St. Aedan’s Church to Become Vital Component of Mission and Ministry Efforts at Saint Peter’s College

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St. Aedan’s: The Saint Peter’s College Church to Foster Faith Development and Provide Opportunities for Liturgical Celebrations for the College and Jersey City Community

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We look forward to working with our neighbors to continue to keep St. Aedan’s a sacred place for worship and reflection for both the Jersey City and Saint Peter’s College community.

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Saint Peter’s College and the Archdiocese of Newark today announced that the historic parish of St. Aedan’s in Jersey City, located at the corner of Bergen Avenue and Mercer Street -- a stone’s throw away from the Saint Peter’s campus -- will serve as the cornerstone for a reinvigorated emphasis on ministry and mission at the College and within the community. Under this arrangement, the College will assume responsibility for all operations of St. Aedan’s, including staffing.

Saint Peter’s College plans to transition the parish church into a college church, staffed by members of the College’s Jesuit community. Moving forward, the church will be known as St. Aedan’s: The Saint Peter’s College Church. However, the church will not only serve the College community. It will continue to operate as a place of worship for current and future parishioners. Efforts will be made to foster faith development and provide opportunities for liturgical celebrations for the College and Jersey City community. In addition, Primary Prep, a private elementary school located in the former St. Aedan’s School building, will continue to operate without interruption and a new, multiple-year lease arrangement is presently being prepared.

The College has hosted numerous baccalaureate and other Masses and celebrations at the historic church over the years. Given Saint Peter’s long history with St. Aedan’s, this is a natural evolution for the next phase in the relationship. Saint Peter’s has worked closely with both the Archdiocese and the New York Province of the Society of Jesus for guidance with its plans for this new ministry initiative to ensure a smooth transition for all during the transformation from a parish to a college church.

“Embracing St. Aedan’s into the life and mission of Saint Peter’s College is a milestone achievement for us. A college church will help support the Jesuit mission of Saint Peter’s College and our critical strategic goal of strengthening the Catholic identity of our institution,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s College. “We look forward to working with our neighbors to continue to keep St. Aedan’s a sacred place for worship and reflection for both the Jersey City and Saint Peter’s College community.”

“I am pleased and grateful for the foresight of Dr. Cornacchia and his team, along with the foresight and dedication to Ministry of the Jesuit Community, in approaching the Archdiocese of Newark to formulate this partnership,” said Archbishop John J. Myers. “All of us have been focused on bringing this to fruition for the joint benefit of the St. Aedan’s community, the Saint Peter’s College community and the greater Jersey City community surrounding the College and St. Aedan’s. We are confident that the rich and sacred histories of St. Aedan’s, Saint Peter’s College and the Jesuit Community will provide a solid foundation for continued development and hope for all members of these communities as proclaimers and sharers in the Mission of Jesus Christ.”

“Since we began our New Energies Parish Initiative almost 10 years ago,” the Archbishop continued, “we have sought innovative ways to ensure the strength of our pastoral ministry to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese and to those who seek to come to know Jesus Christ. This partnership with Saint Peter’s College enables us to maintain a strong Catholic presence for decades to come.”

All of the St. Aedan’s campus, including the church, convent, rectory, school and adjacent parking lots, will be incorporated into the Saint Peter’s College campus. The college church will stimulate the faith life of the College, further elevating the campus vitality as a Jesuit institution. It will also provide an opportunity for faculty, students, staff and administrators to engage in programs and practices, which lead to a lifelong commitment to service. Saint Peter’s will continue to offer Masses for the community on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings and will carry on parish traditions such as baptisms, weddings, sacramental preparation and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). In addition, the College has plans for community gatherings such as special musical performances, festivals and liturgical events.

Saint Peter’s College plans to host a communal celebration for both the Jersey City and College communities. Details about the event will be announced soon.

