Parishioners from Blessed Sacrament—Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish expressed mixed emotions on the closing of Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Church in Trenton.
"It’s hard to say in a few minutes about all that I’ve been feeling," said Frances Scott, who is in the third of five generations of her family to attend Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd.
Reviewing her family tree, Scott said there was her grandmother, Delphenia Walker, who "was there from the beginning," her mother, Nancy Adkins, Scott and her five siblings, all of whom received their sacraments at the parish and attended the parish grammar school, followed by Scott’s son and grandchild.
"I’m sad to see it close because Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd helped to mold me into the person I am,” she said. "When I was young, I used to hear my mother and grandmother talk about how the other churches didn’t want us because we were African Americans. But Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd was home from the beginning and that’s where I’ve stayed. It made me appreciate my life more and who I am."
Parishioners Michael Days, Bruce Stowers and Ellie Ancrum centered on the spirit of OLDS.
"It’s a giving, warm place where there is good liturgy, wonderful music and fellowship among the people," said Days, who with his wife, Angela Dodson, have been parishioners for 18 years. While Days is on the parish finance council and helps with counting the weekly collection, Dodson is a choir member and for the past year, chaired the strategic planning committee.
Days recalled two parish highlights that immediately came to mind — the
Easter Vigil of about l5 years ago when Angela, who was baptized in the
Baptist faith tradition, completed her Sacraments of Initiation and was received into the Catholic Church — and the Easter Vigil when their four sons, whom the couple adopted as siblings, were baptized, Confirmed and received their First Holy Communion. He acknowledged that never was the parish spirit more evident than when he and Angela would bring their youngest son, Umi, who is autistic, to Mass.
"The parishioners have been very understanding," said Days. Never did the parishioners complain about Umi’s behavior "and we always appreciated that. They made us feel very comfortable."
Stowers, a member for more than 15 years, is president of the parish council and chairperson of the education committee which awards two annual scholarships — one for a college- E bound parishioner and the other to a 1 middle school-aged parishioner who will attend a Catholic high school.
While Stowers understands and respects the feelings of longtime parishioners, their closeness to the physical OLDS building and their struggles of the past in being the only African American parish, in the city of Trenton, his main concern is to continue to find ways to "keep the people together, the closeness "we have and the memories we have."
"That’s something I treasure," he said.
"People feel there is going to be a loss of identity, but in my opinion, you will not only have an African American church in the area, but we will have an African American parish merging into another parish that is trying to build its community," said Stowers. "Hopefully by merging with Blessed Sacrament, we will bring our unique gifts to the other site and blend them with the gifts the individuals that Blessed Sacrament have.”
Of the many faith traditions that comprise the city’s churches, OLDS was the only one that was uniquely black and Catholic, said Ancrum. "Because of its cultural link, OLDS has always collaborated with these churches and I hope that this can be maintained,” she said.
While Ancrum too is saddened to see the Pennington Ave. site close, she prays that as "we close this place, that we can go to the Bellevue Ave. site" with open minds. (text copied from "The Monitor" January 1,2009-Diocese of Trenton)
Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd
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