LONG BRANCH:The Diocese of Trenton has announced that the priest of St. Michael's Church, located at 800 Ocean Avenue, has chosen to resign, according to a letter posted on the church's web site.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I write to inform you that your pastor, Father Daniel Gowen, has offered his resignation as pastor to me and I have accepted it. I thank Father Dan for his service here in West End. Please pray for him as he transitions to a new chapter in his life as a priest.
To provide for the pastoral care of the parish, I have appointed Father John Butler, JD, as "temporary administrator," effective immediately. Father Butler is 55 years of age and has been the parochial vicar (assistant pastor) at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Trenton. Father Butler is also an attorney who has worked in his own law firm in Princeton, NJ, before becoming a priest. He has accepted this transfer with characteristic generosity and eagerness to serve the people of St. Michael Church. Please welcome him warmly and give him your support.
It is becoming harder and harder to assign pastors, given the shortage of priests. We all have to be prepared to make sacrifices necessary so that we can continue to practice our Catholic faith even when changes need to made.
You all have been very much in my mind and heart, especially recently. I enjoyed my recent visit to the parish to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. As the Holy Season of Advent comes along and with it, the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, may all of us who need God's mercy seek it and share it generously with one another.
My God bless you and your loved ones!
Most Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M., J.C.D.
Bishop of Trenton
Gowen had drawn the ire of some in the community for letting go five long-time employees. Gowen said in October that the layoffs occurred after the Diocese performed an audit and found that the positions are usually non-paid at other churches.
The online petition, created by a West Long Branch resident, garnered 643 supporters and was created to ask the Diocese to "reassign Gowen to another position."