New Jersey Parish Celebrates 135 Years

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Parishioners and guests of St. Joseph Church here commemorated the parish’s 135th anniversary Saturday with an outdoor Mass, a session of shared parish stories, and a lively dinner with food provided by area businesses.

“Wow, could we have had a better day,” said pastor Joseph Hertel, OFM, referring to the sunny skies and 90-degree heat as he began the Oct. 6 Mass.

In a parking lot decorated with festive banners and enlivened by passionate music, the assembly enjoyed the liturgy as Joseph gave thanks to the service and devotion of the parishioners.

“This celebration begins with you, the parishioners,” he said. “By coupling our spirit with God’s love, there is no stopping us.”

History and Contributions

In his homily, Joseph acknowledged the contributions of the Benedictine Sisters who have been at the parish for 130 years and the friars who have been at St. Joseph nearly 95 years.

For the first four decades of its history, the parish was staffed by diocesanclergy.  In 1913, Bishop John O’Connor of Newark, N.J., invited the friars of Holy Name Province to assume responsibility for the pastoral care of the parish. The first Franscan pastor was Hilary Reinhold, OFM.

In the anniversary celebration weekend program, the four friars in residence – Joseph Juracek, OFM; Daniel Lanahan, OFM; and Raymond Selker, OFM – said, “It is our hope and prayer that God will bless us with many more years here at St. Joseph.”

Joseph Hertel said that 2007 is much different than when the church was founded in 1872. The day of the anniversary Mass, too, was much different than the day the church was blessed. That day was a stormy Monday, Joseph said.

To close the Mass, 10 friars sang the Blessing of St. Francis, rarely glancing at their lyric sheets.

Special tributes and memories

Afterwards, the pastor acknowledged East Rutherford’s Mayor James Cassella, a parishioner, and William Roseman, the mayor of Carlstadt, a town one block from the church, many of whose residents have been part of the parish.  Councimen from both towns were also acknowledged.

Joseph also thanked the people who organized the weekend’s events.  Among them were Janet Smith, chair of the parish’s 135th planning committee, Dan and Patricia Conaton, Eileen McGuire, Anthony Ruggiero, the parish’s director of pastoral music, and liturgy coordinator Robert Russell.

The memories shared at the “open microphone” session included many from friars and about friars.

One speaker talked about how, at one time, in the 1970s, the parish had three priests named Mike (Mychal Judge, OFM; Michael Duffy, OFM; and Michael Tyson, OFM)  in residence, and it now has two Joes.

Brennan Connelly, OFM
, a former St. Joseph’s pastor who lives at Holy Cross friary in the Bronx, and Michael Tyson, OFM, now at Holy Name Church in Manhattan, both spoke.

Several senior friars attended the festivities: Thomas Kelly, OFM, of Assumption Parish in nearby Wood-Ridge, N.J.; and Giles Bello, OFM, of Ringwood, N.J.  Also in the crowd were Francis Gunn, OFM, who served as pastor of St. Joseph until 2005; Christopher Keenan, OFM, who remembered fondly his first assignment at St. Joseph; and Richard Mucowski, OFM.

Other Special Events

The parish continued its anniversary commemoration the next day with a tribute at its 11:30 a.m. Mass to deceased members and a 1:30 p.m. Blessing of the Animals.

This week, parishioners are being offered the first of a 10-session Franciscan Peacemaking program.  It is  an  immersion experience and spiritual journey designed for a group to become Franciscan Peaemakers, according to St. Joseph’s bulletin which can be found on the parish Web site. Those interested in participating should contact the friars at 201-939-0457.

As it does often,  the parish is collecting items to donate to the Province’s St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia.  This month, parishioners are gathering paper towels.

— Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications .