The First Two Years
(Taken from 1977’s commemorative booklet)
The formation of a new parish in the Absecon area of Atlantic County was formally announced by Bishop George H. Guilfoyle, Bishop of the Diocese of Camden, in the January 17, 1975 issue of the Diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Star Herald. The new parish had the distinction of being the first Roman Catholic parish in the United States to be named after the soon to be canonized St. Elizabeth Ann Seton . Father Michael J. Coyne was appointed its founding pastor.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church serves an area including Absecon, Conovertown, Seaview Park , and parts of Galloway Township . The religious needs of the Catholics in these areas had previously been satisfied by the existing parishes of Assumption, Pomona and St. Peter, Pleasantville.
The new parish had a rich beginning. Five acres of land in Absecon, a small chapel built on this area, a recently purchased house (by the Camden Diocese), property adjoining the main plot, and use of the facilities at the Diocesan high school located in Absecon were to serve as the main foundation in formation of the parish. The acquisition of the future church site and the creation of the chapel were accomplished while Msgr. Gottfried Keis was pastor of Assumption Church , Pomona . With these building blocks Fr. Coyne began his assignment of serving the new Christian Community by celebrating the first Mass on Sunday, February 2, 1975 . Almost immediately was Fr. Coyne to realize that he had at his disposal a great number of talented and enthusiastic parishioners who were able to help him in his newly assigned task. Fr. George Weber assisted Fr. Coyne with his religious duties at this time.
On February 3, 1975 settlement was made on the property that now exists as the rectory. Before Fr. Coyne took up parish residence he performed the first parish Baptism. Robert Adams Reed was baptized on Sunday, February 9, 1975 . The next day Fr. Coyne physically moved into the parish.
The first of many changes began as the small ranch house on 591 New Jersey Avenue mushroomed into a two story rectory. Completely remodeled into a home for the parish priests, the rectory now contains offices for the pastor and his assistant, CCD offices and supply areas, and an all purpose meeting room. The Ceremony of Installation of Fr. Michael J. Coyne as founding pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church was held on Sunday, March 9, 1975 at 6:00 P.M. in Holy Spirit High School. Joining the many parishioners, twenty eight priests participated in a con-celebrated Mass to witness this historic religious ceremony. Msgr. Joseph Doherty, Vicar General of the Camden Diocese and Pastor of Blessed Sacrament, Margate , was the presiding Diocesan official. Following the ceremony, seven hundred people attended a wine and cheese party in Holy Spirit High School cafeteria. Msgr. Gottfried Keis, founding Pastor of Assumption, Pomona was the principal speaker at this first parish celebration.
In late winter, Fr. Coyne sought to develop the parish CCD program. An outstanding response of many concerned and willing parishioners was received. Use of the classroom facilities at Holy Spirit High School began with a full staff of teachers and aids. By early spring the first sacramental classes had fulfilled their commitments and were ready to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist on Wednesday, April 9, 1975 , fifty one students received their First Penance. Mother's Day of 1975 was chosen for fifty two students to receive their First Communion at the 9:00 A.M. Mass. The first May Crowning of the parish followed.
In June the Cyrenean Club began to take shape, and Fr. Coyne's generosity toward those giving of their talents was realized. On June 19, 1975 , he celebrated a special Mass of Thanksgiving for the teachers and aids who had participated in the CCD program. Following the Mass, the first annual CCD Appreciation Dinner was enjoyed by the faculty and their spouses at a local restaurant. The Mass of Thanksgiving and the Appreciation Dinner now traditionally close the CCD school year.
Summer brought some drastic changes in the young parish's life. According to civil and canon law a parish has the status of a corporation, and a corporation must have two trustees. Fr. Coyne announced the appointment of Francis Blee and Edward Me Nierney as the trustees of the parish on July 6, 1975 .
Open house for the remodeled rectory on July 6, 1975 , gave the congregation a glimpse into Fr. Coyne's nature as a man who gets results. The original $37,000 investment was improved with $18,000 worth of renovations and additions. All were invited to "come and see the house Mike built."
