Florence, visiting basilicas, Holy Doors, museums and other points of interest, and Bishop O’Connell celebrated Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
• More than 800 gathered in St. Mary Parish, Middletown, for the annual Pentecost Rally and Retreat Day May 15. The day-long event featured song, guest speakers, witness and a Mass.
• St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, was the site of a joyous Mass May 21 as Bishop O’Connell ordained four transitional deacons for the Diocese: Roy Aris B. Ballacillo; Thomas John Barry, Jr.; Michael Gentile, Jr., and Michael Kennedy.
• The diocesan Department of Pastoral Care held its annual Spirituality/Education Day for Maturing Adults July 14 in St. Dominic Parish, Brick.
• The Diocese of Trenton joined with faithful around the world to celebrate the Sept. 4 canonization of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. Bishop O’Connell was principal celebrant of a Mass in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, a worship site of Mother of Mary Parish, Asbury Park, with hundreds in attendance, including representatives from the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order which the saint had founded. In addition to a premium edition of The Monitor dedicated to the event, a video commemorating Mother Teresa’s visit to the Diocese in 1995 was released.
• More than 800 representatives from some 40 Catholic schools across the Diocese filled St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, Oct. 4, for the Diocese’s annual Catholic Schools Mass with principal celebrant Bishop O’Connell. In his homily, the Bishop likened the students’ journey to that of St. Francis of Assisi on his pilgrimage to Rome.
• Hundreds joined in Masses and celebrations in honor of the Blessed Mother during Our Lady of Guadalupe observances throughout the Diocese leading up to the Dec. 12 feast day. On Dec. 3, traveling torches, or “Las Antorchas Guadalupanas,” throughout each of the four counties drew faithful to realize, in the words of Divine Word Father Miguel Virella, pastor of Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park, “Our Mother connects all of us.”
Personnel in Ministry
• Father Mariusz Koch served as keynote speaker during the three-day convocation of priests Sept. 13-15 in Galloway. About 160 priests spent time together in prayer and Mass as well as attend talks and enjoy fellowship.
• St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, was the site of the annual Diocesan Celebration of Consecrated Life Oct. 8. Bishop O’Connell celebrated Mass for upwards of 65 men and women who have devoted their lives to the service of God in scores of ministries throughout the Trenton Diocese.
• Deacons of the Diocese heard Msgr. Thomas Green, professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America, Washington, speak on “Amoris Laetitia” during the Oct. 28-29 convocation in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Plainsboro. Bishop O’Connell formally accepted six men as candidates for the diocesan diaconate program during the convocation.
Youth and Young Adults
• Morgan Westfall, a junior in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, was announced as the winner of the Respect Life Ministry’s Loving Life 2016 logo contest. She was awarded an Apple Macbook, and the logo was used on all Respect Life materials, including documents, t-shirts and banners, for the year.
• Some 700 teens gathered in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville for the annual Diocesan Youth Celebration. Attendees sang, danced, heard speakers on faith, played games and worshipped during a Mass celebrated by Bishop O’Connell, who reminded them they were “new apostles” in the Church who “have a mission to live the Gospel and to spread it.”
• Teens from all five dioceses of the state, some 2,500 strong, convened in Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, for the annual N.J. Catholic Youth Rally May 15. Bishop O’Connell celebrated the Mass which followed a day of speakers, rides, games and food.
• More than 80 teens and youth descended on Christ the King Parish, Long Branch and St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, July 27 and 28 for the annual Splash overnight service retreat sponsored by the diocesan Department of Youth, Marriage and Family Life. Talks, praying the Rosary and a Mass punctuated the two days of hard work at service projects designed to aid the faith communities.
• About two dozen youth and administrators from the Diocese joined the estimated 2.5 million pilgrims who converged on Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day July 26-31.
• Faith to Move Mountains, the diocesan endowment campaign, has raised a total of $55 million of its $75 million goal to date, thanks to more than 17,500 donors. Work has begun with the last block of 36 parishes, and more than $22 million of the pledges made to date have been collected. The Diocese has returned more than $3.5 million as of the last disbursement this past summer. The next round of rebate checks will go out at the end of January 2017.
• Good Counsel Home, Riverside, the shelter for single, homeless, pregnant women and their children, celebrated five years of service April 24.
• June 4 was the joyous day when Bishop O’Connell ordained six new priests for the Diocese. Father Gregg Leo Loreno Abadilla, Father Christopher J. Colavito, Father Augusto Lorenzo Gamalo, Father Richard Osborn, Father John Michael Patilla and Father Daniel McKee Price received the Sacrament of Holy Orders before loved ones, friends and well-wishers.
