Fr. Thomas A. Newton
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Fr. Tom Newton, the Pastor of St. Damien Parish, comes to this position after being the pastor of the Catholic Community of Christ Our Light in Cherry Hill for eleven years. Prior to that, he was the pastor of St. Peter Celestine Parish in Cherry Hill for almost six years and the pastor of Queen of Heaven parish in Cherry Hill for three months. Fr. Tom has a Master of Divinity degree from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Rutgers University. Fr. Tom was previously the Vicar for Human Services of the Diocese of Camden.
In addition to his primary assignment as pastor of St. Damien, he currently serves as Advocate for Priest’s Health and Wellness, a member of the College of Consultors, a member of the Presbyteral Council, a member of the Priest Personnel Board, the president of the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees, a member of the Housing Services of the Diocese of Camden Board of Trustees, a member of the Archbishop Damiano School Board of Trustees, a member of the Diocesan Health Services Board of Trustees, a member of the Diocesan Finance Council’s committee for Compensation and Benefits, and the facilitator and convener of the New Priests’ Peer Group.
Pastoral Associate for Worship & Music
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Patrick Gardner is the Pastoral Associate for Worship and Music at St. Damien Parish where he oversees and coordinates all aspects of the parish’s liturgical and music ministries and ministers. Patrick brings extensive experience as an accompanist, vocalist, trumpeter, and music director in liturgical, theatrical, and educational environments. While completing a Bachelors of Arts in Music from The Catholic University of America (Washington, DC), he performed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Basilica of the Assumption (Baltimore, MD), The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Signature Theater, the Apostolic Nunciature, and the Bulgarian Embassy. He has provided professional music services to various churches in the Camden Diocese, including Christ our Light (Cherry Hill) and the Parish of Christ the King (Haddonfield), where he also taught 1st and 8th grade in the parish’s faith formation program. Prior to his appointment at St. Damien, Patrick taught full-time in the Performing Arts Department of Camden Catholic High School (Cherry Hill) and served as the Assistant for Worship and Music at Christ our Light. Born and raised in Haddon Heights, Patrick has spent every summer at the family beach house in Ocean City and is ecstatic to join the staff of St. Damien.
Sister Joelle Thren, SCC
Director, Elementary Faith Formation
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Sister Joelle Thren has served the good people of St. Damien Parish since 1998. Before her position here, she was the director of Religious Education at three other parishes: Holy Family, St. Joseph, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, all in northern New Jersey. She has previously taught grades 5-8 at other parishes in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and has worked as a professor of catechists and theology.
Katherine H. Waldow
Director, Youth & Young Adult Faith Formation
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Katie Waldow, director of Youth & Young Adult Faith Formation, has been serving the parish of St. Damien since May of 2011. Originally from Florida, Katie graduated from Florida State University in 2009 with a BS in Business and Minor in Religion.
While at FSU Katie served on retreats, the executive board, and the worship team for the Catholic Student Union. Following her time at FSU she lived in Nashville, TN where she interned for Sony’s Christian music division, Provident Label Group, taught CCD in a local parish, and traveled with Holy Family Parish to help build up schools through their Mission Honduras program. She regularly volunteered in parish youth group programs & participated in young adult events through the Diocese of Nashville. It was through these experiences she felt the Lord calling her further into work for the Church, and she moved to Ocean City in the winter of 2010 before accepting the position at St. Damien. Her favorite things about her job include Vacation Bible School, Family Dinners, Coffee & Communion, and young adult Adoration evenings.
On her days off you can find her sipping iced lattes, hanging with her sisters, and corralling her dog and two cats. She loves praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and is excitedly expecting her first child in July with her husband, Stephen.
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Susan Campbell has worked at St. Damien Parish for over 19 years. She serves as the bookkeeper for the parish.
Bulletin Editor & Webmaster
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Max Buondonno is the bulletin editor and webmaster at St. Damien Parish. He joined the Communications Ministry in May 2019 in order to give the parish new Facebook and Instagram profiles along with a revamped website. Then, a month later, he joined the staff in order to take on the weekly bulletin. His interest in technology has been with him his entire life. His blog, Matridox, serves as a showcase of the latest gadgets and gizmos. He was homeschooled for a majority of his life and is thankful for the work ethic and family values he learned being in that environment.
Max is a devoted Catholic and thinks of his work at the parish as a way of giving back for all the good things God has done in his life.
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Karen Malkiewicz has worked at St. Damien Parish since 2011. She works as an administrative assistant.
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Bernadette Bechta joined the St. Damien Parish staff in October 2019 when she moved to Ocean City New Jersey full time. She was born and raised in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane community and moved to Columbia/Ellicott City Maryland where she spent 37 years in education. She taught Business and Finance to high school students and led various clubs promoting Financial Literacy and Social Justice.
Bernadette received her M.S. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in Business Education from University of Maryland. During her teaching career she mentored first generation college-bound students, promoted student advocacy, and led a Boosters Club in raising funds to enhance music education, sports, and academic success.
Bernadette was a summer resident in Ocean City for over 15 years and now enjoys building relationships with the St. Damien community and assisting parishioners as needed. She resides in Ocean City with her husband, Matthew and is an avid baseball fan, golf enthusiast, and enjoys bicycling. She has two sons who live in Baltimore MD and Charlotte NC.