The structure that once served as the place of worship for the Catholic community in Riverside, and has since been condemned, was razed Sept. 18. In a necessary step for a parish community in transition, the former St. Peter Church was demolished after years of disuse.
Over time, the nearly 160-year-old building had become “hazardous and an eyesore,” Father Gerald Johnson, pastor of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Riverside, said in an interview with the Burlington County Times.
Over the years, before it was condemned, the old church, located at Scott and Middleton Streets, had served as a community center and gymnasium.
A new church, built in 1955, would continue to serve Italian, German, English, Portuguese, and Brazilian populations, as well as a Spanish-speaking congregation.
In 2008, Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish was created through a merger of St. Peter Parish, Riverside, and St. Joseph Parish, Beverly, keeping both St. Peter Church and St. Joseph Church as worship sites.
Operations were suspended in St. Peter Church at the end of June, 2017, because the parish did not need, and could no longer afford, to operate or maintain two churches considering the size of its regular Mass attendance.
In July, Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish was designated as a Center for Hispanic and Portuguese Ministry, which is in addition to its regular ministry as the territorial parish for Riverside and Beverly.
As reported in The Monitor, during the closing Mass for St. Peter Church, held June 25, Conventual Franciscan Father Jude DeAngelo, a former parochial vicar in St. Peter Parish and homilist for the Mass, shared his thoughts with the congregation, saying, “No church building defines us as Catholic Christians. You are the living stones that constitute Christ’s Church – not this precious building of brick and mortar. You are the edifice of God’s love for all people. You are the Church and Christ is your heart and mind and you are forever his own.”
The decision that St. Peter Church, which was established in 1863 by then Bishop John Neumann, fourth bishop of Philadelphia, would suspend operations and that parish activities would be transferred to St. Joseph Church, Beverly, was announced Jan. 25 by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., as part of a diocesan-wide initiative for revitalization.