To the Editor:
Flanked outside the National Archives Building in Washington rests James Fraser’s heritage statue, which proclaims on its base, “The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future.”
Before embarking on the capital campaign for the construction of the new church on the St. Joseph Parish campus, parishioners and residents were given assurances from the Diocese that no detrimental harm would come to the historic church structure that has been a fixture in town since 1884.
The parish even leveraged the existing church’s historic nature in its application before the Sea Isle City Zoning Board, as “special reasons to justify the granting of the height variance and other relief requested” to build the new church.
Taken from the March 26, 2010 edition of the Catholic Star Herald, “Father Perreault also reaffirmed that once the new worship site is completed in 2011, the parish’s main church, which has been a city landmark for over 125 years, will continue to serve as a location for daily Masses and special services, such as weddings and funerals.”
Today, despite the will of unified parishioners, including 2,000 online signatures, its doors are locked shut, special services do not take place within the sacred walls, and the ‘Catholic Strong’ Capital Campaign is seeking to raise $812,000 in funds to tear the historic church down and build a modern “spiritual life center” in its place.
Pope Paul VI quoted Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.: “The more I study material reality, the more I discover spiritual reality.” As has been discussed countless times by many parishioners, there’s an inextricable spiritual connection that arises from being in a place of worship that has sustained and brought comfort to generations of people for over 135 years.
This church is much more than an old building. The historic church has played ever-present witness to major events in Sea Isle’s history, including the devastation of the 1962 nor’easter and the site of the memorial funeral Mass celebrating Police Officer Michael Cullinane’s courageous valor and selflessness in the line of duty.
We have great people in our community and we’re fortunate to have such a special church of our own to experience and appreciate in this town we all love.
Why does the historic church now sit in a state of neglect? Why have pro bono repair offerings from licensed tradesmen been refused by the pastor?
People contributed money to build the larger church addition after receiving assurances from church leadership that the old church would continue to serve as a spiritual sanctuary.
What type of message does reneging on a promise send? It defies logic diocesan leadership would wish to perpetuate this strife. A legacy built on dishonesty makes for a weak foundation in the future.
The Catholic Strong Campaign has worthwhile objectives, but tearing down the historic church and repurposing the site is not one of them, especially during this critical time in the history of the church, as we enter a new decade and look optimistically towards the future, a betrayal of trust is the last thing that is needed in the Catholic Church. Save and open the beloved church.