St. Aedan’s parish can trace its origins to the transportation industry at the turn of the 20th century. Prior to the founding of the parish, Masses were offered in a small room on the upper floor of Foye Hall at the corner of Foye and Montgomery streets across the street from the car barns. These Masses accommodated the odd working hours of the motormen and conductors of the trolleys who worked there. Eventually it was recognized that there were enough people to create a new parish out of St. Joseph’s parish. On June 23, 1912, the Bishop of Newark, The Most Rev. John J. O’Connor, established St. Aedan’s parish in response to the needs of these people.

Reflective of its Irish-American origins, the parish was named for St. Aedan (550-632), Bishop of Ferns in County Wexford, on Ireland’s southeastern coast. His feast day is celebrated on January 31.

Reverend Roger A. McGinley, then pastor of St. Brigid’s Church, New Durham, N.J., became the first pastor of St. Aedan’s. He was to serve St. Aedan’s for the next 24 years to build and to provide for the needs of a growing parish.

Because of his deep commitment to the education of youth, Fr. McGinley decided that the greatest need of the new parish was not a new church, but a parochial school, and within a year and a half, a three-story building was erected and St. Aedan’s school was opened in November 1913. The first story of the school building was converted into a church and served that purpose until the present church was built in 1930.

By 1926, the influx of new parishioners had made it necessary to build a portable chapel adjoining the school property for additional Sunday Masses. Most Rev. Thomas J. Walsh granted permission for the erection of a new permanent church and rectory at Bergen Avenue and Mercer Street. Ground was broken on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1929, and the church was dedicated on October 4, 1931 by Bishop (later Archbishop) Walsh, who presided at the Mass. More than 4,000 people attended, including Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague, a parish member and patron who donated the main altar in memory of his parents.

Fr. McGinley remained pastor at St. Aedan’s for six more years, until his death in April 1936. He was succeeded by Rev. John A. McGeary, and then, in 1938, by Monsignor John C. McClary. McClary is responsible for the installation of the church bells, which Monsignor McGinley had purchased in 1927 for the parish. The bronze bells were stored for 18 years at Goodman’s warehouse near the church property, and finally installed in 1947. The bell chime was restored in 1985 and rededicated on September 15, 1985.

The style of St. Aedan’s church is Romanesque, which is characterized by semicircular archers, massive walls, enormous piers and small windows. It is a heavy style, in contrast to the upward reaching light Gothic style that succeeded it. The overall effect is one of stability, permanence and security. Fittingly, a depiction of St. Peter appears above the exterior doors to the church while the image of two peacocks, the official mascot of Saint Peter’s College, can be seen perched above the altar.

For the interior, Fr. McGinley and the architect Edward A. Lehmann, a longtime Jersey City resident, chose mosaic tiles for much of the decoration in the cathedral-like structure. The murals were designed by Ilario Panzironi, an Italian artist and installed under the supervision of Bruno di Paoli. The mosaic tiles form religious designs on the canopy over the main altar and around the sanctuary and side chapels. The Stations of the Cross, as well as scenes of a number of saints, including the parish’s patron, St. Aedan, are depicted in mosaic throughout.

The church building features marble columns and carved pilasters. The wainscoting of the vestibule, the main body of the church and all the floors are also of marble. An unusual architectural feature is the communion railing which extends 96 feet across the transept. There are no pillars to obstruct the view of the main altar.

Saint Peter’s College, inspired by its Jesuit, Catholic identity, commitment to individual attention and grounding in the liberal arts, educates a diverse community of learners in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs to excel intellectually, lead ethically, serve compassionately and promote justice in our ever-changing urban and global environment.

The Archdiocese of Newark was established in 1853. It is geographically the smallest archdiocese in the United States, covering a 513-square mile area within the four counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union. Despite its small size, it is one of the largest dioceses in terms of population, serving some 1.3 million Catholics. Today, the Archdiocese maintains 220 parishes and 116 elementary and high schools; sponsors Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese, the largest non-government social service agency in the State; and is home to one Catholic university, Seton Hall, and three Catholic colleges, including Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City.

Each week, Mass is said in some 20 languages, reflecting the diversity of the population and the faith of the Catholic people of the Archdiocese.

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Sarah Malinowski
Saint Peter’s College
201-761-6239 / 201-448-5607
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