One month from Sunday, two more Roman Catholic churches in southern New Jersey will merge into a new parish as Camden Bishop Joseph Galante continues moving ahead with plans to reduce the number of parishes by more than a third.
According to the Catholic Star Herald, the two churches, Our Lady of Lourdes in Glassboro and our Lady Queen of Peace in Pitman, will be consolidated into the new Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish. It will serve about 2,240 families.
The official church newspaper said both churches would be used as worship sites and Our Lady of Lourdes will become the new parish seat. The new parish pastor will be Father James A. Casadia, who will serve a six-year term.
On Saturday, recorded phone messages at both churches indicated that while each church currently has its own Mass and confession schedule, both are served by a single parish staff and office secretary.
One leader of the merger process, Lou Granato, told the newspaper his initial concerns about the consolidation's impact on his small parish at Our Lady Queen of Peace were quelled after "uplifting" meetings with other team members.
Carol Kelly, another team member, said she believed the new parish will "reach out to old friends and new and. . . become the vibrant parish for which we have all prayed and worked."
This latest consolidation follows more than a year of review of parishes with respect to population, demographic trends, Mass attendance and the number of available diocesan priests.
Mass attendance has fallen substantially in the Camden Diocese, which includes the southern New Jersey counties of Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester and Camden.
The annual fall Mass count in 2006 was 114,000; the count dropped to 100,000 in the fall of 2010.
The decree combining the two churches, issued by Galante last week, was the 33rd merger decree since June 2009.