Bayville Parish celebrates a half-century of faithful service
By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Experiencing the stretch of Route 9 that cuts through the Pine Barrens in Bayville these days, it’s hard to imagine how different the geography was 50 years ago.
The once sparse population of the area has grown to the point where it’s not out of the question now – especially in the summer months – for weekend Mass goers to endure traffic tie ups along the thorofare as they drive to St. Barnabas Church on Woodland Road.
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Photo Gallery: St. Barnabas unearths time capsule
But parishioner Jennifer DeMarco recalled with a smile, that as a child, there was far less traffic congestion on area roads in general on the way to the church her grandparents, Robert and Phyllis Whittaker helped build.
After the Sept. 17 Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. for the parish’s golden anniversary, DeMarco lingered with her family in the church nave. Like many parishioners, they eagerly shared memories of the neighborhood was like when Catholic faithful were first able to worship on what generations would come to regard as holy ground.
A favorite memory, DeMarco said, is scrambling across the sand pits which dotted the area back then with her five siblings as they made their way on foot to Mass in the church tucked deep into the pines on a wide tract of land off Route 9.
DeMarco was baptized in the parish, as were the five children she and her husband, Michael are raising. “There were six of us kids and when the doors opened, we walked to church,” she said. From that time on, “this has been my home. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. This is where I wanted to raise my children in their faith. We get everything we need here.”
In his homily at the anniversary Mass, Bishop O’Connell, tapped into the wellspring of those sentiments, describing St. Barnabas Church and Parish as “the place where truth has been preached and lived...”
Where those, like the DeMarcos have taken “their places in the pews” had their sins forgiven, were “confirmed, fed from this altar, married, anointed,” and were buried. They were, the Bishop said, “our families, our friends and neighbors, our parishioners,” who have “learned and deepened their faith right here (and have) witnessed their faith in Christ in Bayville and far beyond.”
He noted that St. Barnabas Church and Parish “embraced and welcomed them at the beginning of their Christian lives or at some other point in their life’s journey. They built this Church; they sustained and supported this Church; they belong to this Church and today, they celebrate its establishment and its continuity.”
“Perhaps,” he said, “some may think that being part of a Church is a small matter in the grand scheme of things.” But, said the Bishop, “St. Barnabas Church and Parish is living reminder that fidelity to such a ‘small matter’ for 50 years, has resulted in something great –- and that “something great” belongs to us.”
To rousing applause, he concluded with “happy Anniversary, St. Barnabas!”
No Small Matter
The end of the Second World War signaled the start of a population boom in Ocean County almost without parallel in the nation. When the Garden State Parkway arrived in the 1950’s, it served as a gateway, enabling thousands upon thousands of residents of North Jersey and New York raise their children in a still rural atmosphere while they commuted to the cities.
In a well-written history of St. Barnabas Parish, the authors note that the Catholic population of the largely Protestant area began to swell incrementally and St. Joseph Parish in Toms River – widely regarded as the “Mother Parish” of greater Toms River and beyond, would necessarily give birth to others including, over the years, St. Barnabas, St. Justin Martyr, St. Luke, both Toms River, and St. John, Lakehurst, which had variously been a mission of St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood,and St. Joseph.
St. Barnabas was formally established by Bishop George W. Ahr on Sept. 27, 1966, to serve the geographical area to the south of the Toms River which included the municipalities of Beachwood, Bayville (Berkeley Township) Pine Beach, Ocean Gate and South Toms River.
Faithful of the new parish in Bayville worshiped in the municipal fire house at first and continued to be served by priests from St. Joseph Parish until Father Julian Rucki, who arrived shortly after the parish formed.
Construction of the new Church, described in the history as an “architectural and liturgical milestone for its time,” soon began while Father Rucki moved into a temporary rectory on nearby Sylvan Lake Blvd., site of the present WaWa.
The historians noted that many parishioners still fondly recall the parish celebrations – including weddings and baptisms – which took place in that temporary rectory.
The parish center on the campus opened in time for the congregation to celebrate Easter there in 1969. On Oct. 9, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church and along with the parish center, was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Ahr June. 28, 1970.
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