August of 1975 can be considered the month of new faces. Suddenly the rectory was filled with a concerned staff ready to satisfy the diversified needs of the community. The first appointed assistant, Fr. John Vignone, arrived to assume the duties of his first priesthood assignment. He soon proved to be a valued compliment to the founding pastor.
Fr. John Vignone graduated from Seton Hall University , South Orange , N. J. and attended Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington , N. J. Fr. John was ordained a deacon on Holy Thursday of 1974 and served as a deacon in Christ the King Parish, Haddonfield, N. J. He was ordained a priest on May 24, 1975 at Christ the King Church . Father John was assigned to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church as the first assistant on August 14, 1975 . Fr. John received his Master of Divinity degree on June 5, 1976 from Immaculate Conception Seminary.
For months Fr. Coyne had labored to have a Director of Religious Education assigned to his infant parish and Sr. Rita Francis, O.S.F. was the answer to many prayers and pleas. Sr. Rita began her position as the first Director of Religious Education of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church before the 1975 school year began. Although she works long hours in the parish, she still maintains an active life with her religious community of sisters in her home, St. Nicholas Convent, Egg Harbor .
Sister Rita Francis is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia . She made her first profession of vows on August 11, 1940 . Sister Rita has a B.S. degree in Education from Villanova University and a M.A. degree in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, PA. Sr. Rita has taught on the primary and secondary levels, besides teaching CCD. She has served as a Principal, Convent Superior, Coordinator of Religious Education, Organist, Choir Director and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist prior to her coming to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Sister was assigned to this parish in June 1975 and arrived in August of 1975 to assume her duties as the first parish Director of Religious Education.
It now became apparent that a parish secretary was needed and applications were reviewed. Kathy Taylor, an active parishioner became the first parish secretary and started her job in the rectory complex. Kathy held her position until February of 1976. Her family's relocation was the reason for her departure.
An S 0 S from the rectory was posted to secure the first rectory housekeeper. Ruth Hale soon filled the needed position.
Now the rectory was humming with activity. Preparations were being made for the historic canonization of the patroness of the parish on September 14, 1975 . While Pope Paul VI celebrated the official canonization of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton in Rome , Bishop George H. Guilfoyle was the celebrant and homilist at 11:00 A.M. concelebrated Mass in the newly established parish at Holy Spirit High School. It seemed fitting that this ceremony should take place in a school since Mother Seton is considered the foundress of the Catholic school system in America .
Hundreds gathered to rejoice with the parishioners and clergy to pay homage to the first American born saint. The liturgy, auditorium decorations and jubilation of the congregation reflected the mood that, "She was a woman, a very special woman." The parish used this special occasion to hold the first parish dinner at Holy Spirit High School.
Bishop James L. Shad, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Camden, represented the area in the canonization festivities at Rome . Upon his return Bishop Shad brought several gifts given by the Pope to commemorate this singular event. The gifts included a first class relic of Elizabeth Seton, a large metal medallion struck in the new saints image and honor, and a copy of the canonization liturgy actually used during the Rome ceremony. The relic and medallion were to be enshrined in the new church building and the ceremony text was to be placed in the church's cornerstone.
At the end of this busy September, Fr. John began his duty as moderator of the newly formed youth group. The new CCD school year began and the parish began losing its neophyte characteristics.
In November the choir was formed and December brought about many preparations for the first Christmas holidays. The founding pastor again displayed his deep generosity toward his many hard working parishioners by giving a Christmas party in their honor. December 14, 1975 can mark the beginning of the annual Christmas party tradition. This date also marks the anniversary of the first parish raffle drawing.
The first Christmas of the parish was a beautiful holiday. Fr. John with the help of members from the youth group and other parishioners used the funds supplied by specific memorial donations to transform the chapel and auditorium into charming displays of the season. The congregation could only anticipate how lovely the first Christmas would be when a church would be completed. The choir made its debut, the parishioners were caught in the infectious spirit of community and the clergy had found a home in the hearts of the congregation.
1975 was truly a growing experience for many. It is not often that an individual can participate in the formation of a parish.
