from Our Lady of the Divine Shephard Church on Pennington Avenue in Trenton is holding its last Mass at 11 a.m. today, as church members bid the church a final
farewell. The church been around for 68 years as the spiritual home for Greater Trenton’s African-American Roman Catholics.
TRENTON — Members of Our Lady of Divine Shepherd today say goodbye to a dear, old friend.
Bishop John M. Smith is officiating at the last 11 a.m. Mass held at the Pennington Avenue church, which has served as the spiritual home for more than
68 years for greater Trenton’s African-American Roman Catholic population. For many, the closure is an emotional, but practical, one as the parish faces
mounting financial losses at about $200,000.
On Wednesday, the congregants will worship together for the first time at the 7:30 p.m. Midnight Mass celebration at Blessed Sacrament church.
The celebration is the beginning of recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the parish. The parish serves more than 25 ethnic groups, including representatives from several European countries as well as Nigeria, Liberia,Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Panama, Guyana, Bahamas and the Philippines. Lottie Morton, a member of Blessed Sacrament church, welcomes the change and looks forward to being together under one church. Morton, who was first a member of Our Lady of Divine Shepherd before becoming a member of Blessed Sacrament,
said she understands the emotions people have regarding the closure and the history behind the founding of the church.
“I understand that history, I am part of that history,” Morton said about Our Lady of Divine Shepherd. Morton joined the church in 1947 as a teenager, and through the many special moments of her life — getting married and baptizing her children there — the church has served a special purpose for her.
Our Lady of Divine Shepherd served as a spiritual home for greater Trenton residents since 1941 in the city’s Battle Monument area. It was one of two African-American Catholic Churches within the Diocese.
“Change is good,” Morton said, but added that she’s sorry to see the building close. Even so, Morton said the closing of the building doesn’t represent what worshiping God is all about. She noted that the people are the church and where the people gather is where people will celebrate God.
Longtime Our Lady of Divine Shepherd member Allen Ansley agreed with Morton, saying, “I feel OK about the changes.”
Ansley, who served one of two committees that recommended closure of the church, said it was a practical decision but an important one for the future growth and expansion of the church.
The emotional closure is more than just the closing of Trenton’s only African-American Catholic Church, but a continuation of the merger the parish underwent three years ago with Blessed Sacrament church on Bellevue Avenue. The merger was part of the 2005 consolidation plan the Diocese of Trenton implemented in 2005 to restructure the five-county diocese.
“The choices for us at this point were not to merge or not; … we love the church and the atmosphere and the history that goes with it, but we had to find a way to keep some semblance of the parish together, and there was real danger if we didn’t,” said Angela Dodson, an OLDS member who served on the strategic planning committee that recommended the closure.
Blesses Sacrament/Our Lady of Divine Shepherd Parish faced a potential financial crisis with the operation of two worship sites and the Trenton Board of Education not renewing its lease next year of the Blessed Sacrament elementary school. Plus, Dodson noted, factor in the effects of a downturn in the stock market and an economy in recession, and the congregants had a
responsibility to do what was best to preserve the parish and grow its membership.
Bishop Smith acknowledged that the parish’s decision was not an easy task. “But I am confident that the parish will continue to develop its unity, even as it celebrates its diversity, and that the vibrancy of parish life that will result
from these efforts will enrich the faith of all parishioners,” Smith said.
(Text taken the website: https://www.trentonian.com/articles/2008/12/21/news/doc494dd25fdccc3006702811.txt)
The Trentonian newspaper
Sunday, December 21, 2008 1:37 AM EST
By ANDRIA CARTER
Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd
609.396.9231 Fax: 609.396.6432