The Church of the Holy Family is located in the Wedgwood Section of Washington Township in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Prior to its founding, this part of the Garden State was comprised of wooded areas, fruitful orchards and rich farm land. In the 1960’s, as families moved east from Philadelphia and south from New York and Northern New Jersey, neighborhoods began to spring up amidst the trees.
At that time, tiny Grenloch, the oldest neighborhood in our parish community—originally belonging to St. Patrick’s in Woodbury, and the territory that now comprises Holy Family was served by St. Jude Parish in nearby Blackwood. By 1967 the number of families in the area had increased to the point where it was necessary to schedule a regular Sunday Mass in the second floor meeting room of the Wedgwood Country Club. A few years later, continued growth lead to the creation of a new parish named Saints Peter and Paul in the Turnersville section of Washington Township on August 22, 1973. Sunday Masses were moved from the Country Club to the Birches School. Now Monsignor Timothy Ryan was named its first pastor and was assisted by Fr. John Bernard and Seminarian, now Father John Cavagnaro. These men established the parish house at 2 Ivy Court.
Bishop George H. Guilfoyle recognizing that Washington Township would continue to grow at a quick pace decided to create a second new parish for the Township and so on October 30, 1974 he created the Church of the Holy Family drawn from territory served by St. Jude and Sts. Peter and Paul parishes. The Reverend Clarence L. Fisher was named as the administrator of the new parish and 2 Ivy Court in Wedgwood served as the parish rectory and office and its two-car garage was converted into a chapel. In addition to those already mentioned, the new parish was staffed by Deacon Wolfgang Gallwitz, Deacon Ernie Soprano and Father Patrick Boyle served as Associate Pastor.
For the next five years, Sunday Masses were celebrated at the Grenloch Fire Hall, nicknamed St. Grenloch and now a social hall, on Hurffville-Grenloch Road. It was not uncommon at this time for the bells ringing at the elevation of the Sacred Host to be followed by the soaring sound of Grenloch’s fire siren, the roar of the fire engines with their noxious fumes, and the subsequent loss of a dozen worshippers who were called to duty in a rapid response to a local emergency. These days are among the happiest memories for long-time parishioners who remember the church’s early history. Even though Mass was celebrated in an unadorned hall, with metal folding chairs for seats, and the priest celebrated on a raised plywood stage at a makeshift altar, visiting priests and missionaries often remarked about the intense and infectious spirit shared by the people of the parish.
As early as 1976, Father Clarence Fisher initiated plans and discussions for the construction of a permanent church building within the parish’s territory. In 1978, the Reverend Monsignor Joseph Downing was appointed as the first pastor of Holy Family and Fr. John Cavagnaro returned as associate. Under his leadership, Father Fisher’s plans came to fruition when the parish began construction of a new church. After being completed at a cost of $477,000, the four-hundred seat new church was dedicated on November 10th of that same year by the Most Reverend George H. Guilfoyle, the Fourth Bishop of Camden. A dinner dance followed the Mass at the Cherry Hill Inn for a cost of $17.50 per person.
In union with Sts. Peter and Paul, Holy Family was served by a number of religious women—Sr. Bernarde SSND and Sr. Anne Byrnes RSM served as directors of Religious Ed. After the parishes formally divided in the summer of 1979, Srs. Judy and Barbara joined the staff to serve as outreach ministers with their program, “Visitors for Christ.” In 1980 Fr. James Hopkins and Deacon Douglas Tobin served the parish. During this time many ministries were initiated and flourished.
Growth didn’t stop there. Recognizing the need for meeting space, a new parish house was constructed in 1982. The building efficiently served a combined purpose as a rectory, parish office and a small parish hall. In the winter of 1983 now Msgr. John Frey was assigned as associate pastor while Msgr. Dominic Bottino assisted on weekends. In the fall of the same year, the Holy Family participated in the RENEW process further developing the bonds of family and friendship throughout the parish.
In June of 1984 Fr. Wesley Dilks was assigned to assist Msgr. Downing with Fr. Frey continuing as associate in residence. In that same year, Sr. Mary Aquin McDonald, OP joined the staff as Director of Religious Education. In June of 1987 Fr. Michael Matveenko arrived as associate pastor and a year later Fr. William Pierce replaced Fr. Frey as associate in residence.
In October of 1988 a lot happened all at once. The Reverend Monsignor Joseph Joynes was named as the second pastor of Holy Family and Vince Fausto and George Ferland were ordained to diaconate for service at their home parish.
As more families continued to move into Washington Township, Holy Family was confronted with the pressing need for larger facilities. Therefore, Msgr. Joynes, now assisted by Fr. Jeremy Michalak, purchased five acres of land adjacent to the parish exit drive (some was immediately used for additional for parking) and the he expanded the original foyer of the church in 1992 and then promptly laid a plan for the expansion of the parish plant. At this time, Fr. Joseph Szolack came to serve the parish community. With the support of parishioners a new eight-classroom parish center, with a large parish hall and office space for Religious Education, was completed and dedicated in September of 1993. Today the building is called the Aquin Center acknowledging the long service of Sr. Mary Aquin McDonald, OP to Holy Family and the parish hall bears the name of Monsignor Joynes, it’s builder. In that same month, Fr. Szolack began teaching at Camden Catholic and Holy Family received a new associate pastor in Fr. Marcel Tabone.
