Developers Hold Open House

Members of the public, including parishioners, neighbors, artists, history buffs, elected officials and a handful of reporters and photographers, accepted the invitation of the new owners to enter and see the remains of Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church on Second Avenue in Asbury Park.

The public attends the open house

Underneath a breathtaking stained-glass window on what formerly held an opulent white marble altar, was a table set up with coffee and cookies surrounded by pictures of two possibilities of the future offered by the developer; one that saves the church building and one that demolishes it. The latest denial by the City of Asbury Park spurred a lawsuit by JDL Investment Group, LLC.

There was pain reflected in the faces of those who grew up in the parish as they expressed what it felt like to be inside their church for the first time without the altar. “I made all my Sacraments here,” voiced Denise Nadel. “And, I graduated from here, so it’s a little surreal to be here with nothing.” For those who were baptized, received communion, were confirmed, perhaps even married, or held a funeral mass for a loved one, it was quite emotional. It was also a reminder of previous losses of many historic buildings, houses and faith-based institutions that are no longer in Asbury Park as a result of massive redevelopment.

I made all my Sacraments here and I graduated from here, so it’s a little surreal to be here with nothing.

Denise Nadel
YouTube player

For others present, Holy Spirit is where they immersed themselves in community affairs by participating in or teaching religious education (CCD), or English as a Second Language. Some members helped to organize Christmas Parties to hand out toys from Santa. Holy Spirit was also home to the start of the Bike Church, which eventually became Second Life Bikes on Main Street. The loss of public space and sense of community truly hit home. There are many stories held within Holy Spirit’s 142-year-old history.

The magnificence of the church is still evident to the people who came to the open house, despite the obvious ripped-out altar. The sheer number of stained-glass windows, the intricately carved Stations of the Cross, the gothic design, the massive wooden doors, gives one the impression that this church was built to last for an eternity.

No expense was spared. Craftsmen of the highest order built this church in the 1880’s, yet the sales price for the church was reported to be only $1.7 million, down one-third from the original asking price of $2.75 million. Elisabeth Wendel, the realtor representing the developer, explained that the price of the church fell due to damage done while moving the massive altar, as well as the statues housed in the Sanctuary. Parts of the tile floor and plaster in the Sanctuary were clearly damaged and missing.

The invitation to the open house was entitled, “The Holy Spirit Lives With Us.” The event was an attempt to garner community support for a development plan by JDL Investment Group which includes renovating the church building to house 7 luxury condos and constructing 52 condo units adjacent to the church. That proposal by the developer would have 20% affordable units. This proposal was never submitted to the Planning Board due to zoning change prior to its submission.

Both Elisabeth Wendel of O’Brien Realty, and Joe Hanna of JDL Investment Group, repeatedly stated that they did not want to tear down the church. When asked, it was made clear that the stained-glass windows would be removed, and the organs would have to be moved to accommodate private residences, but the Church building would remain.

The developer’s proposal which included demolishing the church to build six single-family luxury homes was denied by the Planning Board.

YouTube player

The mood in the room was somber. People openly wondered why the City of Asbury Park didn’t create a Historic Preservation Ordinance to protect the church from being torn down. They also expressed that the church building should remain as a Community Center. Perhaps a place to house artists and musicians. A place where people can go. For sanctuary.

De Seno Files Suit

Tommy De Seno, Esq. filed a lawsuit bringing into question the capacity of Bishop O’Connell of the Trenton Diocese and Father Miguel Virella of Mother of Mercy Parish to enter into a contract. De Seno reasons, “Bishop O’Connell and Father Virella had no legal authority from the Vatican to make a contract. In order to have that authority, Canon Law requires a Bishop must first have hearings with aggrieved parishioners, which he failed to do. He must then issue a formal decree delineating his reasonings and the results of his meeting with the parishioners. No such decree was ever issued, denying him and Father Virella the legal capacity to enter the contract.”

Also being sued are JDL Investment Group and their holding company Crossroads at Asbury Park. “The contract being illegal, JLD Investors had no standing to make an application before the Planning Board, so the denial of their application was legal,” De Seno explains.

The contract being illegal, JLD Investors had no standing to make an application before the Planning Board, so the denial of their application was legal.

Thomas De Seno, Esq.

De Seno also seeks a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the Diocese, the Parish and the Developer from selling, damaging, destroying or altering the Church and is awaiting a court decision.

A complaint was also filed with the Dicastery in Rome.

Disclosure: The author taught Catholic education for youth in the basement of the Holy Spirit for several years.

YouTube player

Kerry Margaret Butch is a founding member of the Asbury Park Reporter. Throughout her career, she worked to increase grassroots input in local public policy. She served as the Executive Director of both the Asbury Park Consortium and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Notably, she produced the documentaries entitled, “Greetings from Asbury Park,” shown throughout the country and on PBS, and “Storming for the Vote: Hurricane Sandy and the Election.”

Join the Conversation


  1. On whose behalf is Mr De Seno filing suit? The article leaves a lot of questions. Are there more details to learn? What is the position of the city? Why was zoning changed? Does the developer want to build the town houses or the single family homes? What is the objection to re purpose the church? Thank you!

  2. I wonder if the parishioners of this church aren’t to blame. If they were attending Mass regularly to worship our Lord, would there be any question that it would not be even a suggestion to do what has been done to it already? In this crumbling, ever secular society I am not surprised of the fate of this beautiful Church. Man still hasn’t kept God at its center while our world is crumbling around us. Where were the people to even declare its historic value before this debasement ever started? Man’s sins have already taken away God’s altar, its statues and Holy Tabernacle. I am saddened for God and equally ashamed at society’s loss of faith.

  3. The Church of the Holy Spirit
    in Asbury Park, N. J.
    A History

    by John P. King

    John P. King
    [email protected]
    A new book to preserve the memory of Holy Spirit Church which is slated to soon disappear in Asbury Park.
    BRICK, N.J. Sept. 4, 2023—John King, author of several professionally published books on local history in Highlands, had copies of this work printed by Gangi Graphics in Brick, self-published to expedite its release.
    Recent issues of the newspapers in Asbury Park frequently featured articles describing the end of this 145-year-old church landmark. They stated the official reasons for its demise and emphasized the expressions of love and distress by its parishioners watching it offered for sale to the highest bidder.
    King believes that the spirit of the church must not be allowed to die. The work of the church’s dozen pastors with thousands of parishioners, told in scattered articles, is too precious to fade quickly from memory. In his book he hopes to preserve that memory for a time long after the church is no more, for this is one purpose of historical writing.
    King will be available for interviews and to arrange lectures, readings, and signings.
    # # #

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *