The birth of St. Mary's Parish
For over 130 yrs. the heart of a Christian family has beaten in the center Monmouth County. This community Is St. Mary's Parish, the Parish of the Mother of God.
The history of St. Mary's is part of the story of the growth of Catholicism in this area. It started with a humble beginning in 1853. To fulfill the needs of a small number of faithful Catholics, a missionary priest, the Rev. Father Callan from Staten Island , offered the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass in a barn in 1853. The barn belonged to a non-Catholic, Monmouth County land owner Dr. Edwin Taylor. Even then the spirit of ecumenism was alive in the area that was to become St. Mary's parish. During the years before the Civil War Father Callan continued to offer Mass to a growing number of Catholics who were now settling in the area between South Amboy and south of Red Bank.
During the postwar period Masses continued to be offered in the homes, barns and farm buildings of St. Mary's Founding Fathers. In 1874, a pioneer priest, Father F. Daneilon offered Mass with his associate Father Kane, in the homes of Catholics in the Middletown area. That was the first regular Mass service in the future St. Mary's Parish. Both Fathers were assigned to St. James Parish in Red Bank.
In 1863, a summer visitor, George P. Fox offered Bishop James Bailey, the first Bishop of New Jersey, property on which to build a church. But the Bishop did not accept the generous offer because the country was in the middle of the Civil War. During the war years one of the most direct steamboat lines was from lower New York Bay to Port Monmouth. From Port Monmouth steam powered cars of the Delaware Raritan Railroad carried United States Army troops to Norfork, Virginia. This railroad also carried many new families who would settle in the villages along its route. Monmouth County was growing and so were the needs of its Catholic population.
In 1875, Mr. Fox again offered land "on which to build a church" to the Diocese. The offer for was accepted by The Right Rev. Michael A. Corrigan, the Bishop of Newark, Diocese of New Jersey. The Bishop selected land in the new Monmouth area because of its large population and proximity to the railroad and stagecoach Station at Hopping (Belford). In 1878 plans were made for the establishment of St. Mary's Parish comprising of the territory of Highlands and New Monmouth and much of the adjacent countryside. On March 28, 1879, St. Mary's Parish was incorporated in the county courthouse, Freehold under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Father JJF. O'Connor of St. Mary's parish in Belleville, New Jersey was named St. Mary's of new Monmouth first pastor. Father O'Connor arrived in the area on July 28, 8 PM 79 and took up residence in Highlands, since he had a Parish but did not have a church or rectory. He offered Maxes every week in the homes of residents and immediately made plans to build a church. The 1879 Baptismal Register lists 10 infant baptisms with the place of birth listed as New Monmouth, Highlands, Port Monmouth, Chapel Hill and Sandy Hook. This gives us an idea of the area covered by the Parish.
The following year Father O'Connor and his loyal parishioners began the construction of the first Church. The estimated cost was $1500. The same year, the deed for an acre of land on plank Road (now Church Street) was received by Father O'Connor. On Easter Sunday, March 28, 1880 Father O'Connor laid the cornerstone of the first St. Mary's Church.
The parishioners worked all through the hot summer and on September 12, 1880, the church was completed and solemnly blessed by the most Rev. Bishop Michael A. Corrigan, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God. St. Mary's was the only Catholic church on the Bay or Ocean between Keyport and Long Branch.
This church was a simple style wood building with a frame structure. It was 36 feet wide and 60 feet long. Large Gothic shaped stained glass windows without figures or emblems allowed light to shine in each side. Behind the main altar, a large stained glass window of Murrillo's Immaculate Conception was placed at a later date.
Third Resident Pastor - 1895-1906
John R. O'Connor came as the third Pastor of Saint Mary's in 1895. Early chronicles tell that he was an active, energetic man who completed the present rectory and improved the property. An alumnus of-the seminary of Brignole Sale in Genoa he modeled the Church after one favored in an Italian village. Modified Gothic in design, he gave infinite atten¬tion to every detail of it. To this day of Jubilee it is admired by all who visit it or worship in it. The beams of the vaulted ceiling are all hand-hewn. A small news¬paper clipping of the times tell us that it cost the sum of $50,000.00 to build - an enormous undertaking in those days for a rural parish.