In 1995 the Sancta Familia Council of the Knights of Columbus was founded here at Holy Family starting a long-standing tradition of the Knights’ service to God, Country and Church. Thereafter, attention then turned to the creation of more space for worship.
The four-hundred seat church could not longer accommodate the numbers attending Masses on Saturdays and Sundays. In late 1995 ground was broken on an expansion of the church and on Pentecost Sunday of 1996, after seven months of construction and a cost of $700,000, the church was re-opened with a new seating capacity of seven-hundred twenty, an expanded chapel, a separate baptistery, a new larger sacristy, as well as additional storage space. The Most Reverend James T. McHugh, STD, Fifth Bishop for Camden, blessed the “new” Holy Family Church on June 29, 1996.
In 1998 Holy Family welcomed Fr. Joseph Ferrara as its new associate pastor and shortly thereafter its third pastor the Reverend Monsignor James McIntyre while continuing his service as the Director of Priest Personnel for the Diocese of Camden. Immediately Monsignor set about improving the parish plant by naturally enhancing its woodland landscape—to this day, Holy Family is well known for its beautiful grounds. Deacons Jack Connors and Frank Pepe were also added to the staff with Fr. Conleth Eyeanya serving part time.
In 1999 the parish celebrated its 25th Anniversary. A variety of activities were held throughout the year, but a highlight was the installation, with the great assistance of the Friends of the Sacred Hearts, of the bell tower which continues to announce Mass and celebrate our Catholic faith in song. In addition, the sculpture of the Holy Family which stands outside the Aquin Center was commissioned to Fr. Leonard Carrieri and installed and the older statue was moved to its current location between the flag poles on Hurffville Road. New signage and parking lot lighting was also installed.
In June of 2000, Fr. John Stabeno was assigned to Holy Family Parish along with Msgr. James Carr who assisted as a resident. A growth in ministries during this time resulted in a greater need for meeting space. A solution was found when the home at 218 Hurffville Road, adjacent to the parish property, was placed up for sale. Purchased at a cost of $180,000 and after some renovation the new parish rectory was ready to house three priests. With the priests now comfortably situated, work was done to create needed additional meeting space in the Parish House. During this time, and especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Holy Family had grown so large that a second 10:30 a.m. Mass had to be celebrated in the Aquin Center on Sundays from October through April.
In June of 2002, Father Chuck Colozzi replaced Father Stabeno as parochial vicar. Late that same year, Monsignor Carr and Father Fred Link were assigned to serve the parish as administrators. The following spring, Father Stephen Rapposelli was assigned as a second parochial vicar and shortly thereafter, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the Sixth Bishop of Camden, appointed the Reverend Robert E. Hughes as the fourth pastor of Holy Family Parish in July 2003.
For most of his time as pastor, Father was also the President of Paul VI High School in Haddon Township and more recently the Chancellor of the Diocese of Camden. As the parish facilities grew older, Father has worked to insure that they are properly maintained and updated. In addition to the replacement of various mechanical systems, Father has overseen the renovation of the church building in 2006 wherein the flooring, pews and the back wall of the sanctuary walls were replaced. The installation of Rosary Garden and the outdoor Stations of the Cross in our “woods”. More recently the roof of the Parish Offices was replaced and a complete overhaul of the parish’s parking facilities has been undertaken.
During Father Hughes’ time here at Holy Family, the parish has also been served by Father Michael Goyette who came in 2004, Monsignor Dominic Bottino who came in 2006, Father Robert D’Imperio who came in 2007, and Father Sanjai Devis who also arrived in 2007 and continues to serve the parish so well. In addition, we have been blessed by the ministry of two recently ordained deacons—Deacon Gerry Jablonowski and Deacon Joseph Kain.
On December 3, 2013, Bishop Dennis Sullivan named Father Robert E. Hughes as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Diocese of Camden. As Vicar General, Father Hughes assists Bishop Sullivan in the governance of the six counties of the Diocese of Camden.
Our fifth and current pastor, Father John Paul Picinic, was appointed to Holy Family on February 1, 2014. Since Father John’s tenure here at Holy Family there have been upgrades to facilities and the life of the Church. In 2014 and through the early part of 2015 the entire facility, under a NJ state run program providing 50% financial assistance we replaced all of our heating and ac units. We also replaced many of our light fixtures throughout the Church, in the Aquin Hall, and the parish offices. These upgrades have been a blessing especially in efficiency and the reduction of costs. We have also upgraded the Chapel in 2015 and replaced the old carpet with beautiful tiles, much like we have in the main Church. Two Saint Pictures were added, that of St. Padre Pio and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
In 2015-2016 we transformed one of the class rooms into a Youth lounge. It has become a wonderful place for our Youth Group to come and relax, have fellowship, and pray in a very intimate setting. Some more facility upgrades and changes will be coming as we will be replacing the very old carpet in the classrooms in the Aquin Building.
Some beautiful changes in the Church have also taken place with the recent addition of the Stations of the Cross and a new Baptismal Font. Please make sure to see them and take some time to reflect on them. We also added a beautiful framed picture of St. Augustine and St. Monica, as well as a beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the back of the Church.
Holy Family under Father John’s leadership with the assistance of the Pastoral Council, Finance Council, and Staff has developed a Mission Statement and Vision Statement. Both Statements center on discipleship. These statements will serve as the catalyst for us to evangelize, to our people who join us at worship to encourage them to be active apostles, as well as to all in our community. The Pastoral Council is currently working on a three year plan that will begin to put Holy Family’s evangelization initiative into motion.