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Diocese’s merger reversal spares St. Vincent Pallotti

From the Courier Post

The Diocese of Camden has reversed its decision to make St. Aloysius Church in Oaklyn the seat for the parish’s merger with St. Vincent Pallotti in Haddon Township. The move instead to make the Haddon Township location the seat of the merger closes an appeals process that reached the Vatican.

The decision is great news for 54-year-old Tricia Newman, who uses a wheelchair, because she will be able to continue to be an altar server, assisting the priest at Mass, and a lector, reading from the Bible at liturgical services.

“It’s so rewarding for me because there’s something I can do,” Newman said from her Haddon Township home Monday. “A lot of the time you’re not able to do much. But here, I can because it’s wheelchair-accessible, which makes me feel like a human being like everybody else.

“I’m not just happy for myself but for everybody. For the elderly and disabled, it’s easier to attend Mass. There are no steps,” she added.

When Camden Bishop Joseph Galante announced his intention to merge the two parishes as part of a diocesan reconfiguration plan in 2008, he chose the Oaklyn location as the seat for the merger. St. Vincent Pallotti was targeted for closing.

Parishioners of St. Vincent Pallotti, which recently underwent capital improvements worth about $1 million, filed an appeal with the Congregation of the Clergy. The Vatican body rebuffed the appeal.

A team composed of representatives from St. Vincent Pallotti and St. Aloysius recommended the Haddon Township location as the seat, noting it had easy access for disabled and elderly people.

In an announcement last week in the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Star Herald, Galante said his intention at the time he devised the reconfiguration plan was to keep a parish on or near the White Horse Pike in that area. However, that no longer is an issue now that a West Collingswood parish on the White Horse Pike in that area has been chosen to be the seat of a merger with a Woodlynne parish, the announcement read.

Margie Esposito, 56, of Haddon Township, who cares for two adult children — Mark, 28, who is blind, and Stacy, 24, who has cerebral palsy — applauded the reversal because of St. Vincent Pallotti’s accessibility.

“You just walk in,” Esposito said. “Parking is very accessible no matter where you park. It just makes it so much easier and convenient. We really feel blessed.”

On Monday, parishioners at St. Vincent Pallotti expressed a desire to move forward with the transition.

“It came to a logical conclusion and it was amicable between us and the diocese. It was never about us versus them. It was always about what provides the best solution for both parishes,” said Ed Pierzynski, vice president of the Friends of St. Vincent Pallotti.

The Diocese of Camden could not be reached for comment, as its administrative offices were closed Monday for Columbus Day.



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