JACKSON – Catholic schools at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson and St. Veronica Church in Howell Township will merge into one large catholic academy. Rumors have been circulating as to what that merger will mean for the property vacated in Jackson after the current school year is complete.
The merger announcement was made on Jan. 7. The school posted an announcement to both its website and Facebook pages, stating: “Two strong and successful Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Trenton – situated just over three miles apart – will pool their resources and efforts to become a newly-established Catholic Academy that will open its doors in September, 2019.”
According to St. Aloysius and St. Veronica officials, the two schools will merge once the current school year is complete to become the Mother Seton Academy. Father John Bambrick, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, and Father Vincent Euk, pastor of St. Veronica Parish, agreed that the merger would strengthen the Catholic education in the local community, noting that both schools already have a “solid foundation” on which to build.
Plans for the merger and the new name were approved in December 2018 by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. The namesake of the future “Mother Seton Academy” is Mother Seton, or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, “the first native born citizen to be canonized and the founder of the first American religious community, the Sisters of Charity.”
Mother Seton Academy will have a new administration, teaching staff and mission. It’s teaching staff will include teachers from both schools. According to school officials, the school will move into what is now the St. Veronica School, as it is slightly larger, has an athletic field, and is easily accessible from major roads like Route 195 and Route 9.
Rumors surrounding the future of the St Aloysius property were set straight recently by Pastor Bambrick. “The Diocese of Trenton Office of Catholic School informed us of a number of rumors coming from the Toms River area and they have asked us to address some of the questions,” Bambrick said.
Bambrick addressed rumors that were set to originate from the internet stating the church property was sold to the Orthodox Jewish community as false. “We did not sell anything to the Orthodox Jewish community. We do, for the record, have an excellent relationship with our Jewish neighbors, they are kind good people who love God.”
Bambick also dispelled rumors of any secret negotiations to rent the property to the Orthodox Jewish community. “We are not presently in negotiations to rent to anyone. We are not presently or actively looking to rent a building we use.”
While the church has received inquiries about the property, Bambrick said none of them came from Orthodox Jewish persons or Orthodox Jewish organizations.
Bambrick said that “we are not presently considering rental. Our focus is on closing out the current school year, hiring staff and a principal for Mother Seton Academy. We are diligently working on preparations for the opening of Mother Seton Academy. This is our primary focus and one that is time consuming. After this process is complete, we will consider other options but again at present our primary focus is the Academy.”
As to renting the property in the future, Bambrick said “we may, who knows what the future holds. However, we use the building extensively for our own purposes so we probably won’t but that is not set in stone. Currently we are focused singularly on Mother Seton Academy, our future jointly sponsored parish school.”
Bambrick, who spoke out against anti-Semitism at a press conference held last month in the Jackson municipal complex and later during a Jackson Council meeting held that same evening, said “most of the rumors, gossip and innuendo are aimed at fear of the Orthodox Jewish community.
“We must ask, why is there fear of the Jewish people? The Church deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews. They are good neighbors and good citizens,” he said. “This is a free country and each may choose or not choose to believe in a deity, may choose to live wherever they wish. Would you want to be told where you can and cannot live?”
The pastor called on those who are spreading misinformation not “use our parish or school or merger to spread fear and hatred, we don’t teach it here and we don’t tolerate it here either.”