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The Beginnings

We are

Because of what we have been.

We shall be

Because of what we are.


The R.C. Chapel of St. Anne at Nelson Avenue and Congress Street will be dedicated tomorrow and the services will be of a most impressive character. The pretty little edifice, with its bright and harmonious decorations and furnishings, is all in readiness for the event.                    The Evening Journal, September 19, 1903

Father Quinn was appointed pastor of St. Paul of The Cross Church in 1887. He faithfully watched over his parishioners and noted particularly those who lived in the western sector on the "Western Slope." It was quite a distance from that area to Saint Paul’s, yet the good people found their way to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days and children daily march dutifully to school.

Aware of the hardships and impressed with their perseverance, Father Quinn sought a solution to ease the burden of St. Paul’s parishioners. He appealed to the Most Reverend John J. O’Connor, D. D., bishop of Newark, to build a combination Mission Chapel and school. It was intended to provide better facilities for his faithful of the western slope area. Bishop O’Connor granted permission and Father Quinn purchase a piece of land located on the corner of Nelson Avenue and Congress Street. And so it began . . .

On September 20, 1903, Reverend M.F. McGinnis, assistant at Saint Paul’s, offered a solemn Mass of dedication. Reverend J.J. Boylan served as the deacon and the Reverend John Maher as subdeacon. The sermon of dedication was preached be Father Alfred, C.P., and presiding over the entire ceremony was Most Reverend John J. O’Connor, D.D. Father McGinnis was named spiritual director of the mission.

Masses were offered Sundays at 7a.m. and 8:30a.m. and Holy Days at 8 a.m. It was noted that the Sisters of Charity conducted school exercises and that the building affords accommodations for about 350 pupils. The Sisters of Charity were sent from St. Paul of the Cross. In June 1904 four Sister of Charity from Convent Station joined the staff to teach at the school.

The work of the mission was performed successfully. Needs grew in proportion to the expanding population. In June of 1904, the mission became the incorporated parish of St. Anne’s. The Reverend John J. Maher was appointed the first pastor of the parish.

A large farmhouse was situated on the corner of Congress Street and the Boulevard. Father Maher purchased the building for renovation and service as the first rectory for the priests.

The first Holy Name Men of Hudson County met on September 17, 1904. The formation of the Rosary Society and the Saint Vincent DePaul Society soon followed. These groups provided necessary and humane Christian services, and displayed the spiritual solidarity of the parish.

In 1906, 246 Congress Street was purchased to be developed into the site for a new rectory.

On June 25, 1908, four children graduated form St. Anne’s School (3 girls and 1 boy). One of the girls, Theresa Mc Murren, became Sister Grace DePaul of the Sisters of Charity. Father Luke, graduated in 1909 from St. Anne’s as Frank Hay, was the first graduate to enter the service of the priesthood.

The first parishioner to enter the seminary was Will O’Shea. He was born in New York City. He became a St. Anne’s parishioner and was educated in Hoboken schools. Will was ordained at Maryknoll on December 5, 1917. He was consecrated bishop by Pope Pius XII, the first native American to be consecrated by a pope.

Bishop O’Shea was Bishop of Heijo, Korea; and during World War II was placed under house arrest by the Japanese, later to be sent to a concentration camp. After the war, when the first civilians were repatriated, Bishop O’Shea was placed on a ship which eventually brought him to New York. He later became Auxiliary Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire. Bishop O’Shea attained his final reward February 27, 1945.

St. Anne’s had grown from a mission to a fully functioning parish. Religious, educational, social and humanitarian foundations had been laid. Physical growth was evident. Parish families were united in their endeavors to function as a Christian community under the loving guidance of Father Maher.

In 1909, Father James Hobson arrived at St. Anne’s to assist Father Maher who had been ailing for some time. In March 1911, the first pastor attained his heavenly reward. He served Saint Anne’s in every possible way and guided the parish through its infancy, establishing strength upon which to grow.

The Reverend James Mulhall accepted his pastorate in April 1911. His contributions added a renewed emphasis on the youth of the parish. A troop of Boy Scouts was formed. A drum and bugle corps was founded and known as the Saint Anne’s Boy Scout Band. In March 1927, the Columbus Cadets were organized.

The population was still growing and Father Mulhall was concerned with accommodating the children whose parents wished them to attend Saint Anne’s School. Father Mulhall consulted the bishop regarding the parish needs. It was decided a new church would be built and that the old church would be converted into classrooms. A drive was planned for the church building fund. Fifty thousand dollars was pledged by the generous, poor, hardworking, largely immigrant population. This personified the unified spirit of Christian sacrifice so evident in the parish from its beginnings.

