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Status of Our Lady of the Highway shrine in Galloway remains uncertain
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GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP

Status of Our Lady of the Highway shrine in Galloway remains uncertain

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Galpomona

The future of the Our Lady of the Highway, Sea and Air shrine in Galloway Township is uncertain after a commercial project on the site has been put on hold.

A $33 million improvement project is underway to a section of the White Horse Pike in Egg Harbor City. The federally funded project will improve about 14 miles of Route 30 between Elwood Road in Mullica Township and Haddon Avenue in Absecon.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The multimillion-dollar proposed project known as Pomona Commons will not move forward at this time, and the status of the Our Lady of the Highway shrine on the property remains uncertain.

Township Administrator Chris Johansen said he has been informed that ARK Innovations LLC, the developer of the property at the southeast corner of Pomona Road and Route 30, also known as the White Horse Pike, filed for bankruptcy in August.

The project calls for construction of 97,000-square-feet of commercial space that fronts Route 30, including a grocery store, residential housing in the back and space for a proposed train station stop and its attendant parking.

In June, the Township Council unanimously decided it would be willing to consider a redevelopment plan for the property that would be brought forward by ARK Innovations LLC.

Democratic Mayor Jim Gorman said he supports the project. He believes the bankruptcy filing may be a part of negotiations for the proposal.

The old Assumption School and the landmark Assumption Church building, which was built in 1925, used to be on the site. When the church and the school were operational at the site, it was a vibrant area, Republican Councilman Anthony Coppola said.

“There is a diner (Galloway Diner) across from the church. The church leaves the area. It hurts,” Coppola said as he mentioned one of the reasons he voted for Pomona Commons was that it would create a ratable.

Coppola said he spoke to the developer earlier this month.

“There is still an interest to develop it (Pomona Commons),” Coppola said.

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The Diocese of Camden owned the church, school and the Our Lady of the Highway shrine that sits on the property. The school and the church moved to new locations, but the candle-filled shrine with a Virgin Mary statue inside of it was left behind.

The Camden Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in December. Michael J. Walsh, director of communications for the Diocese of Camden, said earlier this month that the shrine is the property of Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Parish here and not the diocese.

In 2009, the state Department of Transportation and the Diocese of Camden entered into an agreement to protect the shrine as the state did a road project at White Horse Pike and Pomona Road.

In 2016 when the Assumption Church was demolished, the parish said the plan was to move the shrine, but to keep it on the same property, but there is a question whether the shrine is sturdy enough to be moved as it is.

Anna Jezycki, a resident who is a fixture at Township Council meetings, has been spearheading the effort to save the shrine.

During the height of the pandemic in this state when all the churches were closed, people could visit this nondenominational Christian place for their troubles, Jezycki said.

“It takes my breath away. I have lit candles inside there,” Jezycki said.

Jezycki has had her own personal experience inside the shrine. When her son and his wife were expecting her first granddaughter, a doctor said at one time that the baby would be born with Down syndrome. She visited the shrine, also known as the grotto, to say prayers and light candles.

“I heard, ‘Don’t be afraid. Everything will be OK. The baby will not have Down syndrome,’” Jezycki said, adding her granddaughter was born without Down syndrome. “That’s why I’m so passionate.”

Father Gerard C. Marable, the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, said last week there is nothing going on with shrine.

The parish may decide what to do with the shrine, and one of the options is to improve it, Marable said. The parish would have to sit down and discuss the matter, but there have been no discussions yet, Marable said.

“It (discussions) could happen this month or next month,” Marable said.

Contact Vincent Jackson:

609-272-7202

vjackson@pressofac.com

Twitter@ACPressJackson

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