Camden diocese seeks financial redemption

    Two parishes in Camden’s Catholic diocese are merging, and within a year, the diocese says it will announce mergers that will eliminate half of its parishes.

    Two parishes in Camden’s Catholic diocese are merging, and within a year, the diocese says it will announce mergers that will eliminate half of its parishes. Diocese officials say they hope fewer, but larger parishes will foster more vibrant congregations.

    The Camden Diocese is working with local seminaries to train more lay ministers at reduced cost. Lay ministers aren’t priests, but congregation members who serve religious functions like outreach and counseling.

    The number of priests in the Camden Diocese is less than a third of what it was 30 years ago. The diocese hopes consolidated congregations will generate more lay ministers who can pick up the slack.

    Leah Vassallo of the Council of Parishes of Southern New Jersey says the diocese can achieve its goals without closing parishes.

    Vassallo: I do like the lay ministry formation program. But the idea that that’s only possible by merging parishes is where I have a problem accepting that. You can increase the role of laity without merging parishes and closing churches.

    Vassallo says there are still ways to fight consolidation, including appeals to the Vatican.

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