It was decided that the convent, which had served as a rectory when the parish had begun, would be moved onto property purchased for the new church. A new rectory has been built in 1918.

Work progressed at such a rate that the new church was completed and opened ahead of schedule. Mass was celebrated for the first time at midnight of Christmas Day, 1927. During this period, the labors of Father Augustine V. Dunn and Father John M. Nuberg were evident as they promoted the growth of this thriving parish.

In the 1930’s. Father George T. Smith came on the scene replacing Father Nuberg, and again Saint Anne’s has a good team. In 1939 Father Patrick F.X. Fitzpatrick replaced Father Smith.

The long and fruitful tenure of Father Mulhall was almost at an end. But one further honor awaited him before the good Lord called him home. In May of 1941 Pope Pius XII elevated Father Mulhall to the rank of Domestic Prelate with the title of Right Reverend d’Monsignor. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Walsh, archbishop of Newark, invested Father Mulhall with the robes of his new rank. It was a tribute to the tremendous efforts of Father Mulhall that the parish had made such significant strides under his leadership. Indeed, he was truly missed when he was called to his heavenly reward in June 1942.

Meanwhile, Father Edmund P. Rigney had arrived in 1941 and quickly became a fixture at St. Anne’s along with Father Joseph A. Shovlin, who arrived in June 1942. Father Shovlin had founded Christ the King Parish and served as pastor for 13 years. Father Shovlin was enthusiastic, energetic and blessed with simplicity of the truly great. It was fortunate for the parish that Father Shovlin accepted the pastorate of St. Anne’s.

The much beloved Father Rigney and the youthful and energetic Father Edward J. Kelly who came to Saint Anne’s in June 1946 ably furthered the vigorous pastorate of Father Shovlin. In 1961, Father Robert A. Connors came on the scene to augment the staff of a much larger Saint Anne’s Parish, and in his own dynamic way gave assistance to Father Shovlin.

Father Shovlin’s pastorate was marked by extensive improvements in the physical plant. Between 1945 and 1954, a principal’s office, a nurse’s room, storage and supply rooms were added to the school. Steel-fire stairwells and stairways, new lavatories were installed. The kindergarten was renovated and the second and third stories were added to the school annex with four additional classrooms. The building at 246 Congress Street was repurchased and a new convent erected.

Daily involvement in the activities of the parish flourished. Religious, educational and social needs were served. Father Shovlin introduced the Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Minstrel and variety shows were produced. Annual bazaars evoked feelings of anticipation and happy satisfaction. Saint Anne’s observed a 50th anniversary in 1954. The success of these 50 years set by priests, sisters, men, women, and youngsters set standards of a solid Christian lifestyle.

With such work performed, it cannot be overlooked. Father Shovlin’s endeavors were rewarded in many ways. He watched the evidence of his guidance in the daily activity of his parishioners. His superiors were duly impressed and saw fit to invest Father Shovlin with the robes of a Monsignor. Monsignor Shovlin accepted his title in 1954.

In 1957 Monsignor Shovlin had determined the need for a new rectory. A significant indication of the growth of the parish is evident in the fact that during Monsignor Shovlin’s tenure, with the able administration of the Sisters of Charity, the school enrollment increased from 550 to over 1,100 students.

Monsignor Shovlin retired from his pastorship in 1968. He remained in residence at St. Anne’s until he met his heavenly reward.

In 1968 Monsignor Edward J. Larkin accepted the pastorate. The whole world was in ferment during the 60’s and the church had to be affected. What was most evident to all of us were the adaptations and changes in the liturgy. Monsignor Larkin presided over the changes at Saint Anne’s in a smooth and dignified manner. The use of the vernacular and greater participation in the Mass, the musical adaptations were handled well. The transitions were brought about in the familiar spirit of Christian solidarity at Saint Anne’s.

Although he was here for a shorter period of time than his predecessors, Monsignor Larkin’s contributions were no less significant. In September 1971 Monsignor Larkin was transferred to Sacred Heart, in Vailsburg, Newark.

In December of 1971, Saint Anne’s was fortunate to be placed under the guidance of the Reverend James A. McKenna. Father McKenna accepted his pastorate humbly and served faithfully since 1971. The interior of the Church underwent some changes during his pastorate. The parish worked actively and successfully on "Project Lifeline," an archdiocesan effort of unity and mutual help. As with so many drives in the past, Saint Anne’s Parish was among the leaders in participation and results.

