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Friars Bid Farewell to North Jersey Community After 99 Years

Three months after the Province announced its withdrawal from a nearly 140-year-old East Rutherford, N.J., parish, a farewell Mass — celebrating the Franciscan ministry — was attended by many friars and parishioners. Here, a parishioner who says the parishioners will “always be Franciscans at heart” describes her experience at the Mass. This article will appear in the July 3 bulletin of St. Joseph Church. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When the annals of St. Joseph Parish are updated 20 or so years from now, there will surely be several pages devoted to the events of Sunday, June 26, 2011. That will be remembered as the formal “Farewell to the Franciscans” who are leaving East Rutherford and St. Joseph’s parish after 99 years of dedicated service.

The presider at the farewell Mass was John O’Connor, OFM, Provincial Minister. Also present at the noon Mass were friars who had served at St. Joseph’s over the years: Giles Bello, OFM, Brennan Connelly, OFM, Kevin Daly, OFM, Edward Donohue, OFM, Michael Duffy, OFM, Zachary Elliott, OFM, Richard Husted, OFM, Paul Keenan, OFM, Claude Lenehan, OFM, Guy Morgan, OFM, Jude Murphy, OFMRobert Sandoz, OFM, C. Raymond Selker, OFM, Paul Sinnema, OFM, and Michael Tyson, OFM.

It was a day of mixed emotions: sadness at the end of an era which we thought would never end, a sense of personal loss at the departure of friars who have been friends and mentors to us and to our children, supported us in the losses of loved ones, rejoiced with us in happy times — weddings and baptisms, first communions and confirmations — recalling the happy memories that will always be alive in our hearts.

If you had to choose one word to describe the Franciscan ministry at St. Joseph’s it would be “accessibility.” The friars were always there; Sunday mornings, come rain or shine, they were outside the church to welcome us in. After the Mass had ended, they were outside again to chat with the parishioners who loved to stop and exchange some friendly banter or ask questions. Not even the friary was off-limits. It was not uncommon to find some of our parishioners in the kitchen, carrying on a discussion while the friars grabbed a cup of coffee.

Another notable feature of the friars’ ministry: their attendance at major social events of the parish, for example, the St. Patrick’s Dinner/Dance. Another popular event was the blessing of the animals, which was held during Francis Week. We have some great pictures of the “blessed,” running the gamut from dogs, cats, to exotic birds, turtles and less friendly representatives like snakes.

Each parishioner will have favorite memories of this blessed time, and we were blessed in so many ways by the ministry of the Franciscan friars. We remember fondly those who have passed; we honor their mission and their memory; we celebrate their vision and their hard work. We will always be Franciscans at heart.

Our thanks to all the friars who have served us so well. We shall always remember you and we ask that you keep St. Joseph’s in your prayers.

— Celia O’Shea, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church, is a volunteer writer for the parish bulletin.

Editor’s note: Photos accompanying this story, along with the cover photo, were taken by Michele Gusciora. Friars pictured on the cover are (from left to right) Michael Duffy, Paul Keenan, Edward Donohue, John O’Connor, Michael Tyson, Paul Sinnema, Raymond Selker, Claude Lenehan, Robert Sandoz, Guy Morgan, Brennan Connelly and Zachary Elliot.