Our History at Notre Dame de la Mer Parish
The Wildwoods and Diamond Beach have had a very strong Roman Catholic presence on the island for many generations. For the last couple generations, there have been two parishes serving the island; Saint Ann and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In April 2004, Bishop Joseph Galante was appointed by the Pope as the seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Camden. After a year of visiting parishes, the bishop outlined six priorities that parishes need to commit for vibrant faith communities. The bishop asked the local communities to begin meeting to discuss how the diocese would meet the needs of the local communities with a shrinking priesthood.
Parishes throughout the diocese began meeting to determine how the parish structures would be realigned to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful. Needless to say, it was a painful process for many around the diocese. Each deanery was asked to make recommendations to the diocese and the bishop would announce how the diocese and parishes would be restructured.
In April 2008, Bishop Galante announced that the two parishes in the Wildwoods would be merged as one parish. Originally, the bishop indicated that Assumption would be a summer worship site. The Assumption Parish asked the bishop to reconsider and the bishop announced the merged parish would have two year-round worship sites.
In August 2008, Bishop Galante assigned Reverend Michael J. Field as the Convener of the merge. Father’s task was to bring together a representative group from both parishes to follow a diocesan outline to create the new merged parish. The Core Team began meeting in November 2008. In June 2009, Father Joseph D. Wallace and Father Field approached the idea of a Priest Team model for the new parish – rather than a single pastor. Bishop Galante approved that idea and appointed Fathers Field and Wallace as co-conveners.
Both priests worked with the Core team throughout the fall of 2009 to fine-tune the merge. They worked to communicate with the local community – and the summer community – to better understand the reasons for the merge and how it could benefit the new parish. In mid-fall 2009, the two parishes were invited to submit suggestions of naming the new parish. The parish was reminded that the present names of the church buildings would remain. The new name identified the community.
Several names were submitted to the bishop after an evening of voting. Bishop Galante determined that Notre Dame de la Mer Parish – Our Lady of the Sea – would be the name.
In January 2010, Bishop Galante decreed that Notre Dame de la Mer Parish would be created on February 17, 2010. He named Father Michael Field, Father Joseph D. Wallace and Father Gustavo Agudelo as a Priest Team. Father Field was named as Moderator of the team. Father Wallace was later named President of Wildwood Catholic High School in addition to the Priest Team. Father Agudelo would primarily pastor the Hispanic community in southern Cape May County.
The Priest Team assembled a Parish Pastoral Council and a Parish Finance Council to offer advice on the many responsibilities associated with pastoring and administering a parish. Notre Dame de la Mer has a year-round population of about 2100 families and can swell to over 10,000 families in the summertime.
In June 2015, Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan named Father Joseph D. Wallace Pastor of Notre Dame de la Mer Parish. Father Yvans Jazon and Father Cesar Rebolledo-Ramirez were also named as Parochial Vicars.
As the largest shore parish in the diocese, Notre Dame de la Mer increases its weekend Mass schedule during the summer months by adding a third worship site.
There is much going on in Notre Dame de la Mer and all parishioners and organizations are asked to embrace the parish Mission Statement:
"The love of Jesus Christ gathers us together to welcome and embrace all God’s children"