Bishop issues decree establishing Emmaus Catholic Community, Mount Ephraim

Bishop Joseph Galante formally announced Friday, May 7 that the parishes of Sacred Heart (Mount Ephraim) and Holy Maternity (Audubon) will unite and the new parish resulting from the consolidation, Emmaus Catholic Community, will be established June 9, 2010.

The announcement establishing the new parish was made in a formal decree, which was published in the May 7 edition of the Catholic Star Herald, the diocesan newspaper.

It is the fifteenth 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.

Father Hugh J. Bradley, Priest Convener for the consolidation, has been named pastor of the new parish for a six year term.

Emmaus Catholic Community, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve about 1,700 families. The seat of the parish will be Sacred Heart Church.

The existing parishes are just 1.5 miles apart. Originally a mission of St. Rose of Lima, Haddon Heights, Sacred Heart was established as a parish in 1939. In 1954, a mission was established to serve the Audubon Park area, which became Holy Maternity Parish in 1957.

In fall, 2008 a Core Team was assembled with representatives from both parishes: Rebecca Barnes, Patrick Bocchiccio, Ann Marie Granato, and Fred Repsik (Sacred Heart) and Connie Buttil, Ed Nallen, and Patricia Nallen (Holy Maternity). They met for the first time on November 5, 2008. Thirteen months later, Father Bradley wrote to Bishop Galante stating that preparations for the consolidation of the parish had been accomplished and requesting an on-site visit by the Diocesan Merger Review Committee. A review was conducted on February 23, 2010 and found that the necessary canonical, civil, pastoral and administrative preparations for consolidation had occurred.

“Initially, the process started out slowly and cautiously and at times the task became very challenging and emotional, as both faith communities were experiencing change and feelings of loss,” Father Bradley acknowledged.

“Yet, as time went on, a compassionate and courageous group emerged. We were able to respectfully challenge each other and even to disagree without becoming disagreeable, always mindful that the Holy Spirit was working through each person. With this confidence, we forged together in unity. And, as each milestone was achieved, the group became stronger and more resilient and a real bond of friendship developed.”

“Father Robert Dunphy, the present pastor, was always most helpful, which made the process easier, and parishioners had a great spirit of understanding and cooperation as we have worked together to form a new, stronger faith community,” he said.

The parish communities spent three months last spring and summer considering names for the new parish. Committees from each parish created ballots and collected them at Masses. From among the finalists, Emmaus Catholic Community was selected.

In Luke’s gospel (Lk 24:13-35), Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance occurs while two of the disciples are traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, still distressed over Jesus’ crucifixion just days earlier. Jesus walks with the disciples, spends time with them, explains scripture, and makes himself known to them in the breaking of the bread.

“We are traveling this road together to the Kingdom, seeing through our dashed hopes, disappointments, preoccupations and concerns. We discover Jesus in the Word and recognize Him in the breaking of the Bread, as did the disciples of Emmaus, and we recognize Jesus in each other,” said Father Bradley.

The parish feast day is Wednesday of the Octave of Easter, where Gospel reading for the day recounts the events on the road to Emmaus.