By LINDA MOSS
The new head of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, which was created a year ago through the strife-filled merger of two Montclair churches, on Sunday outlined his 10-point strategic plan for the combined entity, initiatives that include a closer watch on finances and an attempt to reduce a $300,000 deficit.
The Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado — the priest known as Father Benny who became administrator of St. Teresa on July 1 — in the parish’s bulletin this week unveiled the plans he has formulated after his first 60 days in Montclair.
A number of Prado’s initiatives center around the parish’s finances, with a new bookkeeper now reviewing bills and contracts; an assessment of staff and resources under way; and a 2017-2018 budget that will show parishioners that there is a need to “work hard to reduce expenses and increase revenues.”
Prado’s plans also include increased outreach to those who have stepped away from the Catholic faith, providing spiritual leadership, reaching out to the parish’s teens by starting a youth ministry program, making a better effort to communicate, and what he called “having the right attitude.”
Prado is now shepherd of a parish that was created by the edict of then-Archbishop of Newark John Myers, who directed that the Church of the Immaculate Conception on North Fullerton Avenue and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Pine Street, both in Montclair, be combined last September, making this month its first anniversary.
The move created an outcry from parishioners of Mount Carmel, who feared that their church would be shuttered and then started a group to fight against its closure, butting heads with the former pastor at Immaculate, the Rev. Joseph Scarangella. Prado appeared to allude to that tension and divisiveness in the bulletin, which has been revamped under his tenure. He talked about starting a healing process at the parish.
“In this short time, I have become keenly aware of our strengths and weakness, your hurts and sorrows, the fond memories of the past and the great hope you have for the future,” Prado wrote in the bulletin.
“And while I cannot undo any of the past, please know that I am here to work to the best of my ability to build up this community of faith, on both sides of Montclair and beyond to sustain our future,” he wrote. “To be successful, however, I will need your help.”
Prado’s plan didn’t specifically mention Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which remains open.
Raffaele Marzullo, part of the group that has fought to keep the Pine Street church from being shuttered, said that he supported a better representation of the younger community in the parish.
He added that he liked Prado’s call for there to be transparency, with young and old members willing to work with the administrator “to make the parish become positive and profitable,” and “most importantly to keep the doors of Our Lady of Mount Carmel open.”
Prado, who couldn’t be reached for comment this week, was blunt in his discussion of finances.
“Shortly, we will publish our 2017-2018 parish budget, which you will quickly see presents a $300,000 deficit,” he wrote. “This means that each week we begin $6,000 in the red before one dollar is collected. Clearly, we will need to work hard to reduce expenses and increase revenues.”
The parish will also undertake an assessment of its needs.
“In our first six months, we will continue to assess our resources, staff, buildings, finances and the rest, with an eye to seeing how we can best utilize what we have in the most efficient and effect ways,” Prado wrote. “Many of our buildings need serious repair, so preparing a needs list and prioritizing it will soon be completed. At both churches and the cemetery, there is much to do.”
He added, “To that end, our new bookkeeper has been methodically reviewing every bill, and every standing contract with all of our vendors in order to eliminate what is not necessary and re-negotiate better terms when possible.”
Prado also noted that the archdiocese mandates that the parish have a finance council.
“Our members are listed in the bulletin and I will share with them all our news, good and bad, so that they can offer good guidance to me to make the correct decisions in stewardship,” he wrote. “The more avenues of consultation we have, the better.
Prado’s 10th point in his strategic plan is “have the right attitude,” which he explained.
“In my initial days here, many have already been vocal and critical of the past, even directing it sometimes to me, but very few have volunteered to help,” Prado wrote. “Understand well that I am doing my best and I need every person to help too. It’s necessary for all of us to be present each week for Mass, register, generously support us and get involved. Time, talent and treasure. Most important is to have respect for one another and for me. We are a community of faith and must act accordingly.”
He said that he crafted his plan after “many sleepless, but prayerful, nights.”
Prado was transferred to St. Teresa, and Scarangella was moved out, as part of the Newark archdiocese’s moves under the man who earlier this year replaced Myers, Cardinal Joseph Tobin.
Prado’s plans also include launching a new parish website, Facebook page and Instagram account.