Paterson Church Commemorates Holiday and Anniversary

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

PATERSON, N.J. — St. Bonaventure Parish here commemorated its 130th birthday on July 4th, celebrating its own founding, along with the country’s independence.

Bishop Arthur Seratelli of the Diocese of Paterson celebrated a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at 5 p.m. on July 4. Daniel Grigassy, OFM, the church’s 28th pastor, concelebrated.

In his homily, Bishop Seratelli spoke of the importance of the Paterson church, a parish of approximately 500 households.

“For 130 years, people have come here to St. Bonaventure,” he said. “At that time, Catholics were marginalized. Today, 130 years later, we gather to celebrate with great joy, the life of faith here. We celebrate all that has been accomplished here.”

Church is Source of Life

“We recognize the good in people, and also, that not a single one of us is perfect,” he said.  “The church is a source of new life for all.”

The bishop suggested that parishioners encourage young people to join the Church, and added: “Don’t be afraid to show your Franciscan spirit.”

At the closing of the Mass, Dan spoke. “This is an important year of celebration of Catholic and Franciscan presence. We chose this date for our Mass because it is the actual date that Bishop Michael Corrigan came to dedicate this place as a house of worship. There is such a history here. Many of your ancestors celebrated major milestones in their lives here – christenings, marriages, funerals. Today, we honor the priests and brothers who have served here, and we also honor this place as sacred space.”

Dan thanked the bishop for “leading us in prayer — especially on a holiday.”

He also welcomed the parish’s new priest, Christopher VanHaight, OFM, who was ordained in May, and acknowledged John Piccione, OFM, director of St. Anthony’s Guild,  as “the beloved past pastor.” Both recognitions elicited much applause. Dan also recognized Christian Camadella, OFM, the parish’s senior associate friar, as well as the parish deacons and sisters who have served the parish.

Among the friars attending were Lawrence Burke, OFM, of Ringwood, N.J.; Evan Greco, OFM, of Totowa, N.J.; John Kull, OFM, and Jeremiah McGinley, OFM, of Butler, N.J.; Octavio Duran, OFM, of East Rutherford, N.J. Octavio photographed the event.

Celebrating Parish History 
After the Mass, the bishop blessed a cornerstone near the original that was laid 130 years ago — on July 4, 1878.

The bishop then joined parishioners, friars, and guests in Bishop Manning Hall for supper, dancing and conversation. Bells tolled hymns and patriotic songs as guests walked across the street. These bells are from Germany, the native country of the founding friars.

Pastoral council president Marge Balough said that, like the congregation, the evening was very warm and hospitable. “I’ve always found the people at St. Bon’s a welcoming family,”  she said.

Two keepsake items were sold to commemorate the parish’s special year. One is a cookbook titled Taste and See; the other is a jubilee Christmas ornament. Both can be purchased through the parish office; call 973-279-1016 for information.

The night before the celebration, the parish hosted its second annual fireworks viewing. More than 225 parishioners and neighbors gathered on the lawn of the church to watch the display from nearby Garret Mountain, said Dan, who appears at right in the photo.

“Three years ago, I watched it by myself,” he said.  “I vowed that evening, after locking the church and looking at the expanse of green grass, that I would never watch these fireworks alone again.”

“Last year, we had the first gathering and this year, the second. Even more people came than last year. We had face-painting and balloon artists for the kids, and plenty of food and drink for all.”

“Several neighbors, some who are not Catholics and some who are Muslims, joined us. It was a great evening.”

Future Anniversary Commemorations
More commemorations of the parish’s anniversary are planned for this year. They include:

• July 15 Mass and pot luck supper to commemorate the Feast of St. Bonaventure
• Aug. & Sept Francis Film Fest
• Sept. 14 Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross with Provincial Minster John O’Connor, OFM
• Sept. 15 & 22 Lectures, “Crucifix of San Damiano,” Daniel Grigassy, OFM
• Sept. 20 Day of Recollection, “Francis Through the Eyes of Bonaventure,” Teresa V. Baker, SFO,
Chair, National Franciscan Formation Commission
• Sept. 29 Lecture titled, “The Coming of the Friars to Paterson, 1876,” by Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM
• Oct. 3 to 4 Transitus and Solemnity of Francis of Assisi
• Oct. 16 to 26 Pilgrimage to Franciscan Italy
• Nov. 16 Gala Jubilee Dinner

“We have a glorious history here at St. Bon’s,” said Dan in a parish booklet. “Our present moment is blessed with extraordinary people and fruitful ministries. At this critical juncture in our history, we must look to the future together and continue to live and grow into the next decades as the body of Christ. May this 130th jubilee year refresh us and transform us.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is Director of Communications for Holy Name Province.