The first celebration of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast day on January 4, 1976 began the second calendar year in the new church's history. Now attention moved from the idea of parish alone to the realization that a permanent church facility could be erected in the near future. Parish events of '76 followed in the patterns formed in the previous year. The building of the church now began in earnest. The plans and subsequent accomplishments are of such interest that a separate, detailed account is given.
In March of 1976 Betty Jane Kane, a parishioner, filled the position of parish secretary vacated by Kathy Taylor. One of her first duties was assisting in the necessary preparation for the parish's first celebration of Confirmation. Bishop Guilfoyle made his second visit to the parish on April 17, 1976 to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to one hundred ten candidates.
The growing parish life became evident as many different activities took place. The parish gained a well rounded makeup. In November of 1976 Fr. Coyne, Sr. Rita and Fr. John saw a need for unity in the field of parish liturgies. From this decision the Liturgical Committee was formed.
As 1975 can be called the year of parish formation and 1976 can be named the year of building plans and decisions, 1977 must be titled the year of construction.
1977 began in the country's most severe winter, but January 30th warmed the hearts of parishioners as ground was broken for the much anticipated church. Watching the church grow from foundation to roof became the favorite pastime and an item of conversation for many of the congregation.
In nine months the complex was ready for use. The parish held festivities over a ten day period beginning with an "Open House" on Sunday, November 13, 1977 . The following week various Masses were offered for the intentions of those donating to the building and memorializing deceased member of the parish. Bishop George H. Guilfoyle made his third visit to the parish on Saturday, November 19, 1977 to bless and lay the church's cornerstone. A concelebrated Mass followed in the new church. The parish celebrated the joyous event by sponsoring a cocktail hour, dinner, and dance in the new hall. The first ecumenical service was held in the new church on November 22, 1977 . And parishioners gathered for a Thanksgiving Liturgy on November 23, 1977 . The parishioners, friends, Fr. Coyne, Fr. John and Sr. Rita had a happy Thanksgiving. Great foundations had been laid, a parish was formed, a patroness was canonized, and a beautiful church complex had been completed in less than three years. It was a time for jubilation and praise, thanksgiving and hope, and a fulfillment of Christ's teachings.
This was not an end, but a new beginning to live the Chistian way of life. All can now anticipate the future celebrations in the new church and the growth of religious convictions. The past three years are a living proof that God has guided and blessed his children. It is now fitting that all follow the last words of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton , "Be Ye Children of the Church."
CONTINUING CHRISTIAN DEVELOPMENT
With just pride, the parishioners can boast of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton C C D (Continuing Christian Development) Program as one of the best in the Diocese. Under the guidance of Sr. Rita Francis, O.S.F., the parish Director of Religious Education, a comprehensive and complex educational system has flourished. The CCD organization offers the teachings of the church to students from age five to adult and child-parent as well.
The largest segment of the CCD system is the regular teaching of Christian Doctrine to the school age children. On Sunday mornings from 10:00 A.M. to 11:15 A.M. 418 students, ages five to fourteen, attend classes in the east wing of Holy Spirit High School. Forty six teachers and aids of various ages and backgrounds freely give of their time and ability to staff the twenty seven classes of children from kindergarten to eighth grade. Five additional staff members are present to handle materials and equipment. Sr. Rita, Fr. John Vignone, and Fr. Michael Coyne make regular visits in the classrooms to observe procedures, talk with the students, instruct, and aid in any religious problems. The children react warmly to the closeness of the clergy and bonds of friendship and respect have grown. Students learn in an atmosphere of Christian love, witness and service. The Christian system of values are exemplified in the relationship among students and religious.
Classes for special education students are also held regularly by a qualified special education teacher in a home situation. In addition, twenty teenagers and adults make up a fine corps of helpers and regular substitutes.
Adults have opportunities to continue their Catholic education too. Sr. Rita initiated and teaches an adult class in analyzing the scriptures during the week. The scripture class began in autumn of 1976. Lecture classes on the scriptures have also been sponsored by the CCD program affording night classes for those who desire to attend.
