|Haddon Twp. Parish: Merger Fight to Go on
By Adam Smeltz
November 13, 2008
Get complete coverage of the ongoing church closures at courierpostonline.com/churchclose.
Parishioners at St. Vincent Pallotti in Haddon Township, pushing to halt a planned merger with nearby St. Aloysius, have won formal permission to proceed with their campaign to reverse the decision, an activist group claimed Wednesday.
The Rome-based Congregation for the Clergy, in a recent letter, has indicated that Friends of St. Vincent Pallotti Inc. may follow a formal process through the Vatican to challenge the local merger plan, according to the Friends group.
"We've tried to do this on a local level. We've tried to address this with the (Camden) Diocese and try to rectify this in a respectful manner through local procedures," said parishioner Ed Pierzynski, a leader of the Friends group. "When that doesn't work, you have some other options."
He said he could not release to the Courier-Post the full text of the correspondence. The planned merger of St. Vincent Pallotti and St. Aloysius is part of a comprehensive parish-consolidation plan that Camden Bishop Joseph Galante announced in April.
Diocesan spokesman Andrew Walton said the Congregation for the Clergy has not, in fact, given the St. Vincent Pallotti group a go-ahead for a formal appeal. Rather, he said, the Congregation has "simply requested information" from the diocese, gathering details about how diocesan leadership assembled the consolidation plan.
Walton said the diocese has fielded several other inquiries from the Congregation, apparently prompted by other parishioners in the Camden Diocese who object to the consolidation idea. Under its most recent incarnation, announced in August, the plan would compress the current 124 parishes into 68.
The idea is to reconfigure the diocese and reinvigorate its ministry, especially as the number of available priests drops, church leaders have said. The number of active diocesan priests in the area is expected to fall from 165 to 85 or fewer by 2015.
Under the original reconfiguration plan, the St. Vincent Pallotti parish would have been closed for worship and its activities folded entirely into the St. Aloysius parish in Oaklyn.
But under the latest version, St. Vincent Pallotti will remain a regular worship site, even as it merges with St. Aloysius, Walton said. St. Aloysius would be the base of the merged parish.
Galante "has listened to and consulted extensively with the (Pallotti) parish" and revamped the reorganization "in keeping with (parishioners') own recommendations," Walton said.
Still, Friends of St. Vincent Pallotti said that parish trustees will postpone "any further cooperation with the bishop's intended merge until they hear directly" an opinion from Rome. Pierzynski said the group plans to send its formal arguments before the Congregation for the Clergy as soon as it can, though he declined to share those arguments with the Courier-Post.
He said he did not want to tip his hand to the diocesan leadership.
Walton said the diocese has no plans to pause the merger talks. And because Galante has not issued a formal decree for a merger, there is "nothing to suspend," anyway, he said. A decree may be a year or more away.
Pierzynski said St. Vincent Pallotti parishioners remain concerned on several fronts. They're worried that the fruits of a recent fundraising campaign will be merged into a combined parish and that their church building -- if not designated the parish headquarters -- could be tagged for closure in the future, he said.
"It's not just the property and everything else in the parish, but all the good that's being done in these various ministries," Pierzynski said.
Reach Adam Smeltz at (856) 486-2919 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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