St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
"In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen."
With these words Father Thomas Quinn, the first Pastor of St. Mary's Parish, inaugurated the first meeting of the Board of Lay Trustees, Mr. Patrick Brown and Mr. James Langden, who had been appointed and approved by the Most Reverend James Roosevelt Beayley, then Bishop of Newark.
Saint Mary's had its founding in 1845, when Father Isaac Howell, then pastor in Elizabeth visited St. Mary's and made it one of his first missions. His territory extended from Perth Amboy all the way to New Brunswick.
Because of the rapid growth of this small mission and the zeal and faith of its people, Father Thomas Quinn was appointed first resident pastor in 1854. Immediately upon his arrival, he erected a church, school, and rectory and purchased property about two miles from the property plant for a cemetery.
He engaged a lay teacher and the first school opened with 80 pupils. Father Quinn visited families in Woodbridge, Colonia, Iselin, and in the outlying districts to bring them the comforts of their religion. After 19 years of labor, Father Quinn died in 1873 and was buried in the cemetery that he established.
Father Sebastian Smith, a distinguished writer and scholar, became pastor and remained in Rahway for seven years. He continued the work of Father Quinn and saw the parish grow. He purchased the bell that has been a part of our parish since 1874. The bell is rung 5 minutes prior to weekend masses.
Father Edward McCosker was named pastor in 1880. A very energetic man, he had the church re-moved to the rear on the sight of the present auditorium and made use of it for parish meetings and social activities. In 1882 he erected the present church and rectory which have served the faithful of Rahway since that time.
Father Bernard Bogan was appointed Administrator in 1894 when Father McCosker was forced to resign because of ill health. Father McCosker died in St. Joseph’s hospital in 1906.
Father George F. Brown succeeded to the pastorate in 1905. He erected the school which stands today as the CYO room. The church was renovated and many improvements were added.
Fifty years had now passed and St. Mary’s Parish had taken its place among the leading parishes in the diocese.
Father John J. O’Brien came to St. Mary’s in 1910 and remained for four years, with Father Patrick Maher succeeding him.
Father Maher in turn was succeeded by Father Cornelius Kane in 1917. Father Kane, who was made a Monsignor in 1923 by Pope Pius XII, remained at St. Mary’s until his death in 1947, a period of 30 years.
During this time, the parish grew and new property and new buildings were necessary.
In 1923, the Bliss Estate was purchased and remodeled as a convent for the Sisters. 1925 saw the erection of a new fourteen classroom school and a beautiful Auditorium adjacent to the Church.
The Church was renovated and decorations were completed in 1941. An additional plot of land was acquired for the cemetery which was laid out in walks and roads. Alterations and an addition to the Rectory were completed in 1946.
After thirty years of untiring service to his people, to his church, and to the community, Msgr. Kane passed to his eternal reward in 1947.
Respected by people of all denominations in the community, revered by his parishioners and their children for whom he had accomplished so much, Msgr. Kane’s memory will always be treasured in St. Mary’s.
Father Michael Magnier came as successor to Msgr. Kane. Under Father Magnier’s direction, the Convent was enlarged and a new chapel for the Sisters installed. The old school building in the rear of the rectory was renovated; the first floor was made into a modern cafeteria, affording lunch time facilities for the children and four classrooms occupied the second floor.
Father John P. Sullivan succeeded Father Magnier who was transferred to Bloomfield in July 1953. Because of the rapid growth of the City of Rahway, school facilities were overtaxed everywhere and St. Mary’s was no exception.
Father Sullivan purchased new school furniture, the entire school was redecorated, as was the Auditorium, and new stage and electrical equipment was installed.
The need for extra classroom space was answered temporarily when negotiations with the city authorities resulted in the lease of the third floor of the former Rahway City Hall, behind the annex. This was an unused portion of the building and gave St. Mary’s four extra classrooms. The Church rehabilitated this floor at a cost of approximately $10,000.
On October 4, 1954, a campaign for $150,000 was inaugurated for the erection of the present school annex.
In anticipation of the centenary of St. Mary’s Father Sullivan inaugurated an intensive renovation and restoration program. The Church was modernized and redecorated by Mr. Richard Ilario Panzironi of New York City, the exterior was repainted, and a new lighting system installed. The convent was redecorated and new equipment was purchased.
The Auditorium was utilized for three additional Masses, because of the overcrowding of the Church. New chairs with kneelers provided a churchlike atmosphere during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
One brief year after St. Mary’s Centennial celebration, in September 1955, Father Sullivan went to his eternal reward.
Father Joseph E. Murphy succeeded to the pastorate in November 1955. His great interest in the youth of our parish became immediately evident when he arranged for the purchase of the property adjacent to the Convent, and in 1964, he completed a new gymnasium which provided up-to-date facilities for St. Mary’s expanding athletic program. The entire parish was shocked by his sudden death in February 1971.
In October of 1971, Reverend Monsignor Anthony J. Connell, came to St. Mary’s. Continuing in Father Murphy’s work and with the good spirit of the parishioners, his campaign for increased parish support was eminently successful, and resulted in a substantial increase in the income of the parish. Theses additional funds were put to work immediately in order to provide a completely air-conditioned church, an enlarged parking lot, and a modernized lower hall beneath the gymnasium designed to provide classroom space for special education as well as meeting rooms for parish organizations. This hall was named Connell Hall, in honor of him.