In response to the changes in procedure concerning the sacraments, various workshops are held for parents. Those having children receiving Baptism, First Penance, First Communion and Confirmation meet on several occasions before the sacrament is received. These workshops explain any changes in the administering of the sacrament and also give guide lines to the parents on how to create an atmosphere for the child to gain an exciting religious experience.
Sr. Rita, Fr. John and Fr. Coyne also explain the sacrament programs the children are working with in CCD or at Assumption School . All students, no matter what school system they attend, receive the sacraments together as young parishioners. Christian Community is stressed in student classes as well as in the parent preparation sessions.
ASSUMPTION REGIONAL SCHOOL
On July 1, 1975 the parish school of Assumption Church formally became the Assumption Regional School serving the areas of Assumption Parish and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Both parishes share the financial responsibility for the school and that share is determined by the number of Catholic families registered in each parish. The school is administered by the principal who is a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Allegheny , New York , the pastors of both churches, and a lay board of education.
Sister Ursula is the present principal. The regional school board is represented by members of both parishes. Parishioners of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who have served or are serving on the board are Addie Blee, Mary Lou Carberry, Loretta Conover, Rose Fellin, Mark Marrone, Martin Ney and Ed Seiler. There are 69 students attending Assumption Regional School from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish for the 1977 school year.
Father Coyne has impressed upon the parish, the importance of prayer in daily life. In an effort to bring the many benefits of special prayer services to the church members several liturgies were initiated in 1976. These liturgies have been met with tremendous acceptance and attendance.
In May of 1976 special monthly Wedding Anniversary Masses were innovated. On the third Wednesday of every month the 7:00 P.M. Mass is designated to celebrate the wedding anniversaries of parishioners during the month. The anniversary couples renew their marriage vows during the ceremony.
Novena devotions were begun in September of 1976. The first novena was dedicated to the parish patroness, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton . The response to this type of devotion warranted succeeding novenas to be held in honor of St. Jude and the Blessed Mother. A novena to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was again held in the autumn of 1977. These novenas will continue on a rotating basis.
Parish pilgrimages and trips to various meetings and rallies of important Catholic moral issues in the area have had great support from the congregation. The first Parish pilgrimage to the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg , Maryland enlightened many to the virtues of this new saint.
The first May Crowning of the Blessed Mother immediately followed the first celebration of First Communion in the new Parish on Sunday, May 11, 1975 . The purpose of a May Crowning is to remind us all that Mary is our Mother and that May is a month specially devoted to her. The first May crowner was Cynthia Erdman. Cindy was chosen by chance from the members of the First Communion class. In 1976 a crown bearer was added to the ceremony. The practice of picking the crowner and crown bearer from the members of the First Communion class still remains.
LEGION OF MARY
The Legion of Mary was started in the Absecon area in August of 1973, and used Assumption Church , Pomona , as its parish. The first officers of the organization were President, Anthony Skelly; Vice President, Rose Fenton; Treasurer, Helen Caivano; and Secretary, Mary Warner.
When St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish was established the Legion moved their organization into the new parish. The Legion of Mary performs many tasks in the form of Christian service. Members cared for the Chapel and its grounds. Various members visit the sick, aid the invalid, and participate in various church functions. Members also meet weekly to pray the rosary together. Fr. Coyne is the Spiritual Advisor of the Legion.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church has sought to satisfy all the needs and interests of the community. In the area of Ecumenical services, the new parish has been very active. An interesting and well attended Ecumenical Lenten Series has highlighted the Lenten seasons in the past. Yearly, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners maintain an integral part of the Absecon Vacation Bible School Program. November 22, 1977 marked the celebration of an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service in the new church. The parishioners were very pleased to share their enthusiasm and delight in the building and facilities with other members of the Christian Community.
In late autumn of 1976 the parish administration decided that unification of liturgical oriented groups was needed. Fr. John Vignone, associate pastor, assumed the duty of moderator and helped form the liturgical committee. Emil Buckow was chosen chairman. Members represent the choir, guitar group, leaders of song, organists, lectors, altar boys and parishioners. The committee attended a program of three workshops sponsored by the Diocesan Liturgical Committee. Aim, purpose, and educational goals were developed from the input at meetings.
