Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish History
Collingswood was still a farming community when, in 1903, Fr. Patrick J. Clune, pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Merchantville, met with Catholics of the area in a private home on Collings Avenue, establishing the mission church of St. John’s. The first mass was celebrated on October 18, 1903 in vacant store at Atlantic and Collings Avenues. On December 4, 1904 Mass was celebrated in the newly constructed church at Park and Lees Aves. The mission church of St. John’s became a parish in 1919 with Fr. John O’Farrell its first resident pastor.
In the 1920s, St. John parishioners recognized that an additional parish was necessary due to the large increase in the Catholic population. In 1924, the pastor of St. John Church gave permission to a group of parishioners to establish a building fund to purchase land for a new church in Westmont. “Church of the Holy Saviour” was formally incorporated on December 7, 1928. According to legend, Holy Saviour’s first Mass was at the Westmont Theatre on Christmas Eve, 1928. What is now McDaid hall, a combined church/school building, was the site of the first mass for Holy Saviour Parish on Christmas Eve, 1929. In June 1941, ground was broken for the present Holy Saviour church.
Meanwhile, St. John parish was also growing. The present church, with a seating capacity of 850, was completed in 1955. Though the exterior is stone, the interior is yellow brick, similar to the material used in Holy Saviour parish buildings.
Like many parishes, both St. John and Holy Saviour operated their own schools, educating children up to grade 8. By 1921 St. John parish had built a two story gray stone grammar school. The Sisters of Mercy staffed the school. Holy Saviour school opened in September 1929. It was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Sisters of Charity withdrew from Holy Saviour School in 1972 and the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary began their service to the parish and school. They remained at the school until it closed in June 2008. The closure occurred on the occasion of the Diocesan merger of Holy Saviour School with St. John School in that same year. St. John’s school was renamed “Good Shepherd Regional School” to recognize that students from all over the local area were welcome.
The merger process of St. John’s and Holy Saviour Parishes began in 2008 at the direction of Bishop Joseph Galante. For two years a “core team” of parishioners, under the leadership of Fr. Edward Friel as priest-convener, worked to merge St. John and Holy Saviour parishes into one parish family. Msgr. M. Joseph Mannion the pastor of St. John’s church from 1981 continued to serve as pastor until his retirement, shortly before the merger was completed in 2010.
Our new parish was named “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish,” in honor of Mother Teresa (1910-1997), who founded the Missionaries of Charity and who served the poorest of the poor in India. Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003. Interestingly, Mother Teresa herself visited Camden, New Jersey, in 1976. At her visit, she was presented flowers by a third-grade girl, Dana Redd. Ms. Redd grew up to become the Mayor of Camden and attended the first Mass of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in October 2010. At the completion of the merger, St. John’s rectory became the site of the Parish Offices.
When Mother Teresa was canonized by Pope Francis in September 2016, the name of the parish was officially changed to Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish. We celebrate our patron’s feast day each year on September 5.
As of January 2017, St. Teresa of Calcutta parish has approximately 1500 registered families. It is known for its many parish ministries, most of which are led by parishioners. Consistent with the example of St. Teresa, our parish is also known for community involvement and outreach including a parish run food pantry for local residents.
St. Teresa is one of the more inclusive parishes in the diocese, reflecting its mission statement which proclaims it as a “welcoming community.” The diocesan offices of Ministry with the Deaf and Persons with Disabilities are based at Holy Saviour , McDaid hall. A Mass in American Sign Language, is celebrated at 10:00 am on Sundays at Holy Saviour Church. Persons from all over the diocese, as well as St. Teresa parishioners, attend this mass.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish Mission Statement
We are the welcoming community of Saint Teresa of Calcutta living out faith by endeavoring to follow her example to see, share and be the light of Christ’s love and compassion.