In 1972, Father Connors guided the transition of the Mother’s Guild into the Home-School Association. This organization helped to unify the work of the home and the school in the overall education of our young people.

In addition to classroom activity, the children of the parish are afforded extra-curricular opportunities for social and athletic endeavor. The population of the city has been in a pattern of gradual decline. Consistent with this decline has been a decrease in the population of our parish. Yet it was noted in the Jersey Journal that "Saint Anne’s Youth Program Organization is larger than that of any other parish in the Archdiocese of Newark." It is this preparation of our youth under the guidance of a kind pastor and implemented by the priests, religious faculty, lay faculty, parents and friends which enables young people to grow into Christian adults. And, it is the continuity of this pattern which makes a parish successful. What we have been has made us what we are.

Father McKenna welcomed Father Mark Urbano in 1972. Father Urbano was instrumental in the tremendously successful activities of our youth. In 1973, Father John Basil became assistant pastor at Saint Anne’s. Father Basil worked diligently with the Holy Name Society. Father Frederick Miller came to Saint Anne’s in 1974 and was an integral part of the religious education of young people. During that time he also directed the Adult Education Program.

Father McKenna’s health began to fail in 1990 and he retreated to St. Paul of the Cross till he met with his heavenly reward on February 25, 1991.

In 1991, Father Gurski began his pastorate at St. Anne’s. He carried on the great traditions of St. Anne’s. He began the job of repairing some of the many deteriorating facilities both in the school and in the church. Unfortunately, he became ill and in 1993 had to give up his pastorate to recuperate.

Father Victor P. Kennedy, V.F., was appointed Pastor of St. Anne’s Church in December 1993, celebrating his first Mass on Christmas Eve. During his first year he took the time to get to know his people and their needs as well as assessing the physical needs of the buildings, etc. As a result of this analysis, he began a capital campaign in 1994 for the restoration of the beautiful gothic church that is more than 90 years old. The people pledged more than $500,000; almost half of which has already been paid. The exterior and interior have been completely restored to their original beauty.

St. Anne’s is a parish of families who have been active for several generations. The needs of these families are extremely important to him and he expends his energies responding to those needs on every level in an attempt to breathe new life into the parish. He has started a youth program for the grammar school age children and a young adults group for those over 18 and hopes to get a high school program off the ground in the very near future. He appointed a new principal for the grammar school of approximately 350 children, and established a new level of visibility and availability between priests and the children. There are prayer groups developing to respond to every level of spirituality among the people.

Since Father Vic’s pastorate began we have seen the fruits of his warmth reaching out to all parishioners. He reiterates an "invitation" to take ownership of our church as "The People of God". Spiritual activities and functions have flourished to a degree that has not been known for many years. A renewal of community spirit involving the cooperation of many people from many groups makes things happen. We have seen our third year of "The Living Stations of the Cross" thanks to the concerted efforts of many groups and individual families working as the "People of God". Even our home bound participate to the fullest extent with their invaluable Rosaries going full time when they are called upon to pray for the sick. We have come to know people we never knew before. We have all been invited and we are coming together because we are invited to be "lovers of God" and find Him in each other.

Father Vic was elected Dean of Jersey City North (Deanery 10) in 1994. In that capacity Father Vic initiated the annual outdoor Liturgies at Pershing Field which attract well over 1,000 people from our deanery. He also introduced the deanery "Missions" during Advent each year. The parishes of the deanery also celebrate Holy Thursday together with common prayer and visitation to the different parish churches "en masse" utilizing the city buses. In 1994 he was also appointed Archdiocesan Chaplain for the Boy Scouts.

In 1994 Father Juan De Mesa joined Father Vic to assist him in his many endeavors. He is most active with the Young Adult group and with Ministers of the Eucharist and Lectors. He has been very successful in maintaining the most beautiful Easter and Christmas décor of our church. Father Arnel Galeone joined the parish shortly after Father DeMesa and spent two years contributing his energies to many fruitful endeavors. He moved on to another parish leaving many accomplishments behind him. He will always be remembered as the priest who sang the early Mass even on weekdays.

St. Anne’s is a flourishing parish of the People of God thanks to Father Vic Kennedy’s energy and love. The cooperation and unification of the various groups has breathed life into the community spirit to achieve a truly harmonious involvement in preparation for the new millennium.