As a former parishioner and former trustee of the now-closed Our Lady of Assumption Church, and still feeling the sadness in my heart, I am now reflecting on an article written in a local newspaper about last year’s Bayonne church consolidation and feel compelled to share these thoughts.
The Assumption Church parishioners were the ones who were really affected by the consolidation of five churches (Assumption, Mt. Carmel, St. Michael/St Joseph, St. Mary Star of the Sea, St. Andrew) into two parishes (St. John Paul II, Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich). Assumption Church was the only church to be closed as a place of worship; the other churches have remained open. The Assumption Community of the Faithful, which was vibrant, full of life, and had the second highest church attendance with a very active Spanish speaking community, was deliberately fragmented. The English speaking parishioners (mostly the descendants of the Italian immigrants who founded the church in 1902) have dispersed throughout the city (if still attending Mass). The Spanish speaking parishioners have been split between St. Mary’s and St. Vincent De Paul. The Italian speaking parishioners have been temporarily sent to St. Michael/St. Joseph until further notice.
I have not seen any communication between the Archdiocese of Newark and the Assumption parishioners or their representatives since the announcement of the consolidation took place. The type of communication I have noticed has been through directives or letters in church bulletins.
Although Assumption Church attendance was growing and thriving, I understand that there is a national trend, especially among younger people, to identify as religiously unaffiliated. I personally believe that one of the several reasons is that God has been removed from schools and public places by politicians, especially national politicians. These politicians have in the meantime tried to impose moral codes as they personally see them. Yet, some examples we see from politicians are lies and deceit. I believe that, although we are individually free and independent, we are all still part of a community and a society, and interrelationship and communication are essential.
Leveling out Mass attendance:
Fr. Peter Wehrle attributes the leveling out of Mass attendance (apparently at St. Mary’s) to the addition of a “ministry for the Latino population.” There is no mention that the Latino ministry was moved from Assumption and added to St. Mary’s. The Latinos had been welcomed to Assumption more than 50 years ago. They found a home at Assumption and grew spiritually and in attendance. To the best of my knowledge, they wish that Assumption had not closed. As a point of information, for more than five years Assumption did not have a Spanish-speaking priest (nor did we have an Italian-speaking priest). Many requests made to the Archdiocese for a priest with Spanish and Italian knowledge went unanswered. It did not discourage the Latinos and the Italians; they had each other and the other parishioners to support them, and Fr. Barbone made an effort to learn enough Spanish and Italian to celebrate the Masses. Eventually we took it upon ourselves to contact Fr. Mark De Stephano, a Jesuit and chairman of the Language Department at St. Peter’s University for his assistance with Spanish and Italian Masses on Sundays. Fr. De Stephano was a great blessing, and still is with the Italian Mass.
It appears to me that much emphasis is placed on the financial and material aspects of the church. I believe that the outreach, the evangelization, the examples of Christianity, referred to by Rev. Gary Grindeland as “the Church reaching out to the people,” would help the church to grow.
It would be nice if the fragmented Assumption Community could be reunited again.