Parishoners, most of whom were farm¬ers' drove their wagons at evening tide to a pier in Port Monmouth where the bricks for the new church lay, coming down the Raritan on barges from the Sayre-Fischer Foundry in. SayeriIle, N.J. In some of the homes of older parishioners may be found a picture of Father O'Connor, taken on a holiday after he completed the new Church. It is unique. He is riding a camel somewhere in Egypt looking like a native and thoroughly enjoying his ride.
Father John E. Murray 1907 - 1924
The First World War Years and the post-war years filled a good part of Father's pastorate at Saint Mary's. Morrisey and Walker were developing the Borough of Keansburg into a sizeable summer community. The early vacation¬ers rode over on the trolley to New Mon¬mouth each Sunday morning for Mass. The trolley was left on the track behind the church property. After Mass "ALL ABOARD" - clang - clang - clang went the trolley back to Keansburg, and a day of fun.
Father Murray matched the growth of the community. Masses were offered in McDonald's Hotel on Main Street. Land on Carr Avenue was purchased. Soon a Spanish style Church was built on the site with a matching rectory.
First Superintendent of Schools - Diocese of Trenton and Pastor at St. Mary's from 1935 - 1950.
The Rev. William J. McConnell came to Saint Mary's in 1935. His long distin¬guished career as a priest of the Diocese saw him serve in various parishes. St. Michael's, West End for a brief span; St. Mary's, Bordentown also as Curate. Saint Rose Parish in Oxford Furnace ... was his first Pastorate. His heart was in St. Rose Parish, Belmar where he built the beauti¬ful Church and founded the Saint Rose High School. Appointed first Superinten¬dent of Schools in the Diocese of Trenton he laid the foundation for much of the development of Catholic education, and maintained his interest for many years. Serious illness impaired his health mak¬ing the last ten years of his life invalided. The Diocese honored him as Domestic Prelate in 1946. Death came for him in November 1950.
Rev. William J. McConnell
39 Years at St. Mary's. Assistant in 1940, Administrator in 1943, and Pastor in 1950.
Robert T. Bulman was ordained priest in July 1940, and one week later came to Saint Mary's as a Curate to Doctor McConnell. His residency has been long; first as Assistant; seven years as Administrator and Pastor since 1950. When asked about his long assignment in Saint Mary's, Father usually says: "I guess that I am like the old oak in the backyard. I just planted my feet in the soil and here 1 stayed." When Father Bulman was given his assignment to St. Mary's by the Late Bishop William A. Griffin, the Bishop said, "I am sending you to a small country parish to assist my dear friend, Dr. McConnell. The Lord has blessed you with many talents, and there you will be able to use all of them." A man seldom knows how many Godgiven talents he has until-he has to use them.
A Summer School of Religion was started for the .youngsters and continued yearly until 1955. Many lay volunteers made it easy. Lessons, singing, crafts, Koolaid, cookies and games were the order of the day.
Rev. Robert T. Bulman. 1952
March, 1979 At the Centennial Mass in Memorial Hall on March 28, 1979, the mortgage was burned. (that is, the loan from Emigrant Bank in New York, was paid off), The associates here at the time were Frs. Frank Bruno and James Conover.
May, 1979 Fr. Matthew Thelly was assigned to St. Mary's as a adjunct priest (meaning he was not yet incardinated into the Diocese of Trenton.) Fr. Thelly was here from India and completed his studies while staying at St. Mary's.
June, 1979 Frs. Frank Bruno and James Conover were reassigned, and Frs. William J. Nolan and newly ordained, Fr. Stanley P. Lukaszewski (Fr. Stas') were assigned as associates to Msgr. Bulman.
June 1981 Fr. Matthew Thelly was reassigned to become adjunt priest at St. Catherine Church in North Middletown.
October 1981 The position of Pastor for St. Justin's Church, Toms River, became available and in this time of the Church, priests interested in the position would submit in writing their desires to the Bishop. Fr. William J. Nolan did apply for the position and became Pastor of St. Justin's in November of that year.
November 1981 Fr. John T. Muthig, newly ordained, October 30, 1981, was assigned by the Bishop to come to St. Mary's to fill the position left by Fr. Nolan. Fr. Muthig, before his ordination, was a correspondent and had met many dignitaries, both secular and religious. He was asked by Cardinal Bernadin to accompany him on a trip through Italy. He interviewed Mother Teresa and Pope Pius VI, just to name a few. During the spring of 1984, the Bishop sent Fr. Muthig to learn the Spanish. He was reassigned in June of 1984 to St. John the Baptist Church in Long Branch, a Spanish-speaking community.
