A Catholic Mission is Born in Milltown - Posted 1/3/20
Early Catholic communities were few and far between in the mid eighteen hundreds. In Milltown, the Methodist Parish was established in 1844. The German immigrants, members of the German Reformed Church established St. Paul's German Reformed Church (now St. Paul's United Church of Christ) in 1872. The few Catholics who lived in Milltown were transported by mule drawn wagons to New Brunswick. As the number of German Catholics increased, St John the Baptist Parish on Neilson St. New Brunswick was established. These Milltown families became part of the early Our Lady of Lourdes founders. In 1907, Milltown saw unprecedented growth with the arrival of the Michelin Tire Company. The Michelin brought many of their French Catholic workers with them. In 1912, the Catholic Mission in Milltown was created by the Bishop A. McFaul of Trenton, and Fr. Devine from Sacred Heart Parish New Brunswick (now part of Holy Family). Early family Masses were said in buildings owned by the Michelin Company. The first Mass was said in the French School House that was located on the property where the Milltown Pharmacy now stands.
The Spiritual Growth of the mission continues to grow and the first May Crowning is held - Posted 1/10/21
The Milltown mission of Sacred Heart continued to grow and in 1914 the first organization, The Children of Mary was established. In 1917 when the USA began its involvement in WW I and the Mission moved it's location to the French Club House, Mr. J. Hauvette-Michelin, Vice President of the company offered the use at no cost to the Mission. To make it a more religious atmosphere, sacred appointments were either made or donated. A tabernacle was built for the table used as an altar. Many statues were donated and the Stations of the Cross came from the chapel of the old St Peter's Hospital. An organ was donated and choir started as well.
The spiritual growth of the Mission continued and in May 1918 the first May crowning was held. Fr. Holloran, the associate from Sacred Heart who was serving the Mission, became the only clergyman from the New Brunswick area to enlist as a Chaplain in WW I. (There is no further note in the history except that the next may crowning of our Blessed Lady was not held until 1934.)
Fund Drive Begins and the Community Begins to Build - Posted 1/17/21
In October of 1918, Rev. Joseph A. Ryan became the pastor at Sacred Heart and that same year Bishop Thomas Walsh was installed in Trenton. In his ten years as Bishop, he established twenty-one new parishes, six in 1921,and our Mission, informally established, was one of the six.
As the number of faithful increased, the need for a large space caused the Mission to move two more times. A fund drive began to build a proper church. Fr. Ryan was authorized to acquire a site for a church, rectory, school and convent. Our church property was purchased from John Van Liew Booream on May 19,1919. A campaign began to raise $40,000.00 for construction. Fr. Ryan and the committee sought the assistance of Mr. J. Hauvette-Michelin. He did assist, he offered one dollar for every dollar raised up to $15,000.00.
The fund drive was well received by the community including the ministers of the Methodist Church and St. Paul's German Reform Church. By June 1921 the Mission raised $15,000.00 and church construction began. The men of the future parish were called upon to dig the basement and erect the foundation. Men volunteered their time in the evening after their day's work. The owner of the Marguerite Hotel (now the Golden Lion) sent sandwiches and beverages to the workers every night.
Our Parish Gets a Name - Posted 1/24/21
The construction of the church was well underway and Bishop Walsh approached Mr. J Hauvette-Michelin and offered him the privilege of suggesting a name for the new parish in thanksgiving for all of his help and generosity. The honor was declined and the Bishop chose the name “Our Lady of Lourdes” to honor him, his country and his people.
On October 21, 1921 the Milltown Mission was formally incorporated under the laws of the State of NJ. Bishop Walsh, assisted by Fr Ryan, blessed and laid the corner stone on October 30, 1921. Approximately 2,500 were in attendance. Many dignitaries attended and the Michelin Brass Band played at the ceremony.
If you are interested, our corner stone contains copies of the Home News, Sunday Times, Catholic News, Standard-Times of Philadelphia, a silver dollar, and fifty cent, twenty-five, ten, five and one cent pieces, the names of President Warren G. Harding, Governor Edward I. Edwards of NJ, Mayor Christian Kuhlthau, the names of those who made donations, as well as all those who contributed in any way to the erection of the church and a transcript of the history of the parish up to that date. The Bishop spoke and reminded all Catholics in the vicinity of Milltown that they were to attend Mass at OLOL, saving them from travel to New Brunswick churches. Construction on the upper church began and in less than seven months the church was completed.
The First Mass is Celebrated - Posted 1/31/21
On May 14.1922, which was also Mother’s Day that year, Bishop Walsh dedicated Our Lady of Lourdes Church and blessed the outer church. After the ceremony, the Bishop, escorted by several priests and altar servers, moved indoors, followed by the crowds surrounding the building. A Pontifical Mass was said by Fr. Thomas Mather of Sacred Heart parish. Music was provided by Sacred Heart’s choir. Fr Ryan spoke of the ten years of the mission, the unceasing efforts of the parishioners and all the financial and personal sacrifices. He noted the savings of approximately $5,000.00 by the volunteering of the men who came after their work day to erect the foundation. Bishop Walsh noted that the present property of the church represented an outlay of $50,000.00 and that there was a debt of less than $10,000.00. The ceremony was ended with a Papal Blessing.
