SEA ISLE CITY – For Ed Pearce, of Painting by Pearce, time spent at St. Joseph Catholic Church may have gone unnoticed until a local businessperson watched him from their office window.
Dog Days of Summer
David Farina’s July 28 letter to the editor shed light on Pearce’s restoration work at the church.
According to Farina, a realtor, he watched Pearce share “his time and extraordinary talent to scrape, sand, and repaint historic St. Joe's, often during extremely hot, humid days.”
Pearce volunteered to help keep St. Joseph vibrant and in good repair. The fight continues to keep the historic church open, as congregants and friends celebrate the landmark’s 137th anniversary.
Farina describes Pearce as “quiet” and “gracious,” someone who prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Yet, Pearce’s example taught many, as they passed under a hot summer sun.
“It is true that very good people do very good things,” Farina wrote.
Open Hearts, Uphill Climb
Farina referred Faith Matters to another champion of St. Joseph: Mike McHale.
McHale praises Pearce for his efforts.
“The Diocese (of Camden) had ideas of tearing it down,” McHale said Aug. 27, during a phone interview.
McHale once served as mayor and councilman and remains passionate about preserving the well-loved landmark. He has called Sea Isle City home since 1976 after retiring as a schoolteacher.
“I was a trustee,” McHale said, referring St. Joseph.
Today, McHale says the building will remain and is thankful for the help of the Rev. Perry Cherubini. According to McHale, Cherubini, who came in 2020, wishes to keep the doors of St. Joseph open.
Breathing New Life
Like McHale, Pearce also attended St. Joseph. Pearce relocated to another parish closer to his home after 45 years.
According to Pearce, his restoration work initially began 20 years ago, when a leak was discovered near the choir loft. After examining the vinyl siding, Pearce found the original cedar shingles.
“I saw how beautiful the cedar was,” he said.
Inch by inch, Pearce scraped and painted the building’s exterior.
“The place started coming back to life,” he said.
Pearce is grateful for the efforts of many volunteers who continue to keep the historic church looking its best.
Why Close the Church?
The consternation rises from the Diocese of Camden issuing a “decree of reduction to profane use” of the historic church. The building sits directly beside a newer facility on the property. According to media sources, the new facility was dedicated in 2011 and cost approximately $7 million.
According to Roman Catholic ecclesiastical practices, “profane use” implies that a building is no longer intended for “sacred” purposes, i.e., mass, weddings, etc. The site can be used for other functions.
Because of volunteers such as Pearce, mold issues were eradicated and a new ceiling installed, according to McHale.
Despite challenges and financial pressures, St. Joseph remains an integral part of the community, resting upon the shoulders of volunteers like Pearce, who put faith into action.
“I want to do my part,” Pearce concluded.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at email@example.com.