• In May and June, nearly 1,700 young men and women graduated from parish, diocesan and private high schools, earning more than $222.5 million in college scholarships.
• Three priests joined the ranks of their retired brethren: Msgr. Ronald J. Bacovin, Father Ronald J. Cioffi and Msgr. Ralph W. Stansley.
• Anniversaries were observed by a number of priests of the Diocese. Clergy celebrating 50 years of service included: Msgr. Ronald J. Bacovin, Father Brian J. McCormick and Father Charles B. Weiser.
• Father John P. Bambrick, Father Kenneth W. Ekdahl, Father Charles C. Muorah and Father Michael D. Sullivan marked 25 years as priests.
• Religious of the Diocese marking 50 years of service to the Church included Christian Brother Timothy Ahern, Christian Brother Thomas Carney, Mercy Sister Maureen Conroy, Mercy Sister Carol Ann Henry, Christian Brother Jules Knight, Mercy Sister Mary Louise Miller and Resurrection Sister Valerie Paccone.
• Men marking 25 years in the permanent diaconate include: Joseph A. Card, Jeffery F. Pierfy, Kyran J. Purcell, Dennis E. Slavin and William A. Wilson.
• Religious education programs throughout the Diocese enlightened the faith of nearly 42,500 students from kindergarten through high school.
• About 275 couples celebrating one, 25, 50 or more years of marriage renewed their wedding vows and received the blessings of Bishop O’Connell during the Anniversary Blessing Masses held Oct. 2 and 16 in St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Freehold, and St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.
• The Diocese mourned the loss of priests who served at one time in the four counties, including Msgr. Armando Perini, April 1, 86; Father Thomas Brennan, April 29, 84; Father David G. Delzell, Aug. 7, 92; Father Salvatore Anthony Busichio, Aug. 2, 82; Father Lawrence K. Kunnel, Sept. 6, 83; Father Francis Zalewski, September 79; Msgr. Richard A. Behl, Nov. 25, 75, and Father John Connor, Nov. 28, 78.
• Departed deacons of the Diocese included: Kenneth R. Sheehan, St. Catherine Parish, Middletown, Jan. 8; John J. Fitzsimmons, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold, Feb. 12; William J. Murray, Precious Blood Parish, Monmouth Beach, May 10; Norbert J. Klimaszewski, St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, May 10; Edward F. White, St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, May 13; James W. Palsir, St. James Parish, Pennington, July 8, 77; Matthew J. Stap, Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Riverside, July 20, 97; James A. Lacey, Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, Aug. 22, 89; William P. Sulzmann, St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, Sept. 7, 73, and Deacon Robert Mintz, St. Ann, Keansburg, Dec. 21, 83.
• Recently retired Christian Brother James Leahy was struck and killed outside the school Oct. 26.
• Father Gabriel Zeis was appointed vicar for Catholic Education and Catechesis July 1.
• Father Michael Wallack was appointed diocesan director of vocations Sept. 13. He serves as secretary to the Bishop, chief of staff and episcopal master of ceremonies.
• Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, and Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, were named as assistant directors of vocations.
• In the spring of 2016, it was determined that expenses at the Chancery had to be reduced considerably due to decreasing revenue. A three-phase process was developed which included a Voluntary Separation Program as Phase I, followed by a position elimination process as Phase II and finally a reorganization as Phase III. A total of 24 positions were eliminated through all phases. This resulted in a reduction of expenses of more than $1.6 million, including salaries and benefits. In the majority of the cases, the separations were voluntary and by mutual consent. In all cases, the departing employees were provided with equitable severance packages.
• Bishop O’Connell celebrated Mass at Princeton University to mark the dedication of a new sanctuary area inside the university’s chapel May 4.
• The Bishop formally recognized and celebrated the institution of a new Oratory-in-Formation of St. Philip Neri with a decree signature and Mass May 29 in St. Anthony of Padua Church, Red Bank. The new Oratorians are led by Father Alberto W. Tamayo, St. Anthony of Padua pastor.
• Students, teachers, faculty and friends of All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin, witnessed the blessing and reopening of the school chapel during a Mass Sept. 23.
• The Interfaith Hospitality Network of Ocean County, an organization which provides shelter, meals and assistance to homeless families, opened a new center on the campus of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, Oct. 1.
• Bishop O’Connell celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Deal, to mark the end of a five-year project which saw the sanctuary refurbished and renovated.
• At the request of the Bishop, the Holy See elevated St. Robert Bellarmine Church, Freehold, to the status of diocesan Co-Cathedral in recognition of the role it has played in the life and activities of the Diocese. The elevation was formally announced Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.
