04.23.10 Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced today that the parishes of St. James (Ventnor), Epiphany (Longport) and Blessed Sacrament (Margate) will unite and the new parish resulting from the consolidation, Holy Trinity, will be established May 26, 2010.
The announcement establishing the new parish has been made in a formal decree, which is published in the April 23 edition of the Catholic Star Herald, the diocesan newspaper.
It is the fourteenth decree issued by Bishop Joseph Galante in diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes announced two years ago to strengthen parishes and improve pastoral care to the people of the diocese.
Monsignor Peter M. Joyce, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.
Holy Trinity Parish, whose boundaries will be those of the three existing parishes, will serve about 2,900 families. The seat of the parish will be Blessed Sacrament Church. St. James Church and Epiphany Church also will be retained as worship sites to serve the Downbeach community.
The consolidation seeks to reverse downward trends in religious practice by strengthening parishes, improving outreach, and providing a range of ministries that will better serve the needs of the people. The consolidation also addresses a decline in the number of diocesan priests available for ministry, as well as demographic and population change in the diocese.
The three barrier-island parishes are located within a three mile span, with Blessed Sacrament about equidistant between St. James and Epiphany. St. James began as a mission of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Atlantic City, in 1914 until the parish was established in 1922. St. James served parishioners of Ventnor, Margate and Longport, until Blessed Sacrament was established as a parish in 1946. Epiphany, Longport, began as a mission of Blessed Sacrament, Margate in summer, 1955. It was established as a parish in 1958. Blessed Sacrament and St. James schools, which opened in 1954 and 1931 respectively, merged beginning in September 2008 as Holy Family Regional School, Ventnor.
After more than a year of preparation by the Core Team, Monsignor Joyce wrote to Bishop Galante in February to request a review of the readiness of the parishes to merge by the Diocesan Merger Review Committee. An onsite review was conducted on March 18 and found that the necessary canonical, civil, pastoral and administrative preparations for consolidation had occurred.
Core Team member Mary Garvin, who has been a full-time Epiphany parishioner since 1979, said, “The process of preparing the parishes to merge was painful at times. Yet, scripture speaks not only of the pain of childbirth, but also that the joy of the new birth surmounts whatever trials may have gone before. With the decree now being issued, we feel great joy, and, as we stand back and look at all that has been accomplished in our mission to create a new, stronger community of the People of God, we can see the work of the Spirit in all of it.”
“There was a tremendous amount of hard work by all three parish communities, by parishioners, by Core Team members and by all of my brother priests who have been involved in the preparations for bringing these parish communities together. I am grateful for their effort, their wisdom, their dedication and great love they have for the Church,” said Monsignor Joyce.
Monsignor Joyce said the geographic proximity of the three parishes, and the collaborative spirit of parishioners, created the opportunity to create an even stronger Church presence on the island. “There was a real openness among the communities to find ways to come together for the greater good. There was a recognition that this is an opportune time, a grace-filled moment in the life of the Church, for these communities to move forward with a shared-sense of purpose to build on the strong foundation already established by these parishes.”
Monsignor Joyce acknowledged the deep affection parishioners have for the existing parishes. “Parishioners love their parishes, their history, and traditions, and this is a good thing. Yet, we will not lose what we have had, or discard the distinct charisms of each of these communities, but we will reverence and draw on these things to enhance parish life, to reach out to those who need our care, and to be a community of God’s people that reflects ever more faithfully the unity and inner life of love of the Trinity.”
The feast day of the parish is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which is celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost.