V. THE ECUMENICAL YEAR'S|
The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 initiated liturgical changes, which were quickly instituted at St. Joseph's Parish. The laity took a more active role in church functions through renewal in worship and renewal in Christian living. Eucharistic participation now included the vernacular liturgy, lay lectors, priests facing the people, singing and collective responses.
Monsignor Ladislaus J. Bazela
The priest who led St. Joseph's through the ecumenical years was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. Ladislaus Joseph Bazela had attended St. Mary's College and the Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius, both in Orchard Lake, Michigan. A brilliant student, he sailed to Europe to study canon law at the Pontifical Athanaeum in Rome soon after his ordination on June 11, 1949. He spoke seven languages. Upon his return to the States, he was named Vice Chancellor of the Camden Diocese. He assisted at two different parishes was made Secretary of the Matrimonial Tribunal and a Synodal Judge of the diocese before receiving his first pastorship at St. Aloysius in 1956. In 1959, he was made a Papal Chamberlain, and five years later was elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate.
Soon after he became pastor of St. Joseph's, an historic anniversary was celebrated by Polish Catholics throughout the world. On October 6, 1966, the Polish Christian Millennium was observed. In Whitman Park, Archbishop Damiano celebrated an outdoor Mass, which was attended by more than 3,000. A two-hour parade with a religious and patriotic theme honored the anniversary of Poland's baptism and the work of General Pulaski, American's Polish hero.
For eight months in 1967, St. Joseph's 75th anniversary was noted with a series of spiritual, cultural and social events. The Diamond Jubilee observation peaked with a concelebrated Mass on October 22.
Monsignor Bazela served the parish for sixteen years. During this period Poles experienced the joy of seeing Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, become Pope John Paul II. Poland itself under Communist rule since the end of World War II, saw hope for change in the birth of the Solidarity movement in 1980.
At home, however the Parish Council and the pastor faced hard decisions. Dwindling parish rolls and declining enrollment led to the closing of both schools in 1979. (In 1955, St. Joseph's had taught 1,012 students, but in its last year only 86 were enrolled.) The Felician Sisters left St. Joseph's Convent, their 76-year mission at an end. (3,768 students had graduated from St. Joseph's High School.) In 1979, Monsignor Bazela converted the grammar school into a Senior Center to serve the elderly of the congregation.
Monsignor was transferred to St. Patrick' s Church in Woodbury on July 6, 1981. Only nine months later, at the age of 57, he suddenly passed away.
The Pastor Emeritus, Monsignor Strenski, had peacefully died in his sleep on February 19, 1980, having lived and served for nearly a century.