While still a Mission, OLOL started a Holy Name Society in 1920, A Sodality to the Blessed Virgin Mary was in place and in 1927, the Charter of Canonical Erection was received to establish a Rosary Confraternity for the women of the parish. During these years the Sisters of Charity from Scared Heart came to Milltown to teach Sunday School. A bus was arranged for 38 Mission children to attend Sacred Heart School in New Brunswick.
We have our First Pastor and plans to build a Rectory - Posted 2/7/21
Fr. Hayes introduced the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Novena in the 1940s, this continued until in 1952 when Fr. Francis Dwyer replaced it with our Monday night novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Fr Hayes had the stage built in our Lourdes Hall and many parish productions and events employed the use of it. In the last months of his pastorate, Fr. Hayes planted the seeds which quickly developed into a parish school.
During the Summer of 1942, a Catechetical Vacation School was held by Sisters of Mercy. On August 22,1942, Sisters Mary Amadeus, Mary Lawrence, and Mary Jeremiah were assigned to the parish to continue the Catechetical work and take a parish census. On September 11, 1942 Fr Hayes was transferred and Fr. William Margerum came to OLOL, Fr Hayes was assigned to the parish previously led by Fr. Margerum.
On November 1st, the residence on the corner of Riva Ave. and Main Street was leased from the Michelin Reality Company for a use as a convent and school. Fr. Margerum started a school fund drive in February, 1943, it was the beginning of the Second World War. World War II saw over 200 OLOL men and women serve in the Armed Forces. Every Monday morning a Mass was offered in the rectory to conserve fuel for the safety of those serving. The parish lost six members who made the ultimate sacrifice. During this time the Rosarians made “black out” curtains for the Parish Hall. The war continued and the parish continued to grow. A priest was sent to say Mass for those in the East and North Brunswick area of Patrick’s Corner and Maple Shade. A small bungalow was leased on Church Lane that was converted to a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Peace. Now we were the Parish with a Mission and an additional priest was assigned to help with Parish and Mission duties.
On May 23, the parish properties expanded with the purchase of the Booream homestead. (the land facing Willow St from Booream to Cleveland Ave) The house was renovated and this provided two classrooms. As the school expanded, adding one class each year, K and 1 attended at the recently purchased convent and upper grades were in “The Little Red School House.” Space being limited, after grade 5, students transferred to Sacred Heart School in New Brunswick. In May 1945, the Holy Name Society started a Boy Scout troop and in 1946, a Parish Credit Union. October of 1946 saw the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the laying of the corner stone. A weeklong celebration of parish activities and parties followed the Solemn Mass on October 27th. Around this time Our Lady of Peace was incorporated as a church but remained a Mission of OLOL.
In 1948 Fr. Margerum was transferred and Fr. Cornelius Kane came to Milltown. Although he only served here for two years, they were very busy years. OLOL PTA was started in 1950, Cub Scout Pack 31 was established, CYO was established for teens, and the first bulletin was introduced (printed on a mimeograph machine in the rectory). In 1949, interiors of the church, convent and classrooms were painted, rectory floor and church floors were resurfaced, and cushions added to the kneelers. There were changes in the Sanctuary, the three altars were redecorated and drapes were hung behind them and the wrought iron arch was added. WCTC radio in New Brunswick would broadcast Mass from various churches. The first broadcast was Christmas Eve Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes on December 25, 1949. In September, Fr. Kane was transferred and Fr. Francis Dwyer began his pastorate on September 22, 1950.
The parish continued to grow after World War II, families were exiting the cities and the “baby boom” had begun. This growing parish was divided twice during his pastorate. In 1952, as the school enrollment grew, portable classrooms were built in the Parish Hall, with moveable walls to accommodate other parish functions. Under his direction, an existing debt of $18,000.00 was fully paid, the church’s cinder parking lot was paved complete with two basketball nets to allow him to teach the parish and neighborhood boys to play basketball. The Korean War was raging and the parish thoughts and prayers were with those serving. Teens who grew up during WWII were now serving their country. Fr. Dwyer encouraged the praying of the Rosary every night in May and October at 7pm. Women came in “housedresses” and men in “work clothes” to pray. In the Summer of 1953, the Korean conflict ended and troops returned home. The “Little Red Schoolhouse” added a wing to accommodate grades K and 1, allowing the convent to be exclusively the residence for the Sisters. Even with the added space, the enrollment exceeded the availability and children were being turned away. Thoughts of building a new school were contemplated.
Later that month Fr. Dwyer allowed the OLOL Class of 1957 to graduate from the auditorium of the “new school” before construction was completed. On September 4, 1957, the big day had finally come. The building opened to welcome 400 students! Enrollment was up from the 250 the prior year. Uniforms were now worn by the boys and girls. Navy blue jumpers with white blouses for the girls and navy slacks, white shirt and OLOL monogrammed tie for the boys. Everyone wore a navy blazer with gold pocket emblem.
Sunday September 15th, Bishop George W. Ahr of Trenton officiated at the dedication and laying of the cornerstone. In the cornerstone were copies of The Monitor (diocesan paper), The Sentinel, The Home News, the school dedication booklet, Fr. Dwyer’s 25th anniversary photo, a plate block of 3 and 4 cent postage stamps, a quarter, dime, nickel and penny dated 1957. The names of the current Bishop Ahr, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Governor Robert B. Meyner, and Milltown Mayor Charles V.L. Booream are also there.
The mayor had been raised on this family farm property. The Bishop blessed the outside of the building and each classroom. A large crucifix was blessed and placed inside the building. This new building brought new expenses. Funds were running low. Parents pitched in, forming cleaning teams to do janitorial duties in the evenings. Desks were needed, a fund drive was organized. BINGO became a major fund raiser with all parents scheduled to work in teams for this weekly event. An annual dinner dance was organized and held for the next 20 years in the auditorium. Outside looked different when the “Red Schoolhouse" was razed in July 1958, it had served faithfully for 12 years.
In 1959, St Bartholomew’s in East Brunswick drew over 300 families from OLOL. In 1959, Pastor Francis Dwyer took a medical leave of absence and Fr. Francis V. McCusker from St Paul’s, Princeton served as administrator as did Fr. Edward Bumbera, and Fr. Donald Reilly. In 1960, school enrollment continued to grow and the nurse’s office and school library were converted to classrooms. Fr. Dwyer returned in 1960, his pastorate of 12 years would see many changes. The parish continued to grow and Vatican II brought changes in the universal Church.
In 1961, the remaining pioneer, Sister Mary Lawrence, celebrated her 25th Anniversary. At the end of school year, she was transferred and Sr. Mary Lillian succeeded as Principal. In the church the original organ from the 1920’s was replaced with a new Gulbransen transistor organ. The Sisters had continued to live in the residence on Main St and Riva Avenue. On May 15, 1963, preliminary plans were made to construct a convent on school property to house ten sisters. Construction began in 1964 and on May 21, 1965 the six sisters in residence moved to the new convent on Booream Avenue. Bishop George Ahr dedicated the convent on August 22, 1965. The convent was immediately paid for and the old convent sold to Henry Bronson. This house still belongs to Bronson-Guthlein Funeral Home. The post Vatican II era saw an increase in evangelization. In January 1967, the first Ecumenical prayer service was hosted by OLOL during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Fr. Martin O’Keeffe, associate at OLOL, Reverend Mervin Gerhart, St. Paul’s, and Reverend Scott Marshall, United Methodist and all three congregations prayed together in our church. Christmas 1967 brought a liturgical change. The first front facing altar was installed, allowing the priest to face the congregation when saying Mass. In May 1965, the growth within the Diocese required a census to be taken. At that time, OLOL's population reached 4,155 members. These results and the growth of North Brunswick Twp. caused the OLOL Mission of Our Lady of Peace to become an independent parish. About 100 families from both OLOL and Sacred Heart New Brunswick became the first parishioners.
On March 22,1970 the continuing changes of Vatican II brought 18 lay lectors to our parish. These parishioners began reading the Scripture lessons during the Mass. June brought “comforting” change, air conditioning was installed at a cost of $26,000 which had been pledged by parishioners. Parishioners were able to attend the first Saturday evening Mass on February 28, 1971.
May 1st brought the celebration of the mortgage being paid off and the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes was now debt free. In September of 1971, new lighting fixtures were installed, a donation of the Rosary Society and the parishioners. October 1971 brought the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the laying of the corner stone of the Church. There was an evening Mass of Thanksgiving and dinner dance sponsored by the Rosary Society. Parishioner Mrs. Arthur (Lillian) Schwendeman cast plaster replicas of the church and an anniversary plate was also available for purchase. Under the guidance of Fr. John Mc Donald, associate pastor, a number of innovative programs were introduced. CCD program had a Principal, Mrs. Kate Yetman. April 21st saw the baptism of five adults during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday, this was first time this was done publicly in church. Additional ecumenical activities with Milltown Churches continued. The Feast of Pentecost 1972 saw the First Mass of Fr. James Clark of the parish. Fr. James was an OLOL and St Peter’s High School graduate. Fr. Clark had been ordained the day before at St Mary’s Cathedral by Bishop George W. Ahr. As 1972 continued, OLOL also saw the first Eucharistic ministers assist with the distribution of Holy Communion and visiting the sick to bring them the Sacrament.
Welcome The Little Servant Sisters - Posted 4/25/21
1973, would prove to be a year of major transitions. The annual Father’s Day presentation on the feast of St Joseph, with skits performed by the children ,was held as in the past. The end of the evening brought a “bombshell” announcement. Due to the decline in vocations, The Sisters of Mercy who had started and staffed the school since 1942 were being withdrawn from schools with projected declining enrollments. Two other schools in the diocese were also affected. The stunned parishioners and parents were faced with the possibility of the school's closing in a few months! Fr. Dwyer was looking for another order of nuns to staff our school or decide the school would need all lay faculty, causing tuition to be charged. The parish quickly mobilized and a Parish Board of Education headed by John Romagna, Class of 1959, was formed by Fr. Dwyer to assess the options. An appeal to the Sisters of Mercy was denied, and the Diocesan superintendent of schools was not optimistic that another religious community would be found. Letters to five communities around the country and even Europe were sent with our request.
Parishioner William Smith remembered a convent he passed on his way to work, St. Joseph’s in Woodbridge. Mother Mary Febronia of the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception received the OLOL letter along with many other Catholic schools in the same situation. She was impressed with the commitment of the Milltown parish to keep their school open. Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception, answered our prayers. The Little Servant Sisters took over the responsibility of staffing the school.
The OLOL School Flourishes - Posted 5/2/21
Our own little miracle had happened. On June 3, 1973 a special Open House was held to bid our Sisters of Mercy farewell after thirty-one years of devoted service to our parish and our school. Plans for the next school year abounded. Four nuns, Sister Emily, Principal and Sisters Eustace, Aurelia, and Bernadette and five new lay teachers would start the new chapter in the history of our parish school. Parents had fought incredible odds and won, keeping OLOL School open! September was a joyful return to school for all. The same year would bring another big change. Fr. Francis Dwyer retired on November 30, 1973. He had served OLOL for more than half of his priesthood. He saw his parish divide twice. He saw the school move from makeshift quarters into a modern building. He fought long and hard to keep our school open. On March 31, 1974 the parish honored him with a Mass of Thanksgiving and testimonial dinner. Mayor David B. Crabiel proclaimed the day, “Father Francis Dwyer Day” and joined with borough officials at the celebration. Most of Father’s retirement days were spent in New Brunswick. Fr. Dwyer died on March 18,1986; his Mass of Christian burial was held at Our Lady of Lourdes. The Most Reverend John C. Reiss, Bishop of Trenton was the principal celebrant at the Mass. Bishop Reiss was a former altar boy of Fr. Dwyer from St James in Red Bank.
Welcome Father Thul - Posted 5/9/21
Upon Fr. Dwyer’s retirement, Fr. John MacDonald, assistant pastor, served as administrator until Fr. Joseph Thul was named pastor by Bishop George W. Ahr. Fr. Thul was installed by Monsignor Morgan Kelly, pastor of St. Bartholomew’s in East Brunswick and Episcopal Vicar for Middlesex County West on March 15, 1974. Fr. Thul instituted many improvements to the church property. The parking lot was widened and grounds were landscaped. The front doors of the church were replaced in Spring of 1975. The old fire escape that led to the priest’s sacristy was removed and the brick stair case and glass door depicting the apparition of Our Lady to Bernadette in Lourdes was installed. The altar servers now robed in that area and the priest sacristy was moved to the opposite side. Spring of 1975 brought an expansion of the school a short two years after struggling to stay open and welcoming a new order of nuns. A half day Kindergarten would open in the classroom designed for that class when the school was constructed in 1957.
In 1975, a parish family hosted a South Vietnamese family in their home for a year and Fr. Joseph VanThien from Vietnam was welcomed to OLOL, living at the rectory for several months before being assigned to St. Margaret’s Parish in Morristown. In 1976 the failing electronic organ was replaced with a pipe organ that had been originally installed in a church in Newark in 1963. Organist/choirmaster Joseph W. Rademacher and organ builder James Konzelmann moved, rebuilt and installed the organ. Joseph, an OLOL school graduate, demonstrated his talent on the new organ. While still in grammar school, Joseph was encouraged by Fr. Dwyer to play at school day Masses.
New Organizations are Formed - Posted 5/16/21
Pope Paul VI restored the ministry of the diaconate in 1967. William Rooney, a long time OLOL parishioner, was ordained at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Trenton on May 13, 1978. Deacon Bill contributed a weekly poem based on the Gospels to the bulletin. (In 1991, 44 of these poems with the Scripture passes which inspired them were published in the book Chapter and Verse, The Life of Christ in Poetry.
Fr. Thul's pastorate saw continued strengthening of the school. A school newsletter, The Grapevine was instituted 1974 by Jim Lukach who served as the first male PTA president in 1977- 1979. In 1978, the Falcon Athletic Association was formed to oversee girls' and boys' sports for the parish and school. That Spring saw the formal formation of the parish Board of Education which began assisting the Pastor with budget planning, school maintenance decisions, and school enhancement programs. Fair share donations were requested in the second collection at Mass, this led to monthly tuition fees. This was the year OLOL initiated the Christmas Bazaar sponsored by the PTA with assistance of the other parish organizations. We are proud to say this tradition continues, chaired by a small devoted committee. Early in the life of the parish the men’s Holy Name Society was an active organization. As membership dwindled , the organization disbanded in the 1960s. The need for a men’s organization was recognized and on February 13,1979, the OLOL Knights of Columbus Council #7250 received their Charter with Fr. Thul and 41 men of the parish listed as charter members. The K of C continues its mission and welcomes all men, young and old to join their council. Fr. Thul celebrated his 25th anniversary of his ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving and dinner on June 8, 1980.
