As Visitation Parish marks its 75th anniversary this year, Father Edward Blanchett, pastor, has been joined by parishioners in celebrating the impact that the parish has had on its own members, as well as on the surrounding community.
“Each of us is given time on this earth by our Creator and we choose how that time is best spent. Visitation’s history has been an example of people spending that time well: not only in their personal advancement in the faith but also in how they reflect that faith in loving service to others,” Father Blanchett said.
He also spoke about the sense of community among faithful there, saying, “It reminds us that none of us is ever really alone. We are part of a greater whole that both walks with us and receives strength from each other.”
“Visitation, its good shepherds and its parishioners, are a concerned, caring and faith-filled community not prone to abandon their love of God and of one another for ‘greener pastures,’” said parishioner Florence Ochs. “Visitation welcomes all who are seeking a committed relationship … to build up a community of faithful followers of Jesus, his laws and his Church.”
Like many others, Ochs shared how much Visitation Parish has affected her life, and how it has inspired her to live her faith through service to others.
“It has given me a greater sense of what it means to ‘give back’ not always in a monetary way, but in giving of my time and energy so that I may impact someone’s life for the better,” she said. “When the community becomes aware of a need by a parishioner, whether spiritual, life-altering or just a caring person to talk to we are ready to respond to that call.”
Father Blanchett recalls seeing faithful from the Brick Township parish helping those in need following the devastation left behind by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. While he was serving in another parish community at the time, he recalls witnessing the impact of the Visitation Relief Center that was sustained by parishioners to support neighbors affected by the historic storm.
“From its small beginnings, the Visitation Relief Center – now known as Seeds of Service – together with our very active St. Vincent de Paul Conference and other parish ministries, continue to show how our faith as Catholics goes far beyond the time we come together in church,” said Father Blanchett. “It expresses itself best when carrying out the commandment of Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you. And it is a blessing that continues to build – showing our faith to others in caring service helps reinforce and invigorate our faith through the many miracles we see working through that service.”
Like Ochs, Joan Olden, part of the team organizing events, also spoke about the reach of the parish’s efforts to serve others.
“Our Society of St. Vincent de Paul has a very strong presence in the parish and the community, enabling our Vincentians not only to grow in holiness but to live the word of Jesus,” she said. “The Visitation parishioners are incredibly generous with their donations both financially and materially.”
Those outreach efforts include operating a thrift shop and food pantry, as well as a host of service projects being run by the society’s juniors group.
As a personal blessing, Olden said, “Visitation has given me wonderful opportunities to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, [serving as a] lector and altar server, bringing Communion to the homebound and the hospital, being part of the cohort teams and the National Eucharistic Revival team,” she said.
Father Blanchett described his eight years as pastor of Visitation Parish as “extremely fruitful for me in my ministry as a priest,” and is grateful to the parish family for inviting him into their community and allowing him to be part of both good and bad times.
When asked about what he would tell others about Visitation Parish, Father Blanchett’s answer was simple and inviting: “I guess I can only invite others to come and see!”