• The Diocese and St. Paul Parish and School, Princeton, bid farewell to the Sisters of Mercy May 22 after 137 years of service.
• Members of the Cistercian community withdrew their presence and service from St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, and their presence in the Diocese in a June 24 letter to the congregation.
• Mother Teresa Regional School, Atlantic Highlands, closed June 17 after a decade of service to the Bayshore area.
Communications and Media
• The diocesan television series “Cristo Para Todos – Christ for All” won its second Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals. Its “Immigration: Christian Vision” episode won in the category of “Religious, National or Local Release
• The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton, was presented with the first place General Excellence award in its category by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada during the 2016 Catholic Media Conference held June 3 in St. Louis. Monitor reporters also took home second place in the Best Coverage of Vocations to the Priesthood, Religious Life or Diaconate category, and first place in the category of Mission Animation News.
• Realfaith TV wrapped up production of its 17th and final season which saw programs on topics relevant to teens, ranging from Pope Francis and parental relationships to peer pressure, bucket lists and beauty. Episodes will be broadcast until next spring and be available online.
• “The Catholic Corner,” the diocesan talk show hosted by Msgr. Walter Nolan, will draw to a close after 30 years.
• The Diocese launched a new podcast, “Catching the Word” in late August, featuring segments by Bishop O’Connell and Father Garry Koch, the long-time author of “The Word” column in The Monitor.
• The Diocese of Trenton’s presence on social media has grown even more robust this year. Between its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, the DOT engaged with more than 5,500 followers in 2016.
• Through its other Facebook pages – including Trenton Monitor, DOT Family Life and Cristo Para Todos – the Diocese had a total reach of 547,571 and earned 41,616 likes, comments and shares.
Awards and Recognition
• Terry Ginther, executive director of the Diocese’s Office of Pastoral Life and Mission, received the national “Lumen Gentium” Award from the National Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development during its Chicago convention April 19.
• Ronald Gering of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, was recognized for his 40 years of dedicated service to children, youth and family services with the national Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Award Oct. 12 in Boston.
Parish and School News
• Parishes marking milestones as faith communities included Precious Blood, Monmouth Beach (125); St. Barnabas, Bayville (50); St. Ann, Keansburg (100) and St. Pius X, Forked River (10).
• The second annual “Catholic Schools Do It All,” a diocesan-wide day of service April 29, saw nearly 15,000 students from pre-K to 12th grade hosting breakfasts for seniors and veterans, preparing and delivering lunches to soup kitchens, collecting books and clothing, and a multitude of other good works to promote service, faith and community.
• The Diocese of Trenton welcomed new school principals for the 2016-2017 school year: Carla R. Chiarelli, Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Moorestown; Candace Wallace, St. Benedict School, Holmdel; Robert J. Dougherty, St. Catharine School, Spring Lake; Tracey Kobrin, St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach; Gregory Guito, St. Rose Grammar School, Belmar.
• St. Charles Borromeo School, Cinnaminson, opened a new, state-of-the-art pre-K building.
• St. Joseph School, Toms River, welcomed its first preschool class.
• St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education and the Council for American Private Education. This brings to seven the number of schools in the Diocese to receive this designation of excellence in academics in recent years.
• Sacred Heart Church, Trenton, was vandalized Dec. 10.
• Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, took home its seventh straight state title in boys swimming Feb. 21 in the NJSIAA Non-Public A division, while the St. Rose High School, Belmar, boys swimming team won the championship’s Non-Public B division.
• Wrestler Matt Correnti of Holy Cross Academy, Delran, ended his senior season with a perfect 42-0 record (162-21 career) in his 220-lb. weight class, won the NJSIAA title and became South Jersey’s all-time winningest wrestler.
• Thomas Tarver was named new football coach of Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River.
• Holmdel’s St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, girls’ basketball team won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions March 21.
• Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, took home the trophy for the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A division in boys tennis May 25.
• Holy Cross Acadamy, Delran, secured the school’s first NJSIAA Non-Public B championship in baseball June 11.
• Donovan Catholic senior, Alyssa Wilson, won the bronze medal in shot put with a distance of 55-9-1/4 at the International Association of Athletics Federation’s World Under-20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, June 19.
• Mike Perone, boys soccer coach in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, marked his 500th career victory Oct. 17.
• Red Bank Catholic took the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship trophy in girls cross country Nov. 12.
• The Red Bank Catholic girls soccer team became co-owners of the NJSIAA Non-Public Group A state trophy Nov. 13. That same day, the boys soccer team of Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, won the NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship.
• Mater Dei Prep, Middletown, won the boys football NJSIAA Non-Public Group II title game Dec. 3.[[In-content Ad]]