By Mary Morrell | Acting Managing Editor
Culminating nearly two years of study, including 10 months of consultation with an Interparish Pastoral Commission, pastors from the Asbury Park area Catholic parishes, and their IPC members, presented their parish restructuring recommendations to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during an evening prayer service and dinner in the diocesan pastoral center Sept. 20.
The recommendations were presented by Father Miguel Virella, pastor, Our Lady of Providence, and temporary administrator at Holy Spirit and St. Peter Claver; Father Charles Flood, O.S.S.T., pastor, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, and Father Paul Janvier, parochial vicar, Holy Spirit Parish,
The two-page document reflects an understanding of the changing face of the Asbury Park area, and the need to consider the most fruitful configuration for the parishes of Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and St. Peter Claver, all in Asbury Park, and Our Lady of Providence, Neptune.
In August, 2010, Asbury Park pastors and clergy reconvened a consultation process begun in 2004 aimed at developing ways to better serve the needs of the Catholic community in and around the Asbury Park area, providing opportunities to expand and flourish, in spite of continued changes in demographics, growing expenses, and limited resources – including finances, facilities, and the number of clergy available for pastoral assignment.
In November, 2010, an Interparish Pastoral Commission was formed, comprised of the pastor and five representatives from each parish community. The IPC met together once a month to pray together, and to study the history of cooperation between parish communities over the years, and consider how this spirit of collaboration could continue into the future through parish reconfiguration.
Bishop O’Connell addressed some 35 guests, including parish IPC representatives, pastors and priests, prior to the prayer service, acknowledging the time and effort of all involved in the Asbury Park study, and saying, “It is a great honor to receive your recommendations,” identifying both the group and the process as “a microcosm of what the Church is – the bishop, priests, deacons, and all the people, building God’s kingdom on Earth.”
Father Jeffrey E. Lee, chairman of the diocesan Expansion and Restructuring Commission, also stressed the importance of unity, reminding all present, “Together, as a beautiful mosaic of Church , united in faith and drawn together regularly through the Eucharist, we continue, though prayer and discernment, and led by our bishop, to build the Church in our midst.”
Also present was Terry Ginther, executive director of the Office of Pastoral Life and Mission, who with Father Lee, has been a source of diocesan support and guidance for the parish communities throughout the consultation process.
When asked about the study process and what lies ahead, IPC members expressed a strong hope for the future of Catholics in the Asbury Park area, despite significant challenges, including the challenge of change.
For Mary Jane Navin of Holy Spirit Parish, the process was one of “genuine fellowship,” with good leadership. “Everybody at the table was right on track,” she said, with all having a vision based on meeting the unique needs of a varied community.
Carlos Limardo, of Our Lady of Providence Parish, recalled being familiar with the experience of sharing a church. When serious structural issues were identified at Our Lady of Providence Church and Family Center and it needed to be permanently closed in 2006, the parish community was invited to share the facilities at Holy Spirit Parish.
“We miss our church,” Limardo acknowledged, “but Holy Spirit received us very well, and we are happy with what is going on.”
Rosemary Paduano of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, acknowledged, “It’s been a challenge,” pointing to the reality that the Asbury Park area continues to change, and parishes have to adapt, as well. But, she said, “Together we will have hope for the future, for our children and their Church, and the Catholic presence will flourish in Asbury Park.”
Frankie Winrow, a member of St. Peter Claver Parish, expressed similar sentiments, saying, “We are moving forward, not going backward or at a standstill. We have kids, and we want to keep something going for the future,” notably a Roman Catholic presence in Asbury Park.
To read the Asbury Park recommendations in their entirety, and to follow the story of the Asbury Park consultation process, see the diocesan blog, Living Stones at http://dioceseoftrenton.typepad.com/parishstudy/
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