OLOL celebrates 60 years and changes with the times - Posted 5/23/21
In 1981 Principal Sr. Emily was transferred and Sr. Leonarda became the second principal after the Little Servant Sisters came to serve our school. She made many improvements, such as the opening of our Pre-K program in a new building on site in 1993. Sr. Leonarda served our students and families until 1996. Sr. Jadwiga began as Principal in September 1996.
On November 14, 1981 the Parish celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a dinner dance held at the school. The 1980’s saw many major renovations to the church building. The vestibule and walls of the church were paneled covering the original tile. The original three altars were removed and the statues moved. The rear wall of the sanctuary was paneled with the statue of Our Lady being placed in the center behind the altar. The Blessed Sacrament was relocated to the right side of the Sanctuary. The statue of St Joseph was moved to Lourdes Hall and the baptismal font added to the Sanctuary. In 1982, new programs at school included full day kindergarten and a part time computer teacher was hired. Computer technology had arrived and grew through generous support of parents and programs available allowing additional computers and necessary services to be added. In 1985, the classroom windows were replaced yielding a more energy efficient building. The main doors of the building were serviced, a security camera installed and the main office was divided offering more privacy for the Principal. This is the same year Fr. Thul was transferred to be Pastor at St. Mathias in Somerset.
Welcome Father Tom - Posted 5/30/21
After leaving OLOL and St Matthias, Fr. Thul went on to serve as Principal of St. Pius X High School, until its closing in 1990. His priestly service continued as he served as a consultant for the Diocesan School Office, Director of Pastoral Care Office at McCarrick Care Center in Somerset and Associate Pastor at Our Lady of Most Holy Rosary Church in Perth Amboy. After a well-earned retirement, Fr. Joseph Thul returned to his heavenly Father on September 7, 2006 and was buried from our parish. Father Thomas Perunilam was assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes on June 28, 1985. Father Tom was born in India, April 22, 1938. In high school he learned English as a second language. He attended the Papal Seminary and St. Joseph’s Apostolic Seminary receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and divinity and Master’s degree from the University of Kerala. Fr. Tom was ordained to the priesthood on March 11,1964 at St. Mary’s Church, Bhrananganam, India. He served in parishes and taught English language and literature at Alphonsas College in India. In 1972 he came to the United States to pursue advanced studies. While studying at Rutgers University he served at Corpus Christi Parish in South River where he taught religion and served as principal of the school. He also served at Immaculate Conception Church in Somerville. A young Ed Czarcinski was working at the rectory there and greeted him at the back door. Fr. Tom was installed as pastor of OLOL on July 21, 1985. A beautiful welcoming reception was attended by parishioners and Father Tom’s friends from Corpus Christi and Immaculate Conception parishes. So started his years at OLOL, Father’s time at OLOL was not uneventful.
Our Parish Turns 45 - Posted 6/6/21
January of 1986 greeted Father Tom and the school, with a heating problem. The work being done during the week lead to a flood over the weekend! The flooding filled the cafeteria leaving water waist deep. Milltown Fire Department came to the rescue, pumping out the lower level while parents and friends mopped and cleaned up. Large heated blowers were brought in, blowing for days as sad students missed several days of school. As Spring arrived things were looking up. A Parish census was taken, and a new telephone system installed in both the rectory and the school. The following Spring saw new sidewalks around the Church.
Our Principal Sister Leonarda, celebrated her Silver Jubilee with Mass of Thanksgiving. The need for after school care was upon OLOL. The school year 1987-88 offered care to working parents from dismissal until 6 pm at a nominal fee. In November of 1987, the school celebrated its 45th Anniversary. An open house was held for families and visitors to tour our school. Sister Mary Jeremiah, RSM, Principal from 1950-1956 was in attendance. She was happy to visit the school she saw in its infancy now housed in our beautiful building. She also met alumni from her years at our school who now had their own children in attendance.
RCIA Program starts at OLOL - Posted 6/13/21
In 1988, Our Lady of Lourdes developed The Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) program. This program continues annually to prepare adults who desire to be Baptized Catholic, Christian adults who wish to become Catholic, as well as Catholics who have not received the Sacraments of Penance, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation. Holy Saturday Vigil Mass has become the time for these candidates to join us fully in our Catholic Faith. In March 1989 Fr. Tom celebrated his 25th Anniversary of his Ordination. A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated and a dinner dance followed. Father was blessed to have his nephew, Fr. Dominic Perunilam visit from India for this important milestone in his priestly vocation
A New Bell Tower for our Parish and other upgrades - Posted 6/20/21
A time of major additions had arrived. In 1991, a Bell Tower was added on the Cleveland Avenue side of the church. Memorial donations from several families helped fund this project, their names are inscribed at the base. In 1992 the handicap ramp was constructed on this same side. The ramp and the door of the Good Shepherd were completed in the fall and dedicated on the eve of All Saint’s Day 1992. Things were also added at the school. Ceiling fans were added in all classrooms, the teachers’ lounge and library. July 1993 saw the biggest addition. With Fr. Tom, the parish and the energy and spirit of Sr. Leonarda a free-standing building for Pre-K was dedicated adjacent to the Booream Avenue side of the school. The dedication on September 8,1993 allowed 55 three and four-year-old children start Pre-K at our parish school. Our first teacher was an alumna, Class of 1982. In November 1993, the house at 19 Cleveland Avenue, adjacent to the church parking lot was purchased and used for parish and school meetings.
