Toms River’s four Roman Catholic parishes will remain intact as part of a restructuring plan announced last week by the Diocese of Trenton.
The diocesan plan, known as Faith in Our Future, is in response to reduced church attendance in recent years across the diocese, which spans Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer and Burlington counties. Dozens of churches in Ocean County will be merged and linked together, however none of the Toms River churches will face changes or consolidation.
The plan calls for St. Joseph, St. Justin, St. Luke and St. Maximilian Kolbe parishes to remain separate, but to work under a collaborative model. Under the model, the churches will enter into formal, collaborative relationships, working together on specific, agreed-upon shared areas of ministry, shared programs, shared staffing and shared resources. Each parish will remain distinct with their own pastor, pastoral and finance councils, finances, census and sacramental books, but will “work together whenever possible to do what a single parish cannot do effectively alone.”
“In recent years, dioceses all over the country have had to come to terms with the changing realities in the life of the Catholic Church and its faithful,” Bishop David M. O’Connell said in a statement, adding that current estimates show just 17 to 18 percent of families registered in the diocese’s 107 parishes attend Mass regularly.