For some reason, six years seems like an awfully short period of time in this instance. I arrived at St. Joseph Parish, (Somers Point) just in time for the summer of 2011. I was not familiar with the local community but I was welcomed quickly and warmly. I was determined that I would do my best to serve the people where I was now assigned. I was also the closest that I was ever assigned to my mom in North Wildwood, which has been an additional blessing.
Little did I know that hurricane Sandy would subsequently take its toll on the Jersey shore. The unforeseen consequence was that I would spend nine months getting to know the former pastor (Fr. Josef Wagenhoffer) as he moved back into the rectory after his home was damaged by the severe flooding. This too was a blessing as it helped the transition to move smoothly.
Over time, I lived at the rectory with Fr. Joe, Fr. Bob Gregorio, Fr. Larry Polansky, Fr. Christopher Markellos, and seminarian (now deacon) Anthony Infanti. I worked regularly with other priests including Fr. Peter DiTomasso, Fr. Alvaro Diaz, Fr. Christopher Onyeneke, Msgr. Arthur Rodgers, Fr. Steve Curry and Fr. Pat Brady. Moreover, my two deacons, Bob Oliver and Steve Theis serve the parish well.
I truly hate saying “goodbye.” I will miss you, the parishioners, the wonderful St. Joseph Regional School family, the religious education (PREP) students, the hard-working, dedicated staff, and the Sisters of St. Joseph (who have been part of my life since I was in the first grade). Mr. Ted Pugliese, the school principal and I, have worked together very well and I am truly grateful for our friendship. After I told the elementary school students, faculty and administration that I was being transferred at the final school Mass, many of the younger students lined up to say goodbye and this just about broke my heart!
Have I been able to accomplish everything that I intended to do? Unfortunately, no. I thought that I would have an additional six years to finish what has been started. All the unfinished business will have to be left to the next pastor. (As I write, I know that Bishop Sullivan and the Priest Personnel Board are discussing my replacement.)
As I have written before, priests are all too human. We struggle. We fail. We hurt. Unfortunately, we sin as well. I hope that I have been able to contribute in some small way to making this parish a bit better. I especially hope and pray that the presence of Jesus Christ was more apparent by something that I have tried to say or do. My desire has been to help many more people to see Jesus more clearly present in their daily lives through my priestly ministry and leadership. He must increase while I must decrease!
As of July 1st, I will be moving on to Holy Angels Parish, Woodbury. There I will have an elementary school, a hospital and a parish approximately three times the size of this one. Bishop Sullivan will be my neighbor—right up the street. I have some familiarity with the area as I had served as a newly-ordained priest at St. Matthew’s Church, National Park (now a part of the parish since its merger).
I thank God if I have helped you in any way. I ask His and your pardon if I have hurt you or caused pain or sorrow in your life in any way. I can honestly say it was never done intentionally. I ask you once again for your prayers. Just a little remembrance . . . occasionally? Please. I will continue to remember all of you in this parish in my prayers and at the altar during Mass.
May our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, her spouse, intercede for us all!
Fr. Ed Namiotka
(soon to be former) Pastor