By PETE WALTON
The Catholic parishes of St. Elizabeth’s in Avon and Ascension in Bradley Beach will merge July 1 and become St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish.
In addition, St. Mary’s parish in Deal will combine with St. Jerome’s of West Long Branch into Our Lady of Hope Parish.
The changes are part of the “Faith in Our Future” initiative undertaken by the Diocese of Trenton to best utilize the available supply of priests to serve the congregations of the diocese.
Bishop David M. O’Connell informed the affected parishes in a recent letter. Formal decrees regarding the changes will be issued on May 1.
Rev. Dean Gaudio, current pastor at St. Elizabeth, will be the pastor of the new parish. Rev. Jerome Nolan, pastor at Ascension, will retire on July 1.
Worship services will continue to be offered at both churches on a staggered schedule.
At one point, the diocese considered merging Ascension and St. Elizabeth’s with St. Rose parish in Belmar. Further deliberations based in part on comments by parishioners led to the recent decision.
The diocese established “cohorts” of parishes and asked them to work together on proposals for cooperation. The cohort which includes Ascension and St. Elizabeth’s recommended that the two beconme “linked parishes” sharing the same pastor.
New names were given by the bishop to all but one of the seven newly merged parishes.
“St. Teresa of Calcutta is a contemporary saint canonized in the lifetime of most parishioners,” Bishop O’Connell said. “St. Teresa of Calcutta visited the Diocese of Trenton, and her religious order has a house and ministry in nearby Asbury Park.”