Celebrating 75 Years and Welcome Father Ed - Posted 6/27/21
In1995 the parish began planning for the celebration of our 75th Anniversary. The committee headed by parish trustees Edward Gresh and George Wilder would coordinate spiritual and social activities to be held during the year of celebration. (note George Wilder is the same parishioner who served as the General Chairman for the School Fund Drive in 1953). A new Associate Pastor named Fr. Ed Czarcinski came to the parish in October of 1995. He was glad to be with his old friend, Fr. Tom. This same year our school received accreditation by Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges in March. Our school cheerleaders made the headlines in the world of cheering. At a competition at Six Flags Great Adventure Jo Ann and Kaylyn Gerling and Geralyn Gerhart lead their team to first place. This win entitled the team to appear in performance at the 1996 HULA BOWL in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lots of work and many, many fund raisers allowed the team, coaches, and parents, accompanied by Fr. Tom and Sr. Leonarda to fly there for a wonderful week and experience for the girls. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built on the rectory side of church and dedicated at the May Crowning on May 8, 1995. Anniversary celebrations were kicked off with a Parish Picnic in September, followed by a Tony Melendez guitar concert in October. A special Pro-life Mass was offered on January 15, 1996. On February 11 th, a Mass in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes 138th anniversary of her first apparition to Saint Bernadette was offered. A parish family photo directory was also created and distributed. On October 22, 1996 a special celebratory Mass was offered and a dinner dance followed.
July 4, 2021 - This concludes the written history on OLOL through our 75thAnniversary of the laying of our corner stone. All this info was taken from the original book published at the time of the parish’s 25th Anniversary. The next 50 years were compiled by Fr. Michael Krull (currently Pastor of Our Lady of Peace), we can not thank him enough for all his labors.
This is copied from that publication…
“TO THE FUTURE…FROM THE PAST” “As with any anniversary, this year gives our parish the opportunity to reflect with pride on the accomplishments of the past seventy-five years. Many great things have been done for God in this place. Yet, as we remember the past, we always keep an eye to the future. There is still more to do. Christ still calls us to proclaim the Kingdom, to make His presence come alive. As a parish we are inheritors of the legacy of those who came before us. Now we are called to leave a legacy for future generations. Following all the celebrations of this year, we, as a parish, will continue the work begun seventy-five years ago. This history is thus unfinished. Much will be written in the years to ahead. And we, the people of Our Lady of Lourdes will be witnesses to, and the makers of history.”
As our Parish moves forward, it would be important we heed these words that helped lead us these past 25 years. Now we embark on our next 100 years, our history is quite an accomplishment leading to a huge responsibility for each of us.
Anne Marie Simons
OLOL Continues to grow in Faith and Love - Posted 7/11/21 -
As we at OLOL continue our growth in Faith and ministry we try to recount any memorable events in our next twenty-five years of serving our God and our parish. Father Edward Czarcinski had been assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes in October of 1995 replacing Father Michael Krull as associate. He quickly became an active part of our parish family. Father taught Religion to our school and CCD children. He assisted Father Tom as we celebrated our 75th Anniversary with many parish events. In addition to these events there were multiple building renovations. Our church was repainted and pews were replaced with memorials from parish families. The Stations of the Cross that had always been just white plaster were beautifully painted and memorialized. Stations now bear plaques reflecting the generosity of the original and current parishioners. Father Tom brought a whole new love of flowers and gardening to OLOL bringing everyone joy.
John Paul II visits New Jersey - Posted 7/18/21
In Fall of 1995 Our Holy Father John Paul II traveled to the NY/NJ area. We at OLOL traveled by bus to GIANTS Stadium with the thousands of pilgrims who came to share this very special Papal Visit. Those who were able to attend in person remember well the torrential rain that welcomed us. The weather was not able to dampen the joy of the crowd that day. Parishioner Joseph W. Rademacher, Director of the Metuchen Festival Choir traveled with his choir to perform for the Pope at this huge event. All were blessed as they attended Mass celebrated by our Holy Father. Having received a blessing from this Pope, we can say we received a “blessing” of a Saint. As 1996 began, the long-awaited cheerleader trip to the HULA BOWL and all the planning and support came to fruition. All traveled safely and made memories for a lifetime. Our parish saluted those volunteer coaches, Geralyn Gerhart and Jo Ann and Kailyn Gerling and their talented cheerleaders. In 1997 Principal Sister Leonarda was reassigned and named Mother Provincial for her order, The Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. As we wished Sr. Leonarda well, school welcomed Sister Jadwiga. Sister served as principal for one year. In 1998, Sister Irene became our next principal.