The committee meets monthly to plan, perfect, educate, and play a role in the spiritual formation of parish community, especially in regard to all liturgy celebrations. The committee to run more efficiently has formed two sub-committees of art and music. Youth representatives have also been added to have a complete cross section of the parish.
The parish choir began forming in November of 1975. Joan Sbrolla, an experienced music teacher, has directed the twenty women and men since this time. The 'choir made its first public appearance at Midnight Mass on Christmas of 1975. Presently, the choir practices weekly and prepares extensively for the major holydays. It also performs at one regular Mass monthly. The choir spent many hours preparing for the dedication ceremonies in the new church. The choir welcomes anyone with a mature singing voice, regardless of age, to join.
The Joseph W. Tully Guitar Group was formed in 1967 by Joe and Gert Tully to satisfy various needs of the youth in the community. The group's primary function is to play and sing for Mass on Sundays, but the groups activities are more complex. About 70 youths, ages 8 to 17, are members and willingness to learn the guitar and the ability to work with others are the only requirements for membership. The group meets in the Tully home for weekly lessons. Seventeen girls and boys regularly play for Church liturgies. The group also participates in Christian service by playing for various hospitals and religious institutions. Joe Tully has compiled and copywriter the music books used by the group and the church congregation.
FUND RAISING SOCIALS
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church has been blessed with many parishioners who give to the fullest of their time, energy, knowledge and experience to make even the simplest church affair a great success. There have been many varied functions in the short church history but each has gained great benefits for the parish while offering an enjoyable time to those patronizing them.
Some of the events have even begun their own traditions whereby many individuals look forward to attending them while others anticipate the creating of another St. Elizabeth Ann Seton pleasant experience. To list the many dedicated and tireless individuals who have contributed so freely to the good of their church is indeed a great task. There are so many people who have helped in so many varied ways that to record all the information is impossible. To prevent hurting any individual who may go unrecognized by omission only the firsts of the varied events have been listed.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church has also been innovative by introducing to the area the idea of varied raffles. It is interesting to note that other groups have tried to imitate but can never duplicate the successes achieved by the innovators.
FUND RAISING SOCIAL FIRSTS
1975 September 14 First Parish Dinner
December Freezer of Beef and Freezer Raffle
1976 February 29 Spaghetti Dinner
March 13 Parish Dance
April 9 Fashion Show Food Raffle
August 22 Chicken Bar-B.Q.
September 26 Breakfast
Plans for the Cyrenian Club began formulating in June of 1975. The purpose of the club is to aid with the financial burden of building and running a church while giving an incentive and reward to the members. The club derives its name from the incident of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry His cross on the road to Calvary . The club works on the following principles : One hundred captains or promoters became members and they in turn must ask ten individuals to be members of the club. All members pay $1.00 per week membership dues. Total membership never exceeds 1100 members. Once a week a member's number is picked by chance and that number receives $500.00. The captain who sponsored that member receives $100.00, ($50.00 if 10 members are not sponsored by the promoter) and the parish benefits by gaining $500.00.
David and Marion Boney, Paul Carberry, Mary Lou Carberry, Lou and Marge Crist and Ed Seller are the parishioners who organized the captains and helped distribute the tickets. The first Cyrenean Club winner was Pat Kerstetter with No. 470 the lucky number. The first drawing was held on Sunday, July 20, 1975 . Terry Palmentieri waa the first winning captain.
The Parish youth group first met on Sunday, September 28, 1975 in the rectory annex. Father John Vignone assumed duties as moderator. The first major project was the refurbishing of the meeting area. The first youth advisory board members were: Jim Wenz, Mia Campo, Liz Ann dark, and Judy Hurd.
The youth group is a religious, social, cultural and service oriented organization. In the past the group has participated in the C.Y.O. sports programs, sponsored various dances and decorated the chapel and Holy Spirit High School auditorium for the Christmas and Easter holydays.
YEAR OF PLANS AND DECISIONS
1976 may have been the much anticipated Bi-Centennial year for Americans but for the parishioners of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton it will be remembered as the year of plans and decisions toward the building of the church facility.
