MONTCLAIR, NJ - Parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church came together Tuesday night to discuss plans to save their church. Suing the Archdicese of Newark was presented as a viable option. 

Led by the President of the Parish Council, Maryann Zecchino, the parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) came together once again for a briefing on the changes their church is facing.

As previously reported, OLMC has been set to close by the Archdiocese by September and become one with Immaculate Conception Church. However, parishioners say they are not going to let that happen without a fight.

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Frank Cardelo, began the updates explaining to parishioners, “To give you a status we are looking to sue the Archdiocese of Newark under Living Stones. We feel that is a very vulnerable spot for them." 

"We are basically stating that they raised money so that we can help save our parish but while they were doing this they knew they were going to close us,” he added.

At this time, parishioners have an attorney through the diocese to handle certain aspects of appealing the closure, however, the church is hoping to raise funds to hire a private civil attorney to represent the church and its parishioners in a suit against the Archdiocese of Newark for fraud.

Cardelo continued, “We are trying to get an attorney to work with us on a contingency basis but it is very very tough. We can use whatever support we can.”

A plan to bring new energy was what the Archdiocese stated they are doing by restructuring churches. Cardelo explained that part of the program was doing research of church goers at various churches to see which churches were able to be closed.  

He said that Our Lady of Mount Carmel is not alone and that other Catholic churches are also subject to closure.

Some parishioners have voiced their concerns as to the finances of OLMC's closure and the transition to Immaculate Conception church.

For the parishioners who wanted to know where their donations are going, it was reported that as of July 1st any monies remaining with OLMC will be turned over to the Archdiocese and is believe to later go to Immaculate Conception.

As an alternative to the traditional “basket” donation, which commonly occurs during masses, the committee has asked that donations be made to a separate entity which will use the donations towards paying for legal fees and publicizing this matter.

Since this story first broke, it came to light that the cause for closure told to Immaculate parishioners was OLMC’s poor financial status. However, OLMC leaders maintain that this information was inaccurate.

Despite the Archdiocese citing OLMC’s outstanding debts being approximate $96,000.00, OLMC leaders stated that they had enough money on hand to pay off all debts.

At this time the parish by way of Father Joe, OLMC leaders told the group that they will also hand off their approximately $80,000.00 in remaining funds to the Archdiocese.  

Support for OLMC is gaining. During a June 21 Montclair Township Council meeting, the town council passed a resolution backing OLMC and joining in their plea for saving this community staple.

Ultimately, the Archdiocese of Newark and Archbishop have the last say.

Tommy Russo, who submitted an Op-Ed to the Italian Tribute and wrote a page long letter published via Facebook, received a dozen telephone calls in response to his statements saying, "[Father Joe] is a co-conspirator in this whole scheme, he has been involved since the very beginning and he is all about saving the Immaculate Conception Church, no concern for OLMC, he is a traitor a co-conspirator.”

Russo later made it clear that his comment is a reflection of his feelings and observations and is not tied to the church, committee, or other parishioners.

“I agree 100%...He should win an academy award” said Maryann Zecchino in support of Russo’s statement.

With that, the committee announced plans for the church to participate in the town’s 4th of July Parade. With approximately 40 people already enlisted to March in the parade, the committee hopes to enlist as many people as possible to walk with the church and its float in hopes to raise awareness for their cause and gain signatures for their ongoing petition to remain open.

“The louder you are the better it is”, said Zecchino.

Anyone who wishes to join the church in the 4th of July parade is encouraged to join the float at the staging area on N. Fullerton Street at 10am, contact Our Lady of Mount Caramel, or check their Facebook page for the latest details.

While the church continues to obtain support through their Change.Org petition and Facebook page, they are now planning on starting a Go Fund Me page to obtain additional donations. The online petition now has nearly 1200 signatures, during the time of publication.

Anyone who wants to support OLMC is encouraged to send donations to: Save OLMC Montclair NJ, Inc. 48 Spring Lake Blvd, Waretown, NJ 08758.  

Upcoming events include a rally and procession at the Sacred Heart Basilica in Newark on July 10th at 9 AM.