December 1984 brought, once again, another newly ordained to St. Mary's. Fr. John S. Christian, ordained, November 7, 1984, became the new associate, together with Fr. Stas', at St. Mary's. Fr. Christian was a convert to Catholicism, a very quiet individual. He also suffered from many illnesses which required his transfer to a smaller parish in June of 1986. He was assigned to St. Martha's in Point Pleasant.
June 1986 The month of June always brings with it the reassignment of priests that have served over five years in a parish and also the assignment of newly ordained. Fr. Francis Zalewski, was reassigned to St. Mary's from Holy Cross Parish in Trenton. He and Fr. Stas' served as Msgr. Bulman's associates.
June 1987 More changes. Both Fr. Stas' and Fr. Zalewski were reassigned. Fr. Stas' went to St. Veronica's Howell, and Fr. Zalewski went to St. Stephen Church in Trenton.
For the month of June and July, no priest was assigned for St. Mary's.
July 1987 The parish was introduced to Fr. Ralph Barile, who came to St. Mary's from a teaching position at Monsignor Farrell High School, located on Staten Island, New York.
August 1987 Fr. Andrew Cervenak of the Diocese of Trenton was assigned to St. Mary's. Fr. Cervenak was from the country of Slovakia, and told many stories of the underground, and how Catholics were persecuted for their faith.
June 1989 Fr. Barile, although ordained for the Diocese of Trenton, had his roots in Brooklyn, New York. His family still lived there, and whenever, he was able, he would go back to his home in Brooklyn. Working with the Diocese of Trenton and Diocese of Brooklyn, Fr. Barile was able to become incardinated for the Brooklyn Diocese and in June of 1989, he became an associate pastor in Brooklyn. Fr. Robert M. Tynski, ordained in May of 1989, was assigned to St. Mary's.
St. Mary's Parish, through the years, received help from the Jesuits and Dominicans for Sunday Liturgies, as at the time, Mass was celebrated in both St. Mary Church and Memorial Hall, part of St. Mary School. A total of eleven Masses were celebrated on the weekend. Fr. James D. Keating, O.P., had been a regular for many years on weekends and received permission from his order with the approval of Msgr. Bulman to take up residence at St. Mary's and serve as an adjunct priest. This took place in November 1989.
July 27, 1990 Msgr. Robert T. Bulman's 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Holy Priesthood.
June 1991 Fr. Andrew Cervenak was called by the Bishop to become pastor of the Church of Sts. Peter & Paul, in Trenton. Fr. Matthew Adackapara was then assigned to St. Mary's.Fr. Matthew was from India.
After 52 years of service at Saint Mary Church, his one and only assignment, Msgr. Robert T. Bulman, at the age of 79 , submitted his letter of retirement to Bishop John C. Reiss, then, Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton. On April 14, 1992, Msgr. Bulman left St. Mary's to take up residence at St. Mary's Parish in Sea Girt, at the invitation of Msgr. Samuel Constance, Pastor of St. Mark's. Msgr. Bulman continued his priestly duties, celebrating Mass, teaching CCD classes, and writing articles for the weekly bulletin. Msgr. remained at St. Mark's Church until November of the year 2000, when he was moved to St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center, the Diocesan Nursing Care residence. Msgr. entered into eternal life on April 7, 2001. His body lay in repose at St. Mary Church. The Mass of Resurrection was celebrated by Bishop John M. Smith and concelebrated by Msgr.'s many priestly friends. His body was interred in the family plot in South Amboy, New Jersey.
As so, after 52 years of under the guidance of Msgr. Bulman, the parish grew to include a Nursery School, an Elementary School, a High School. The grounds were also home to the Sisters of St. Francis from Stella Niagara, New York and in later years the Sisters of St. Dominic of joined them in the convent that was built in 1962. Msgr. always had the dream of building a new church however, as the years passed and he grew older he reconciled himself to leave the job to a young fellow.
April 1992 On Friday, the 24th of April, Fr. Gregory D. Vaughan, then pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Cinnaminson had been reassigned to become Pastor of St. Mary Church, New Monmouth. Fr. Vaughan began his pastorate with his three associates: Fr. Robert Tynski, Fr. Matthew Adackapara, and Fr. James Keating, O.P.
