A History of the Catholic Church in Woodlynne
On August 2, 1949 the Most Reverend Bartholomew J. Eustace appointed the Reverend James Zegerts pastor of the newly-formed parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Up until that time the faithful of Woodlynne were parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish in Camden, NJ. The Mass was temporarily celebrated in the Borough Hall while renovations were completed on the existing former bank building at the corner of Cooper and Woodlynne Avenues. From the time of the completed renovations in 1950 until 1964, this was the church for the parish. The building was literally on the corner of the property. From its humble beginnings the parish thrived. The Sacraments were celebrated and the grounds were landscaped. A Statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was erected on the grounds in time for the first May Crowning that fourteenth day May 1950. There were groups formed and devotions started and clubs created. The new church had the first Confirmation of 80 girls and boys on May 1, 1951. Over the next few years there were several changes of pastors by Bishop Eustace. There was an 11 – 14 Dance Club formed that was chaperoned by the parents which met in the church basement. In 1955 a basketball team was organized and they joined the CYO league. There was a Junior Holy Name Society who formed another team and a cheer leading group too. In 1957 the vested Holy Name Society formed a Choir. There was Nocturnal Adoration on the eve of First Fridays too. The men of the Holy Name Society kept the vigil by turns throughout the night. CCD was started November of 1957. The year between 1958 and 1959 they welcomed 15 new converts in their version on RCIA classes.
Through the next few years the parishioners were participating in many fund raising efforts to attain their goal of building a beautiful new church for the new parish. This effort culminated in the April 13, 1963 signing of the contract to build the current church as it stands today. It was through many years of sacrifices and prayers that this was accomplished. The Church was constructed in an L- shape so that construction could be accomplished around the old renovated bank building they were using for services. When the project was completed the old structure was removed and the ground filled in and landscaped much as we see it today. Eventually the windows which were specially designed to prepare for the installation of stained glass were completed. They each have a dedication included in their construction that indicates the person or families or organizations who donated them in memoriam. Some of the older parishioners remember many fund raisings event or activities that were held over the years to pay down and eventually payoff the debt incurred by the building project. The last pastor before the current administration was Father Eugene Walsh. I’m told he was quite the cook and a great administrator too. Before he officially retired he told the congregation that he was leaving with a debt free parish that had money in the bank. They tell me there was 2 carnival Saturdays held usually during July. The food, the Beer, and the fun and games all contributed to the parish coffers. The people had breakfasts and luncheons at times in the church basement and there were usually inexpensive items, food, and desserts for sale to raise money for the debt. The parishioners volunteered for most of the chores around the facility too. The Ushers helped Father with landscaping duties and the Alter and Rosary ladies helped with some housekeeping duties. The Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality and the Altar Boys’ Society joined with all the other groups mentioned to make Immaculate Heart of Mary a successful, vibrant, growing parish in its day. Times changed though and slowly the parishioner base dissipated. The Older faithful moved away or died and the children were not as apt to participate actively in the church as their parents. By the time Father Joseph An Nguyen and the Vietnamese community arrived, in 2000, Woodlynne Community and Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish were scattered and few. The years since have seen quite a renewal for the church. Once again there is new life and breath. The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well. There has been revamped climate control and a new roof for the church and the rectory provided by the St. Joseph the Carpenter group and the families of the parish.
We have found ourselves lately to be caught up in the efforts by our current bishop to address the dwindling religious personnel problem as well as the changes in populations and attitudes of the “Faithful”. It has become our responsibility to merge our expending community at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish with Transfiguration Parish to hopefully provide fertile ground for the future of a combined “new” parish.