The Pope announced a Jubilee Year in 2000 - Posted 7/25/21
As the world looked forward with anticipation and even some trepidation, the millennium was fast approaching. All remember the uncertainty of the “Y2K” messages concerning our computerized time in history. The Global Catholic Church also had plans. Pope John Paul II announced a Jubilee Year for 2000, an occasion that dates back to Pope Paul II in 1470. This followed the Hebrew tradition occurring every 50 years, slaves and prisoners were freed and debts forgiven and God’s mercy was evident to His people. In March 2000, Pope John Paul II made a unique and historic request for pardon for the sins and errors of Christians throughout history, past and present. During this Jubilee Year, churches with multiple entrances were able to “seal off” and decorate one door that would not be opened until the end of this special time in the Church. At OLOL our celebration was all within. Fr Tom wore a very special Jubilee vestment with the Jubilee emblem embroidered on the front. We are reminded of this time of joy when the celebrant wears this special chasuble. It is thought the next Jubilee Year will be celebrated in 2025.
Divine Mercy Sunday is Celebrated - Posted 8/1/21
This year of 2000 was a great time of celebration for our Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who served our parish teaching at school and CCD. Their order had been founded by Edmund Bojanowski 150 years ago. Edmund was beatified by Pope John Paul II and a special celebration took place here in NJ at St. Steven’s in Perth Amboy. In February an addition to our church organ now included bells. The bells were installed in memory of, parishioner Joseph W. Rademacher, former choir director at OLOL and current Diocesan Choral Director. On April 30, 2000, Divine Mercy Sunday that year, the first saint canonized in the New Millennium was St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. Our Sisters were able to travel to Poland for this momentous occasion. It was Pope John Paul II who translated her diary and set Divine Mercy Sunday to be held in the Easter Octave, the first Sunday after the Jesus' Resurrection. When Jesus had appeared to St. Faustina, He asked her to commission a portrait of Him as she saw Him. After multiple attempts the painting was completed. We share in this vision each time we enter our church. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy has become a great devotional prayer and has brought peace and healing to many. (The National Shrine of Divine Mercy is at Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass.)
The New Millennium Arrives Smoothly - Posted 8/8/21
The New Millennium had arrived and the world moved on, no computerized issues with timing, banking data, company records, air lines and stored materials. We slid smoothly into the date being written as 2000. Pope John Paul II extended our Great Jubilee into 2001 to celebrate this time in history. Father Tom continued to lead his flock here at OLOL. Winter passed, Spring and Easter celebration came followed by Summer. OLOL was a beautiful garden spot as Fr. Tom loved his flowers and tended them daily. As the parish had purchased the property at 19 Cleveland Ave, it served as meeting place for parish organizations. Fr. Tom made good use of the garage for his gardening supplies. No one ever dreamt that when summer ended and school resumed, America would suffer a devastating assault.
Our Country is Changed Forever - Posted 8/15/21
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 terrorist group Al-Qaeda launched an attack against the United States of America. Four commercial airliners took off from several airports across the northeastern United States heading for NYC and Washington, DC. Three flights hit their intended mark. American heroes on one flight were able to fight the hijackers, divert the route, causing the flight to crash before reaching the Pentagon. In one morning, 2977 innocent Americans lost their lives. America and the world were mesmerized by TV coverage. All religious and local leaders conducted prayer services for the Nation and its leaders as well as for all the victims. At OLOL Fr. Tom celebrated a special Mass, we prayed for everyone, mourning all this loss and for the heroes on ground trying to sort out all of this horror. The World stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the United States. They mourned with us in solidarity, sympathy and friendship. So many of us remember all too well this very sad and difficult time. Many of our children were not even born yet. America was on its knees, churches were flooded. America would never be the same.
Our Favorite Nurse Celebrates 25 years at our School - Posted 8/22/21
In 2002 our Altar Rosary Society initiated it’s “Rose and Rosary Program”. Each mother of a newly baptized child is given a rosary, prayer card and red rose by a Rosarian who attends the Baptism. This same year the fourth Bishop of our Diocese, Paul Gregory Bootkoski was installed on March 19th . This year was also one of celebration for our school. We rejoiced in our 60th year from a very humble beginning. Remember, we started with the first classroom in a front office in the rectory. The Home School Association designed and sold commemorative afghans picturing our school and church buildings. Our Little Servant Sisters had come to our rescue 30 years ago. Our Sisters taught school and CCD to so many students, instructing them in our Catholic Faith and preparing them for reception of their Sacraments. This was something to celebrate. This same year our alumna school nurse, Ann Marie Rademacher Simons, RN enjoyed her 25th year as school at our school.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta is Beatified - Posted 8/29/21
In 2003 the Catholic Church worldwide celebrated Pope John Paul II’s Silver Anniversary. The Pope, elected on October 16, 1978. had served for 25 years. In October Cardinals and other high-ranking Church fathers were invited to Rome for a four-day celebration, including a meeting of Cardinals who participated in special celebratory Masses, services and concerts. Our Pope elevated 31 new Cardinals. One new Cardinal was from the USA and one from Australia. On October 19th Mother Teresa of Calcutta was beatified after a miracle cure of an Indian woman on the one-year anniversary of her death day (9/5/97). Our parish lost two important people from our parish’s formative years. In February alumnus Fr. James Clark, class of 1960, who had served his home parish in the 1980s died while serving as a Pastor in the Diocese of Trenton. At 57 this was a loss to his OLOL family and all who knew him. In October, Sister Mary Lawrence, one of our original “pioneer sisters” went home to her reward in heaven at age 92. Sister Lawrence had served our parish and school from 1942 until the 1960s. She was loved by so many having taught for many years before becoming Principal of our school, a school she loved. She always felt OLOL was her “home” even after being transferred to her next assignment. ~
Welcome Deacon Bob - Posted 9/5/21
2004 was a year of great joy for our parish. Our beloved Pastor Fr. Tom Perunilam celebrated the fortieth year of his ordination. His nephew, Fr. Dominic from India was able to visit and joined Fr. Tom as he celebrated his anniversary Mass. Fr. Dominic graciously met so many OLOL families and share his time in Milltown with us. A Gala Dinner was held at the Chateau in East Brunswick, attended by many parishioners and friends Fr. Tom had met in his years since arriving in the USA. Sadly, Fr. Ed was transferred to Saints Phillip and James Parish. We welcomed Father James McGuffey to serve as associate at OLOL.