June 1993 Fr. Matthew Adackapara was reassigned to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in West Freehold, and the parish was introduced to Fr. Eugene Vavrick, transferred to St. Mary's from St. Catharine Church, Spring Lake.
June 1994 Fr. Robert Tynski was reassigned to St. Joseph Church in Toms River and Fr. Leon Buni joined the staff of St. Mary's.
September 1995 Fr. Eugene Vavrick received word that his mother was seriously ill, and to assist his father, Fr. Vavrick took a leave of absence. Fr. Gerald McBride was then assigned to St. Mary's from Our Lady of Good Counsel, West Trenton. The parish continued to be served by Fr. Buni and Fr. Keating, O.P.
June 1996 Fr. Leon Buni was reassigned to a parish in Lakewood, St. Mary of the Lake. Fr. Jeffrey J. Kegley, a native of Keansburg ordained in May for the Diocese of Trenton, arrived at St. Mary's.
May 1997 Fr. Gregory Vaughan, pastor, celebrated his 25th Anniversary of Ordination with the parishes of St Ann's, Keansburg, St. Charles Borromeo, Cinnaminson and St. Mary's New Monmouth with a Mass celebrated in Memorial Hall and a reception at the Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands.
July 1997 Bishop John M. Smith, Bishop of Trenton, reassigned Fr. Vaughan to the Parish of St. Raphael in Hamilton. Fr. Dennis A. Apoldite, then pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Trenton was reassigned and became Pastor of St. Mary Parish in July 1997. That summer, the staff was joined by Rev. Mr. Michael Figler, who spent his summer at St. Mary's before his ordination in May 1998.
October 1999 Fr. Dennis Apoldite became very ill in October and was sent on a sabbatical by Bishop Smith. Fr. Jeff Kegley was appointed Administator. In November of this year, Fr. Gerard McCarren (St. Rose Freehold) was reassigned and appointed Pastor of St. Mary's. Due to the return of a previous illness, Fr. McCarren left St. Mary's in December of l999 and Fr. John M. Dobrosky, then pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Highlands was appointed by Bishop Smith to the pastorate of St. Mary's.
June 2000 Fr. Gerald McBride was reassigned as associate pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, and Fr. James J. Selvaraj, was assigned as adjunct priest. Fr. Selvaraj came to us from Blessed Sacrament in Trenton. The Parish staff now were Rev. John M. Dobrosky, pastor, Fr. Jeffrey J. Kegley, Fr. James J. Selvaraj and Fr. James D. Keating, OP.
June 2001 Changes happen once again. Fr. Jeff Kegley was appointed pastor of Holy Angels Church, Trenton and Fr. Pasquale A. Papalia, incardinated from the Diocese of Newark, became our new Associate. Fr. "Pat" as he was affectionately called introduced the Friday night Soup Supper during the Fridays of Lent. He also brought to the parish many traditional para-liturgies such as St. Joseph's Table, Exaltation of the Cross.
April 2000 Fr. James D. Keating suffered a stroke and was sent by his order to their Provincial Home in Washington, D. C.
September 11, 2001 July 2002 Fr. John M. Dobrosky was reassigned to the Parish of St. Luke, Toms River.
July 2002 Msgr. Michael J. Walsh, then pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood, was appointed by Bishop John M. Smith to be pastor of St. Mary Church. The parish of St. Mary's staff was Msgr. Walsh, pastor, Fr. Pat, Associate, Fr. James, adjunct and Fr. Ralph Townsend, OP, who was our weekend helper and then, as Fr. Keating, took up residence at St. Mary's to become our weekend associate. Fr. Mike began fulfilling the dream of building a new Church. Marshalling support from the parishioners Mary Mother of God Church was
September 2002 Fr. James Selvaraj left for India to visit his family and became seriously ill. Upon his recovery and return to the United States, Fr. James was reassigned to the Parish of St. Raphael, Hamilton.
February 2003 brought Fr. Henry Militante to the Parish as an adjunct priest. Fr. Henry was from the Philippines. Father Henry stayed with St. Mary's until July.
June 2003 newly ordained, Fr. Mark Kreder, joined St. Mary's as its new associate.
COMING SOON 2003- PRESENT