Catholic chapel in NJ shopping mall closes its doors
Paterson, N.J– A Catholic chapel that has served a New Jersey shopping mall since 1970 has scheduled its final Mass.
St. Therese’s Chapel at the Bergen Town Center in Paramus, N.J. was set to close on Ash Wednesday. The chapel, also called the Chapel on the Mall, was run by Carmelite priests.
Father Eugene Joseph Bettinger, 70, served as the chapel’s executive director, the New York Times reports.
“It will be a Lent of the hunting,” he told his congregation during Mass. “After Ash Wednesday, it will be quite the desert experience for us.”
The chapel drew close to 1,000 people each week for its Masses, held three times a day Monday through Saturday. At times, people would go to the chapel in groups to say the rosary or to pray silently.
The chapel, its offices, and its gift shop took up 5,000 square feet. Ten years ago it moved from a cramped location in the mall basement on condition that its lease would go month-to-month.
The mall’s management recently decided to end the lease.
Parishioners are hoping to find a better space. Fr. Bettinger said new locations have been scouted, but cost may be prohibitive. A new monthly lease could cost as much as $10,000, compared to the $2,000 the chapel had been paying.
A new location would also disrupt the community that has built up at the chapel.
Susan Munroe, a 56-year-old consecrated virgin, has volunteered at the chapel for several years. She told the New York Times the chapel has shown “prayerfulness” and has built community.
One chapel regular, 83-year-old Mary Rogers, had been coming for decades. She is hoping for a new location soon.
“We’re praying to St. Therese, the patron saint,” she said. “My days just don’t go as well if I don’t go to Mass.”
The Carmelites also run a chapel in a mall in Peabody, Mass.