On June 12th, parishioner Robert Gerling was ordained a Deacon by Bishop Paul Bootkoski at St Francis Cathedral in Metuchen. He followed in the steps of our first Deacon William “Bill” Rooney. Deacon Bob had served as an Extraordinary Minister before his ordination. Deacon Bob’s formation included a year of discernment followed by four years of study, meeting twice a week and many Saturdays. As deacon his privileges include officiating at baptisms, witnessing the exchange of marriage vows, visiting the sick and assisting at funerals. Deacon Bob prays weekly Friday evening Lenten Stations of the Cross and leads a Divine Mercy Sunday devotion. He also assists at Sunday Mass and preaches monthly as directed by our pastor and teaches Faith formation (RCIA).
Winter Wonderland Walk Debuted - Posted 9/12/21
As the year 2004 progressed the memorial in NYC at the World Trade Center was being completed. The memorial would honor all the victims of this terrible attack on our freedom. Through the efforts of K of C Tom Draghi, the Knights of Columbus here at OLOL were presented with an iron cross created from the remains of the tower by the NYC Port Authority Police Department. The K of C installed this small memorial in the main entrance of the church for all to view, remember and pray. As the Fall 2004 drew near a new fund raiser was in the planning for our school. Parishioner Geralyn Gerhart came forward with an idea. A new event giving the annual Christmas Bazaar a welcome break, Winter Wonderland made its debut. The “walk” was held along the Mill Pond at Main Street and Washington Avenue. Lots of work, volunteers and donations made a beautiful display to open the Christmas season. This first year’s theme was “Light the Season with Peace". Guests were welcomed by our handsomely dressed parent Tom Olson. Displays, caroling, lights and even hot chocolate made a fun filled family outing. It was reported that 1500 guests visited during the three day event. There were even hansom carriage rides on Ford Avenue. All of Milltown joined in our celebration. God bless the devoted parents and all supporters who planned, set up, worked every evening to assure safety, and the fathers who did overnight patrol to assure the events decorations were in good order for the next evening. We thank the Borough and Rescue Squad for their support. This first “walk” was a huge success on all levels!
Plans to save our school Begin - Posted 9/19/21
On April 2, 2005 the world was saddened with the death of Pope John Paul II. This beloved Pope, the only Pope so many knew due to his long papacy of nearly 27 years had gone to his eternal reward. Mourners cried out asking for Sainthood to be conferred on this beloved Pope. The Papal Conclave of Cardinals elected Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a Theologian and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrines of the Faith our next Pope. Taking the name Pope Benedict XVI, he served until 2013. Due to so many factors, enrollment at OLOL and many Catholic schools was on the decline. The cost of maintaining a school with diminishing tuition dollars was being felt. In March of 2006, the Diocese informed Fr. Tom we needed to close our doors. Our parish, school families, alumni and friends here in Milltown were devastated. A cry rose up and a meeting was held in the school cafeteria with over 300 attending. Plans were drawn up to create a fund-raising plan to save our school, committees formed and work began.
Fund Raising Campaigns Begin - Posted 9/26/21
A detailed financial plan was submitted to the diocese to save our school. After many meetings and diligent Diocesan review and input, our school was allowed to continue. A new campaign to get our name out there found us frequently in the local newspapers. Alumna Tammy Simons Sullivan took on this task. She tracked down the departments and the name of the person who would receive and share our good news. Other Catholic schools were directed to OLOL to seek advice for assistance with their school needs. New fund-raising events were planned. One of the most loved was the Fall Festival. Parents and parishioners worked together to plan and carry out three days of fun, community and service to our school. Lots of work, lots of fun and lots of good memories. This same September, our former Pastor Joseph Thul went to his heavenly reward. He had served our parish and school from 1974 to 1985 proceeding Fr. Tom. In 2007 parishioner Gerry Guthlein arranged for a huge donation to our school and convent. Music Choice through its employee outreach program donated time and materials to paint the entire interior of the school. A painted Falcon mascot was added to the gym wall, paintings added to the cafeteria and the main building of classrooms and halls all got a new look. The convent was also painted and renewed. Parents volunteered and did “miles” of a masking tape in both buildings.