New Jersey Parish Celebrates 90th Anniversary

Karen Karaszewski In the Headlines


WOOD-RIDGE, N.J – Assumption Parish on First Street, founded by the friars of Holy Name Province, is marking its 90th anniversary with a yearlong series of liturgical services, social events and parish celebrations.

Parishioners, former parishioners and friends are invited to attend an anniversary Mass on October 9 at 11 a.m. Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, who served at Assumption from 1979 to 1982, will preside at the Mass, which will be followed with a celebration of food and fellowship will follow in the Father Patrick Morris Hall. More information can be found on the parish website and Facebook page.

The 90th celebration year theme, “Coming Together and Reaching Out,” honors the history of the parish which provides the families of Wood-Ridge with a spiritual home and calls them to live the Franciscan spirit of community and service as individuals and as a parish family.

A series of special events is planned for each month during the anniversary year and offer a mix of fun, spiritual enrichment and recognition of those who have served the parish family and community throughout the years.

Celebrating Church History and Community
The parish, in southern Bergen County, was established during a time of great expansion of parish ministry of the Province’s life, according to ‘Peace and Good’ in America: A History of Holy Name Province by Joseph M. White.

In the early part of the 1900s, Catholic residents of Wood-Ridge would travel to neighboring towns for the celebration of the sacraments and weekly Eucharist.

In the spring of 1926, Wood-Ridge formed a separate Catholic parish, named Church of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, and a church was built on the site of the present-day friary. Its cornerstone was laid on Aug. 15, 1926, the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption. Edwin Garrity, OFM, the first pastor, celebrated the opening Mass on Nov. 28, 1926.

A convent and a school were built in 1938 by the then-pastor Edgar Barrett, OFM. William Hayes, OFM, directed the building of a new church, a school addition and a friary during the mid-1950s. Friars currently serving the Assumption community are Richard Mucowski, OFM, pastor, and Paul Keenan, OFM, as well as Gary Maciag, OFM, who works at nearby Felician University.

Details about Assumption’s history can be found on the parish website and on its Facebook page.

“Operation Assumption Memorabilia” kicked off at the beginning of the year to encourage parish members to share their stories, photos and mementos of Assumption Parish and School. These items were combined with parish archives to create an exhibit that will be on display through June 2017.

Looking to the Future
During the past year, the parish completed several renovations and improvements to the church building, including the installation of an elevator and an upgraded lighting system. Restrooms in Father Patrick Morris Hall were upgraded to make them handicap accessible. An industrial kitchen was added to encourage more parish events.

A beautiful rose prayer garden, made possible through a gift from parishioner Richard Taylor dedicated to the memory of his wife, has been created, according to staff member Rose Lepore. A statue of St. Francis is the centerpiece and focal point of the garden which offers a sanctuary and peace to all who enter with roses, ornate bird feeders, a patio with seating and meditative koi pond.

“Children from the religious education program have already had gatherings in the garden which is a warm reminder of the sounds of the Assumption school children who used the space as the playground in years past when the pre-school was in the Hayes Center,” said Lepore. Assumption School closed in 2010.

Lepore, friary associate and coordinator of volunteers,  is part of a team of parishioners and ministry leaders that is assisting Richard in organizing the anniversary celebration.

— Karen Karaszewski is a freelance writer based in Western New York.

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