The 11 a.m. Mass in St. Anselm Church June 25 was standing room only, and the parish theater accommodated the overflow, where people prayerfully participated in the Mass while viewing the livestream.
Installation Mass was ‘Wow' moment for Father Butch
Together they witnessed the installation of Father Brian Butch as pastor of the Tinton Falls parish by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“Today is one of those ‘Wow’ moments as I look around the church and I see so many familiar faces …,” said Father Butch. “It’s a great day to be installed as the fourth pastor of St. Anselm. It’s an honor to be chosen. St. Anselm has a long reputation of being a parish where people were involved and lived out the Gospel message.
“I never expected to come to St. Anselm’s, but it’s been a blessing. People have welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
Highlights of the installation included reading the official letter that Bishop O’Connell wrote to Father Butch, appointing him as pastor; the formal introduction of parish clergy, staff, trustees and parish and finance council members to Father Butch; and Father Butch's reading his Oath of Office as pastor.
In a homily peppered with emotion and humor, Father Butch talked about his upbringing, schooling, his priestly vocation and the years he spent on sabbatical, during which he set aside his parish ministry and went to work in the secular world.
“The experience of being a priest has been amazing,” said Father Butch. “I witness the love of God in action. I felt the power of God’s healing with people. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve laughed with people and I’ve cried with people. I am so blessed to bring God to people in the Sacraments,” said Father Butch, who was born in 1961 in Jersey City and lived in Bayonne before he and his parents and four siblings relocated to the Toms River area. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; a master’s degree in social work from Fordham University, N.Y., a master’s degree in criminal justice from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, and he is a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey.
While in college, Father Butch realized his vocation to the priesthood, and he pursued studies at Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., where he earned a master of divinity degree. He was ordained a priest May 15, 1993, by Bishop John C. Reiss in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, and served in several parish assignments, including as pastor of Holy Innocents Parish, Neptune. He was also director of the diocesan Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services.
About 14 years ago, Father Butch began a sabbatical and worked in the community in numerous social work, leadership and advocate capacities, including serving as a governor’s appointee to the New Jersey State Parole Board. Such experiences were eye-opening where he “saw the need to help the poor, the importance of education and the importance of bringing God to people.”
A few years ago, during the height of the pandemic, Father Butch wanted to return to full-time parish ministry, a decision that was met with Bishop O’Connell’s full support and welcome. Father Butch was assigned as parochial vicar in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, prior to his arrival as administrator of St. Anselm Parish in late 2022.
Father Butch said St. Anselm, founded more than 50 years ago, always has had a strong reputation for service, parishioner volunteerism and being present in the wider community.
Acknowledging the work of his three predecessors — Father Joseph Miele, founding pastor, Father Robert Kaeding and Father Eugene Vavrick, Father Butch said he hopes to continue to build the parish community and to evangelize the greater community.
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him,” Father Butch said, citing his favorite Scripture passage. “I pray that we’ll grow in our love of God together and make his love known through our works so that this can be the best parish around.”