In February of 1976, Father Michael J. Coyne, Founding Pastor, appointed a building committee to oversee the erecting of a church complex to suit the needs of a growing Catholic community. The building committee consisted of eight parishioners, Father John Vignone, first appointed Associate, Sister Rita Francis, O.S.F., Director of Religious Education, and Father Coyne. The committee approached the task immediately and questionnaires were mailed to 720 parishioners with 189 responding. Results showed that the people desired the facilities be completed within one to two years. A church with an adjoining all-purpose hall, contemporary in design, with a seating capacity of 350-600, within a price range of $400,000 to $500,000 was the consensus.
In March, 1976, the finance committee was appointed to study the manner in which to obtain funds. It decided that a program guided by a consultant would be the most advantageous approach to realize the necessary funds for the complex. The man selected for the position was Joseph "Len" Reilly.
As the program began operation, it became necessary to hire a secretary-bookkeeper and Ellen Coyne, a parishioner, was hired for this position. When a meeting was held at Holy Spirit auditorium, the parish participation resulted in the kick-off of a fund raising program. Rose Fenton and Stan Marczyk were appointed co-chairpersons. That evening it was also decided that there would be three phases to the campaign, memorial, founders and general.
Herb Kraker was elected to head the memorial phase and captains and committees were instructed to start contacting interested persons. Parishioners and friends responded. favorably with pledges. In May the founders phase was initiated and this too was received favorably. And finally the general phase was completed in June.
When all results were tabulated it was clear that the enthusiastic efforts had exceeded all expectations. The entire community was jubilant and celebrated with a party which included friends, committees and contributors.
Meanwhile the building committee interviewed five architects, Von Uffel & Russo of Haddonfield, N. J., was approved and appointed by the committee, Pastor, and the Diocese. Sketches and drawings of the proposed church and hall were soon on display for the parishioners. In October the elevations and blueprints of the Church and hall were submitted to the building committee and plans went out for bids. In November bids were opened and it was announced that the general contractor would be Roland Aristone, of Marlton, N. J., with a basic bid of $539,170.
GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY
Less than two years after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish was formed, clergy, friends, and parishioners (young and old) gathered for the official ground breaking ceremony. The winter of 1977 may go down in American history as one of the most severe but the freezing temperatures did not deter the many well wishers.
On January 30, 1977 the dream of many began to materialize. Bundled against the cold, Fr. Michael J. Coyne, Founding Pastor, blessed and broke the ground for the new church. Two shovels had been donated for the happy occasion and Fr. Coyne had a difficult task to turn the frozen sod with each. Sister Corda Marie, Superior General of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia , braved the cold to be with the parish on such a happy day.
Fr. Coyne's prayer for this special day summed up the feelings of all those present. "Heavenly Father, You made the earth and from it you made man. From You everything good takes its origin and receives its steady and full growth. We ask You to bless this ground on which we will build a church and hall in which You will be honored and worshipped and in which we will grow spiritually and socially. As we open the ground and lay a foundation for this building, we ask You to open our hearts to let in Your Son, Jesus, so that He will be the foundation of life. Bless the people of our community, reward them for their goodness and may they always have warm hearts and warm homes. We ask this through Christ Our Lord.”
On November 13, 1977 the doors of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church were opened to the public for the first time. Open house of the new church brought friends, parishioners, area ministers and clergy, and many well wishers in to see the completed structure. Members of the building committee and liturgical committee were guides posted about the complex. The guides explained the many points of interest to the visitors. A slide presentation of the building progress was shown at regular intervals. Visitors were treated to refreshments served in the hall. The Open House proved to be a day of local interest and enjoyment
DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church was dedicated on November 19, 1977 . Bishop George H. Guilfoyle, Bishop of the Diocese of Camden, blessed and placed the cornerstone at a 5:00 p.m. ceremony. A concelebrated Mass attended by area clergy and parishioners immediately followed. Fr. Michael Coyne, Founding Pastor, gave the first homily in the new church. Fr. James Durkin, assistant to the Bishop, was the Master of Ceremony with Fr. John Vignone, first parish assistant, acting as assistant Master of Ceremony. The diligent preparations by the choir, guitar group, and liturgical committee enhanced this festive and historic celebration.
