Catholic News Service has the latest:
A small group of parishioners at a village in southern New Jersey opened 2011 by vowing to maintain a prayerful vigil in their closed church around the clock indefinitely even though they face possible legal action by local authorities.
Leah Vassallo, a parishioner at the closed church, St. Mary Parish in Malaga, in the Camden Diocese, said the vigil began spontaneously over the New Year’s Day weekend after a church door was discovered open.
“It wasn’t planned,” said Vassallo, who is involved in an organization called Save St. Mary’s Malaga. “But when the opportunity was there, we figured it was time to do it.”
The discovery led a handful of parishioners to begin a vigil in the church, which was closed Nov. 9. The closing was discovered when parishioners arrived at the church and found a letter signed by Father Edward Namiotka, recently assigned as pastor, saying the building had been closed.
The letter cited the need to replace a boiler and said that because the church was subject of a merger with two other neighboring parishes, there was no need to keep the building open.
A spokesman for the diocese in Camden, about 30 miles north of Malaga, said local law enforcement and health department authorities would be notified that people were in the building by the end of the day Jan. 3.
“We don’t have any plans at the moment to do anything else,” said Peter Feuerherd, diocesan director of communications.
He maintained that St. Mary continues to exist as a parish and that only the building was closed.
Feuerherd said the appearance of parishioners in the church came as a surprise. But he disputed the claim that the church was open.
“The response of the diocese is that the group entered a locked building,” Feuerherd told CNS. “We don’t know how.”
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