In 1925, the St. Nicholas Church in Egg Harbor City established Assumption Church in Pomona as a mission. In 1952, Assumption became its own parish.
Sixty years later, the two have again become one as part of a four-year process orchestrated by Bishop Joseph Galante. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is one of 38 consolidated parishes now under the umbrella of the Camden Diocese.
Joe Laudisio, a member of the merger committee who worships at St. Nicholas, said the intertwined histories of St. Nicholas and Assumption make the new parish unique among those 38.
"This merger is different than many other mergers in that these two parishes, this was a satellite of St. Nicholas, and I think it's kind of like a family getting back together," said Laudisio, who lives in Egg Harbor City.
Faced with a shortage of priests to staff the then-124 parishes that made up the Camden Diocese, the bishop in 2008 decided to consolidate. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the 38th and final consolidation project within the diocese, which now consists of 76 parishes.
Both worship sites will remain, but because they share staff, will now have staggered services. Rev. Nicholas Dudo is parish pastor, Rev. John Picnic is parochial vicar, and Rev. Fabio Fernandez will continue to run Spanish-language services at St. Nicholas.
On Sept. 16, the parish will celebrate its merger on the grounds of Assumption Regional School in Galloway Township from noon to 6 p.m. The celebration will be a picnic-style potluck dinner, and include games for kids of all ages, a DJ and live music. The event is open to parishioners and anyone interested in joining the parish.
Jerry Vekteris, who worships at Assumption, was part of the joint group that planned the celebration. The teamwork the two parishes displayed in organizing the celebration, he said, has made him confident the community will be stronger because of the merger.
"We really brought together some great personalities from both churches, and I think that in itself was really a great beginning," said Vekteris, who lives in Galloway Township.
The consolidated parish - which consists of the 2,100 families at Assumption and 900 familes at St. Nicholas - now has a greater pool of resources to draw from, in terms of finances, staff and parishioners, than either individual church did previously.
The two churches' religious education program, pastoral council and finance council are among the newly combined and strengthened ministries. Dudo said he hopes to make use of the greater resource pool to establish new ministries within the parish.
"Now the one parish, the new parish, has extra ministries that are going on and hopefully will continue to develop, so you have a lot more talent and volunteers from each parish that are now focused on one parish mission," Dudo said.
Despite the length of the process, it was a smooth one, and the merged parish is as strong as ever, something Dudo said he hopes will extend long into the future.
"I think the communities came together and worked together and through the process I think have succeeded in bringing about a new parish community that will continue to do the great work that the church has done in this area for many years," Dudo said.
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For more information about the parish or attending the celebration, call 609-652-0008.