A standing-room-only congregation filled St. Joan of Arc Church, Marlton, June 26, to celebrate the true meaning of the parish’s 50th anniversary.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who served as principal celebrant and homilist, told the gathered community that a parish anniversary is about more than just celebrating a date, it’s about celebrating the lives of people who are “part and parcel” of what the parish is all about.
Acknowledging the significance of marking the anniversary on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Bishop O’Connell stated that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ “is the reason we gather.
“It’s the Eucharist that joins us here today,” he said.
Busy Anniversary Year
The anniversary Mass and picnic were all but one of a yearlong slate of activities that the parish had planned in observance of the 50th anniversary, with one or more events taking place each month.
So far there have been a parish mission in January, a “big party” for parishioners in March; a retreat and concert featuring Christian rock musician, Steve Angrisano, that the parish youth group hosted in May, and the anniversary Mass and picnic held June 26. The year, which had as its theme, “Family of Believers, United in Faith,” will conclude with a gala dinner dance Oct. 21 and a closing anniversary Mass on Dec. 4.
Sharing some random parish statistics, Msgr. Richard D. LaVerghetta, who has been pastor since March, 2007, said there are currently 4,212 households that are registered in St. Joan of Arc, then noted that 50 percent of the new parishioners use the Internet to register online.
Click HERE for a gallery of photos from the anniversary Mass.
Over the past 50 years, he added that there have been 10,013 persons baptized in the parish and 2,233 couples have been married.
“Another remarkable thing about St. Joan of Arc is that in 50 years, there have only been three pastors,” he said, then quipped: “That must mean this is a great place.
“Once you’re here, you don’t want to leave!”
Msgr. LaVerghetta then graciously acknowledged the Sisters of St. Joseph who served the parish and school since the beginning, the number of lay men who have pursued a vocation as permanent deacons and the privilege it has been for the parish to welcome those men who have been assigned there as seminarians and transitional deacons as part of their preparation for the priesthood.
Msgr. LaVerghetta also paid tribute to the significant number of priests assigned to the parish as associate pastors; his staff who “make it fun to come to work every day,” and the great involvement of the laity in the parish’s numerous ministries, organizations and committees.
Msgr. LaVerghetta said that now efforts are being directed toward evangelization and “welcoming people into our community.” He noted that the parish recently broadened its outreach to young people by introducing a Mass for teenagers, and by offering a monthly Mass in Korean for the parish’s expanding Korean population, which currently numbers about 100.
A few days later, Msgr. LaVerghetta said of the June 26 anniversary Mass and picnic, how moving it was for him to see so many parishioners of all ages coming together and having a really good time.
“It was an amazing day,” he said. “We were there to celebrate being the parish community of St. Joan of Arc. It was a great day filled with people who really wanted to be there.”
“The Spirit of God was certainly with us,” he said.
Among the longtime parishioners who took Bishop O’Connell’s words to heart were Joanne Del Prato and Mary Schiappa.
At St. Joan of Arc, Del Prato said that most meaningful memories were of occasions such as when her three sons received their sacraments – Baptism, first Holy Communion and Confirmation. Though two of her sons had met their future spouses in St. Joan of Arc and continue to remain parishioners with their families, the third son “went to heaven a little early” when he died as a teenager.
Del Prato is grateful for how her experience as a grieving parent had led her to become involved with the parish’s bereavement ministry program. Initially, Del Prato assisted families with funeral arrangements and supported those who had suffered losses of family members such as parents, spouses and siblings. But when there appeared to be more women who suffered the loss of a child coming for assistance, Del Prato was asked to form a group that specifically ministered to them. Today, she works with both bereavement groups and has also been a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults team member for, as she says: as long as “I can remember.”
“It’s such a blessing to be part of St. Joan of Arc, she said. “The people there are wonderful and we feel connected to each other. I wouldn’t want to be any other place.”
One indication that Mary Schiappa gave about the love and devotion her family has for St. Joan of Arc Parish goes back to when she and her husband, Anthony, were looking for a new home.
Regardless of where they were going to move, Schiappa said, it couldn’t be too far away.
“Otherwise, I wouldn’t move if I couldn’t go to St. Joan of Arc,” she said, noting that she and Anthony settled in a neighboring town.
“I don’t think we would ever leave St. Joan of Arc.”
Schiappa exclaimed: “We have so many fond memories” of St. Joan of Arc, then told of how most are centered around her children, who attended the parish school and seeing them and then later, her two grandchildren, receive all of their sacraments at the parish.
Most of our friends are parishioners, Schiappa said. “St. Joan of Arc is home to us. It’s our second home. The people there are very loving. It’s a great place where you get that homey feeling when you step inside the doors.”[[In-content Ad]]