By LINDA MOSS
Parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church said that earlier this week they met with representatives of the Archdiocese of Newark to make the case for the survival of their parish, with the fate of the church now directly in the hands of Cardinal Joseph Tobin.
At the request of the cardinal Frank Cardell, chairman of the Save Our Lady of Mount Carmel Committee, and committee member Raffaele Marzullo went to Newark on Monday, May 9, to talk to two members of the archdiocese’s New Energy Committee, according to an update letter released Friday by Cardell.
“We had a very cordial meeting and discussed the fate of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church,” Cardell said.
A year ago in May the archdiocese, under then-Archbishop John Myers, announced that it was merging Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is on Pine Street, with the Church of the Immaculate Conception on North Fullerton Avenue, creating a new parish called St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Mount Carmel’s parishioners feared their church would be shuttered, and mounted an effort to rescue it. In turn, the archdiocese said as recently as this March that there were not plans to close Mount Carmel or sell its site, pointing out that Masses were still being offered on Pine Street. .
In his letter, Cardell said that he and Marzullo told the Rev. Timothy Graff and the Rev. Joseph D’Amico at the archdiocese that Mount Carmel’s Community Outreach Program serves minorities and refugees in the Forth Ward.
“We discussed our feelings that we should permanently remain open to serve the demographical changes that have occurred in the past 10 years, in a radius of less than three blocks, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Fourth Ward,” Cardell said. “We have an advantage of being in the heart of the Fourth Ward, where Immaculate Conception clearly does not.”
The Mount Carmel committee members also told the archdiocese representatives that they “want to manage the business, finances and growth” of their church and believe they can bring in new parishioners by holding a Spanish-language Mass.
“Father Graff and Father D’Amico will now present this to his Eminence Cardinal Tobin and he will decide our fate,” Cardell wrote. “Cardinal Tobin, in his short time of leading the Archdiocese of Newark, seems to be a very reasonable leader, and we are hoping he makes a decision in our favor and leaves OLMC (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) open. We should all pray for this. While this decision is pending, we all must be on our best behavior.”
Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, on Monday confirmed that the meeting between the Mount Carmel committee and Graff and D’Amico had taken place, and that the priests will report back to Tobin about it.
Pope Francis brought Tobin in as Myers’ replacement in January, and he the plight of refugees and immigrants are among his priorities.
As part of his new assignment, Tobin is visiting groups of parishes, called deaneries, throughout the archdiocese. The visit to the deanery that encompasses the Montclair churches will take place May 16 at the Church of The Holy Family in Nutley, where Tobin will celebrate Mass.
“If you are going to attend … I know you all will be polite and gracious to him,” Cardell wrote.
After Mass, there will be a meet-and-greet with the cardinal.
Cardell asked Mount Carmel parishioners to attend, be respectful and tell Tobin, “We have prayed for your arrival as our new archbishop. Please come visit us at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Montclair.”
The New Energies Parish Initiative was launched by Myers “to address the reality of changing populations of Catholics in some areas, aging facilities requiring capital improvements, and the limited financial resources available to the Archdiocese,” according to the Catholic Advocate.