Following Msgr. Connell's untimely death, the Rev. Joseph M. Quinlan arrived at St. Mary's in 1977. He immediately began the task of renovating the school: every window in the school was replaced, a new roof was installed, the ceilings in every classroom were "dropped", the school's electrical system was replaced, and air conditioning was brought to the auditorium. Fr. Quinlan encouraged us to become a tithing parish, and moved beyond the concept of tithing to begin a major pledge drive to renovate the church. Moved by his spirit, the generous parishioners of St. Mary's pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars to completely renovate the church: every pew was replaced, fork lift trucks moved up and down the aisles and the church was renewed in the spirit of Vatican II, while maintaining its original beauty. Carpeting and a new sound system were installed and the area in the rear was remodeled and converted into a daily Mass chapel. The altar was moved closer to the people, flexible seating was installed, and the organ was restored and moved from the loft to its present location. The baptismal font was moved to the center of the church - to the midst of the community. During the brief time of renovation (the summer of 1982) weddings and funerals were moved to St. Mark's and St. Thomas', Sunday liturgies were celebrated in the auditorium, and daily Mass occurred in the convent chapel. In the fall of 1982, the extensively renovated St. Mary's Church reopened, maintaining the character that has inspired the people of the parish for generations.
Fr. Quinlan then turned his attention to the rectory, installing central air conditioning, completely renovating all rooms and tremendously expanding office space to meet the needs of the people of St. Mary's. Again, every window needed replacement, and even the garage was refurbished and sided, along with the siding of the rectory.
Spiritually, Fr. Quinlan began the RCIA process at St. Mary's, and it was under his direction that the first Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers were trained and commissioned. The first bilingual Masses and ministry to the Hispanic population in the area occurred, along with the hiring of the first Youth Minister at St. Mary's. Another of Fr. Quinlan's accomplishments was the parish census - a door to door count/interview of Catholics in Rahway. Through his active involvement in the Rahway Ministerial Association, many interfaith activities blossomed at St. Mary's during Fr. Quinlan's pastorate.
Fr. Michael J. Feketie followed Fr. Quinlan to St. Mary's in 1988 - just in time to celebrate the centenary of the current church and rectory buildings. Proficient in Spanish, Fr. Feketie greatly expanded the parish ministry to the Hispanic community. Fr. Feketie also encouraged the development of the Father's Club to revitalize both the school and the parish. During his tenure, the social consciousness of the parishioners had been heightened through the housing of homeless families at St. Mary's during several periods of the year. Fr. Feketie took his retirement in 2005 after serving the people of St. Mary's for 17 years.
Fr. William Morris came to St. Mary's after Fr. Feketie retired. The people of St. Mary's look forward to many happy and fruitful years shepherded by Fr. Morris!
The people of St. Mary's has a loyal people, devoted to their homes, their families, and their faith. They have the same spirit of those who pioneered and labored to build this parish, and who made great sacrifices and who saw the fruit of their work at St. Mary's. In the future, with the help of Almighty God and the intercession of our patroness the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will grasp the torch of faith with a firm hand and march on in our spiritual journey!
St. Mary’s School
An important or rather essential adjunct of every parish is its parochial school. Whenever possible, the school is erected at the same time as the church.
That thought animated the first pastor of Rahway, Father Thomas Quinn, for we learn from the records that he erected a school, church, and rectory as his first work in the new parish of Rahway.
The first school was erected in the rear of the rectory and was staffed by lay teachers. We find a notation in 1867 that “it was unanimously resolved to pay Mr. James Donovan $550.00 for services as teacher for the term.” And again in 1868 it “was unanimously resolved to pay J. G. Canning $600.00 for services as teacher.”
In the year 1887 we have our first record of Sisters coming to the parish, the Sisters of St. Dominic from Caldwell. The records still existing in Caldwell mention Mother Avelline, Sister Theresa, and Sister Bertrand. It further records the names of Sisters who served at St. Mary’s throughout the years. Some of them were stationed in Rahway for over 20 years-Sister Sebastian, Sister Lucy, Sister Miriam, and Sister Seraphine.
The original school was replaced in 1906 by a new building on the same sight in the rear of the rectory. It’s opening, planned for Thanksgiving Day, 1905, was delayed because of strikes until February 5, 1906.
The faculty of the School at that time included Sister Charitine, Loyola, Olypia, and Sebastian of the Dominican Sisters. Most Rev. John J. O’Connor, then bishop of Newark, blessed the school on February 25, 1906, assisted by Father Wallace, Father Leo, O.S.B., and the Pastor, Father Brown.
The community was growing and in 1923, Msgr. Kane who, this year purchased a new residence for the Sisters on Esterbrook Ave. and remodeled it for a Convent began the erection of a beautiful new school and auditorium. This was completed in 1925 and contained fourteen classrooms, principal’s office, teacher’s room, and library. This building served the school needs until 1947 when Father Magnier renovated the old school building, thereby adding four classrooms.
This proved adequate until 1954 when Father Sullivan, realizing the ever-increasing registration, obtained facilities on the third floor of the City Hall for Four classrooms and with the permission of Most Rev. Arch-Bishop proceeded with plans for a six-room addition to the present school building.
The school was merged with St. Elizabeth of Hungary School in 2004, due to a decrease in enrollment in both schools. The merged schools use St. Elizabeth’s facilities, and the new school is called Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Academy.
St. Mary’s Parish is fortunate in having its own cemetery, founded by Father Thomas Quinn, the first pastor. In 1865, eleven years after the founding of the Parish, Father Quinn acquired a tract of 3 acres just over the Rahway line in the township of Clark.
This site, known as the old cemetery was improves by Father John O’Brien in 1912.
In 1922, Msgr. Cornelius Kane purchased two acres adjoining the original tract, made further improvements, laid out roads and paths and enhanced the general appearance.
On September 17, 1954, Father Sullivan purchased four additional acres adjacent to the cemetery.
During the course of 140 years, very many parishioners have been laid to rest in this quiet peaceful spot.
May they – Priests and Parishioners – who lie there, through the Mercy of God, find rest everlasting in Heaven.
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