WILDWOOD CREST — The borough’s Church of the Assumption won’t have to close its doors at the end of the season.
Bishop Joseph A. Galante announced Aug. 26 that Assumption would be allowed to hold services through the whole year.
The Church of the Assumption was slated to merge with St. Ann’s Church in Wildwood and would remain open only part of the year, under the diocese’s original restructuring plan.
A parish merger was one fate that some churches in this diocese face during a process called “gathering God’s gifts.” The restructuring is a response by the Catholic Church that has more parishes than there are worshipers, priests, or money to sustain them.
Since the restructuring plan was announced last April, Galante has been met with protests at his public appearances.
On June 11, parishioners of Assumption filled the pews in the sanctuary in an effort to show Galante that their parish is fighting to keep their spiritual identity as many churches in the Diocese of Camden are looking toward restructuring.
Outside, hundreds of parishioners walked past members of other churches in the diocese protesting against a similar fate. Shouts of “God bless” and “save our churches,” were heard as the crowd moved inside the sanctuary.
Inside parishioners, some standing with spouses at the pulpit, gave impassioned speeches urging Galante to allow the church to continue under the one priest one parish model. Many argued that their be harmful repercussions of a merger with the neighboring church.
Nancy Pietropaoli, a resident and member of the church for 20 years, told the Bishop how many seniors in the borough walk to daily mass at Assumption, something that won’t be possible if they have to go 42 blocks into Wildwood.
Driving, she said, would be their only option and called the parking a St. Ann’s “impossible.”
Nicholas Nastasi, a parishioner who sat for seven years as a trustee at the Church of the Assumption, said that if the parish was made to merge with St. Ann’s he would “feel like a child of divorce, going nine months in one home to three months in another, trying to fit in.”
The Council of Parishes of Southern New Jersey had also “demanded and immediate halt” to the restructuring plan of church and school mergers and closings in the Diocese of Camden in response to Galante’s real estate dealings with Raffaello Follieri.
In March 2007, Galante sold his North Wildwood townhouse to Follieri at a price of $400,000 and also reportedly introduced him to several parish priests.
Follieri, an Italian developer, headed the Follieri Group that acquired former church properties. He was charged last month with money laundering and wire fraud. He was accused of exaggerating his ties to the Vatican to fool investors that his inside connections would enable him to purchase properties at discount prices.
The council maintains that many Catholics in the Diocese of Camden have been “skeptical of the motivations” behind the Bishop’s plan to merge 96 parishes in this diocese into 38.
The mergers, the council said, “have raised questions based on the appearance that churches situated on valuable real estate were particularly targeted for closure, even where such churches were flourishing both spiritually and financially.”
The council questions what they call the Bishop’s “true motivation” for the restructuring plan.
According to Andrew Walton, spokesperson for the diocese, Galante was not aware he was dealing with a con man until approximately two months after he finalized the sale of the four-bedroom townhouse.
Most recently, on Aug. 14, Galante came to St. Ann’s Church here to celebrate a Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and then the procession to the ocean for the Wedding of the Sea. He was greeted by a small group of protesters that quietly stood outside the church holding signs pleaded for the future of their parishes or demanding Galante’s resignation.
Galante has said that the protests did not affect his decision. However he said that he did consider information he did not know before the original April announcement. For in-stance, Galante noted the many elderly parishioners in Wildwood Crest that would have trouble traveling to St. Ann.
Galante also announced, in an Aug. 26 release, the appointment of 41 “Priest Conveners” who will help guide merging parishes through the reconfiguration.
The Priest Conveners are not replacing pastors, according to the release, but will be working with existing pastors,administrators and Core Teams made up of leadership from the parishes that will merge in order to create the new parish. In a number of instances, more than one Priest Convener has been named. These Co-Conveners will work together in col-laboration with the existing pastors, administrators and the Core Teams to bring about the mergers.
For Deanery IX, which includes Cape May County, the following have been appointed:
• Father Thomas Barcellona and Father Edward Kolla have been named Priest Co-Conveners for the merger of St. Augustine (Ocean City), St. Frances Cabrini (Ocean City) and Our Lady of Good Counsel (Ocean City). While the parish will be located at St. Augustine, it is Bishop’s intention that worship sites at St. Frances Cabrini and Our Lady of Good Counsel remain open year-round in addition to the summer and shoulder months specified in the announcement of April 3. A final determination regarding the use of the worship sites will be made by the pastor and the parish pastoral and finance councils after the new parish is formally established by decree.
• Father Vincent Carpinelli has been named the Priest Convener for the merger of Maris Stella (Avalon) and St. Paul (Stone Harbor). While the parish will be located at Maris Stella, it is Bishop’s intention that the worship site at St. Paul remain open year-round in addition to the summer and shoulder months specified in the announcement of April 3. A final de-termination regarding the use of the worship sites will be made by the pastor and the parish pastoral and finance councils after the new parish is formally established by decree.
• Father Michael Field has been named the Priest Convener for the merger of St. Ann (Wildwood) and Assumption (Wildwood Crest). While the location of the parish will be at St. Ann, it is Bishop’s intention that the worship site at Assumption remain open year-round in addition to the summer and shoulder months specified in the announcement of April 3. A final determination regarding the use of the worship sites will be made by the pastor and the parish pastoral and finance councils after the new parish is formally established by decree.
• Father Christopher Bakey has been named the Priest Convener for the merger of Resurrection (Marmora) and St. Casimir (Woodbine), which includes St. Elizabeth Mission (Goshen).
• Pending: The Priest Convener for the merger of St. John of God (North Cape May) and St. Raymond (Villas) is to be determined.
Contact Suit at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org
stay in the know