2021: Some thoughts from the Bishop
Following are excerpts from the reflection of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., about the year 2021:
It is customary, as we ring in a new year, to look back on the year we are leaving behind, not so much for nostalgia’s sake, but as a measure of our growth. As I reflect on life in the Diocese of Trenton over the past year, two things immediately come to mind: the ongoing COVID pandemic and the beginning of the Synod’s diocesan phase.
The Diocese, its parishes, organizations and schools have made every reasonable attempt to keep its members healthy and safe, given the best advice we regularly seek and receive. On the issue of vaccines, the Holy Father, the Offices of the Holy See, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and I have addressed the moral permissibility and advisability of pandemic vaccines. Pope Francis has been especially strong in his advocacy of receiving these vaccinations. At the same time, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made clear in its December 21, 2020 statement on the topic, “… vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.”
I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that, throughout the pandemic, there has been and continues to be strong differences of opinion in the Diocese and beyond regarding what constitutes an appropriate response to COVID. At the same time, whatever one’s opinion may be, no reasonable person can deny that the pandemic has changed the world. Looking to the future, the challenge for all of us in the Church and Diocese remains to respond and adapt to the change with prudence, courage, hope and resiliency! As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I believe we can do it! I believe God will see us through all of this.
Despite the pandemic, there is some good news that we witnessed in the Church during the last year. On April 24, 2021, His Holiness Pope Francis announced the convocation of the Sixteenth Ordinary Synod with a Diocesan Synod scheduled to begin on October 17, 2021. Coinciding with the 140th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Trenton, I celebrated a beautiful Mass in our Cathedral in Trenton for the opening of the Diocesan phase of the Synod. To coordinate all Diocesan activities related to the Synod, I appointed Mary Liz Ivins, former long-time principal and president of Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, and Deacon Patrick Brannigan, former Executive Director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference and deacon at St. James Parish in Pennington. They began their work immediately and I am grateful to them.
On October 17, 2021, I issued a pastoral letter on the Synod as well as a decree opening the diocesan phase of the Synod. These documents are accessible on the diocesan website along with my video-taped message explaining the synodal process at www.dioceseoftrenton.org/XVI-Synod.
With 2021 behind us, I encourage the clergy and faithful of the Diocese to take advantage of these resources and to participate in the “listening sessions” during the new year in your parishes or other places where they are scheduled. If possible, invite someone you know who may feel alienated by the Church to come with you. I realize that some people may react with cynicism at what the Church is attempting to accomplish here. As your Bishop, I ask them/you to temper that reaction and to respond with openness and true Christian faith and hope and charity to the invitation of our Holy Father.
Remember the words of the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, “Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).” Let’s put our hope and trust in God.
As we continue to celebrate our 140th anniversary, may God bless the Diocese of Trenton in the year ahead!
Read Bishop O’Connell’s reflection in full HERE.
Catholics urged to contact legislators to defend life and oppose proposed legislation
On Thursday, January 6, 2022, the New Jersey Legislature advanced S49/A6260, legislation similar to the proposed S3030/A4848 “Reproductive Freedom Act.” This new legislation would codify in state law the right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. The bill will be voted on by the full Senate and Assembly on this coming Monday, January 10.
In writing Jan. 5 to legislators representing citizens of the Diocese, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., urged them in the strongest possible terms not to allow this legislation to move forward. “Consider what is at stake in the content and consequences of this legislation,” he stated. “It is not simply a matter of ‘choice’ or even ‘freedom.’ The Act being proposed is concerned with human life at its very beginning and its intentional termination and destruction.”
Visit HERE to access an Action Alert and to learn more about this proposed legislation that denies all rights of a child in the womb, and please contact your Senate and Assembly representatives encouraging them to oppose and vote against this bill.
On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, let us recall that both John and Jesus were unborn children in their mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth and heard the words, “Blessed are you among women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Low enrollment prompts closure plans for Mother Seton Academy, Howell
Citing persistent enrollment challenges, rising costs and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the co-directors of Mother Seton Academy in Howell announced Jan. 7 that the pre-K through 8 school will close June 30, 2022.
In a letter addressing MSA’s families, educators and staff, the pastors of the school’s two sponsoring parishes — Father John P. Bambrick of St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, and Father Peter J. Alindogan of St. Veronica Parish, Howell – wrote: “As co-directors of Mother Seton Academy, we write to you today to announce a sad, but unavoidable decision about the future of our school. After careful analysis of enrollment and financial challenges; consultation with advisors at the parish and diocesan levels, and prayerful discernment of any available options, we must formally announce the closing of Mother Seton Academy at the end of the present school year.”
Read the full press release about Mother Seton Academy HERE.