The parish continued its festivities by sponsoring a cocktail party, dinner, and dance in the new social hall. Three hundred fifty people helped to christen the new hall. Msgr. Joseph Stoerlein, a native of Absecon, was the guest speaker. According to available records, Msgr. Stoerlein is the first and only ordained priest from the town of Absecon . Other invited guests included Msgr. Martin McMahon, Dean of Atlantic County, Msgr. Joseph Doherty, Vicar General of the Diocese of Camden, Msgr. Gottfried Keis, Founding Pastor of Assumption, Sr. Rose Cecilia, Vicar General of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia , and Sr. Catherine Miller, Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis. Bernard Garbowski was the Master of Ceremony for the gala evening.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH
The first church designated and dedicated to the first American born saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton , was designed by Von Uffel and Russo of Haddonfield. The architects have created a multipurpose facility combining modern ecclesiastical design with materials depicting the seashore character of the area. White stone and wood shingles were used in the exterior construction to insure a total natural effect.
Roland Aristone of Marlton was the general contractor. John F. Meade, Inc. of Merchantville was the electrical contractor and John H. Moore Co. of Atlantic City was the plumbing contractor. The main entry from the parking lot has a long covered walkway which provides shelter from inclement weather. This entry opens into the center of the narthex of the building. To the right of the entry, the narthex becomes the vestibule of the church.
The nave of the church is modern and octagonal covering over 5,000 sq. ft. The church holds 450 worshipers comfortably. The altar is the focal point with a back wall of imported Italian marble. Columnar stained glass windows rise 29 ft. to act as a back drop for the eleven foot cross and six foot statue of the Resurrected Christ. Four and one half foot statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph flank the altar. The statues of the Risen Lord, Mary, Joseph, and the sixteen inch stations of the cross, which line the sides of the nave, are of contemporary design and were specially carved in Italy . The figures are carved in wood and then pastel tinted for a warm, natural appearance.
The altar, pulpit, lectern, altar furniture and pews are made of solid oak with a natural finish. They were manufactured by the New Holland Church Furniture Co. of New Holland, Pa, The white stone, wood paneling, and the wood laminated steel arches fuse with the russet carpet and pale marble to create a simple and warm tone. The carpet was supplied by Avalon Tile and Carpet Co. of Northfield.
The columned windows along the sides of the altar and church, and the large triangular window at the rear of the nave were constructed by Roy A. Calligan, Jr. of Cumberland , Maryland . The large window depicts the descent of the Holy Spirit. The colors in all windows allow light to filter through and reflect on the altar area.
At the rear of the nave is a shrine to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton , two modern reconciliation rooms and a small chapel. The interior chapel can be used for daily Mass and as an overflow area from the nave. Three windows of faceted glass reflect light onto the chapel altar and cedar plank walls. The chapel is 432 sq. ft. in area and has seating for thirty five. The chapel also has its own entrance from a hall leading to the narthex. The narthex acts as a lobby to the church hall and also allows access to the sacristy, lavatories and a small meeting room.
The church hall is over 4500 square feet and provides seating room for 350 people. A stage area of 12 feet by 20 feet is to the front of the building. A kitchen and storage rooms are conveniently off of the main area. Large glare proof, bronze framed windows line two sides of the social hall and run along the length of the narthex. The narthex provides a meeting area for parishioners before and after services, affords a delightful view of the front gardens, and provides a dramatic background for the oil portrait of the patron saint.
The cedar roof supports a 36 foot steeple and a four foot golden cross. The steel framed, aluminum steeple houses a four-speaker carillon.
The immediate area surrounding the church provides parking for 150 cars. Landscaping around the building has utilized the flora of the Absecon area.
The Setonian is the official parish newsletter. Designed to keep parishioners informed of parish news concerning religious, educational and social importance, the Setonian is mailed directly to the homes. It first appeared in August of 1976 and has been distributed approximately every three months.