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home : news : parishes, schools & local September 25, 2017


8/28/2017 2:16:00 PM
St. Monica Parish celebrates 65th anniversary
Father Alex Enriquez, administrator of St. Monica Parish, Jackson, distributes the Eucharist during an outdoor Mass and festival that was held Aug. 27 to celebrate the parish's 65th anniversary and the feast day of St. Monica. John Blaine photos

Father Alex Enriquez, administrator of St. Monica Parish, Jackson, distributes the Eucharist during an outdoor Mass and festival that was held Aug. 27 to celebrate the parish's 65th anniversary and the feast day of St. Monica. John Blaine photos

Parishioners enjoy the festival after Mass on the grounds of St. Monica Church, Jackson.
Parishioners enjoy the festival after Mass on the grounds of St. Monica Church, Jackson.

History of St. Monica Parish

Religious needs of Catholic families in the Cassville section of Jackson Township were initially met by a visiting priest, Father Francis Coan of Assumption Parish, New Egypt. Understand his leadership, a firehouse was rented, and Mass was first celebrated in November 1952. This would continue until April 1957.

St. Monica Parish was named in 1953, and land was donated for the construction of a church by C. Leslie Mason, parish trustee. However, this plan never came to fruition due to dwindling attendance at the firehouse Masses.

Under the stewardship of the Claretians, a community of priests and brothers founded by St. Anthony Claret in 1849 dedicated to serving the poor, the changing needs of the community were now being met as the area saw an influx of a Hispanic community who worked on the Jackson area farms. The Claretian leaders came from Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Perth Amboy, and established a mission.

Masses were held at first in a chicken coop on property across the street from where St. Monica Church is currently located. The property continues to be owned by the Hemler family, who are parishioners.

The Claretians acquired land and built a church on Route 528 for the Spanish-speaking Catholic community who lived and worked in the Jackson area in 1958. The funds raised for St. Monica were dedicated to a mission named St. Anthony Claret and the land donated for St. Monica Church was returned to the donor.

The Hispanic population began to decrease in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By 1990, there were few Spanish-speaking parishioners in Jackson, and that year St. Anthony Claret gave up its Jackson mission. The church became a mission of Assumption Parish, New Egypt. In June 1991, the original name was restored and St. Monica Church was dedicated in August by Bishop John C. Reiss. The diocese of Trenton designated St. Monica as a standalone parish in 2001.

The church has seen growth over the past several years. There’s a building addition with a multi-purpose room, parish office and residence on the upper level made in 1995. The parish hall was added during the 1970s.

When asked about significant developments at the parish, Father Alex Enriquez, parish administrator, said, “more activities and more parishioners.” There are 1,420 registered families, and the range of ministries include bereavement, St. Martha’s Cooks , Legion of Mary, Little Disciples as well as core ministries such as ushers, readers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

Father Enriquez said if there was one thing he would like parishioners to understand about the history of St. Monica Parish, it’s that “we’re getting stronger as a parish.”  The priest, who has served the parish since 2013, added that he’s most proud of how “warm and welcoming” parishioners are to visitors.

 Compiled by correspondent Maria Ferris

 

 



By Maria Ferris | Correspondent

A sense of community and camaraderie was unmistakable among those who gathered Aug. 27 for the Mass commemorating St. Monica Parish’s 65th anniversary and the annual festival that followed.

“I love the people of St. Monica. It’s a very family, community-oriented parish, and it’s a loving parish,” said Deacon Mike Principato, who has been part of the Jackson parish for 10 years.

Photo Gallery: St. Monica Parish 65th Anniversary

A late morning Mass celebrated outside the church in the shadow of towering trees preceded the day’s festivities, which were held on the feast day of the parish’s patron saint. Father Alex Enriquez, parish administrator, who celebrated the Mass, invited Father Tom Petrillo, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, to concelebrate and serve as homilist. 

In his homily, Father Petrillo reminded the crowd of more than 200 that Jesus never leaves his people alone, that he is always by their side to help.

“We must arrange to meet with him and talk with him on a regular schedule,” Father Petrillo said. “We call this daily prayer.”

“Jesus loves everyone,” he continued. “I don’t care what you may have done or what you are doing now. The important thing is you have a friend in Jesus. Go to him. He is waiting,” he said, encouraging all to talk to Jesus about their hopes, dreams, doubts and problems.

The Mass was celebrated at an altar made by Mark Piznik, a parishioner of 30 years, whose handiwork can also be found inside the church. In addition, there was a 50th anniversary blessing for parishioners Jack and Maryann Mahoney.

The Gift of Friendship

Roughly 220 wristbands were sold for the festival fundraiser that took place after Mass, where parishioners enjoyed games, rides, music, food and activities such as face painting.

“It’s a nice, warm parish,” said Alice Stephens, festival chairwoman and parishioner for 21 years. “The people here are generous.”

Explaining that the event takes months of planning, Stephens credited the people involved in its preparation, as well as the volunteers from the Knights of Columbus and Women of St. Monica.

Longtime friends and parishioners Ada Trematerra and Cathy Sedano, who were in charge of the tricky tray, put together 84 baskets from donated goods. Sedano referred to the job as a “labor of love.”

Jim Scatigna, grand knight of the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council, said the festival not only means a lot to the parish, it also sends a message to the community.

“Maybe it’s something they want to join,” he said. “Join, look what we do. We’re a family together.”

That message of friendship certainly rang true for Eileen Laus, a member of the parish choir who attended the event with her family and friends. She’s been a parishioner for about five years.

“We had been away from the Church for a long time, and from the day we came in, everybody treated us like family,” she said. “Everybody was very welcoming.”

Betty Cole, 91, and her husband William, 98, a World War II veteran, both joined the parish in 1995. They turned out for the day’s events with three generations of family.

“I really love this church. It’s a happy place,” said Betty Cole, who recently returned from a white water rafting trip down the Colorado River earlier this month.

Her great-granddaughter, Chloe Barber, agreed. “I really like being here because I get to see cousins that I haven’t seen in a bit of time.”

Adding his thoughts, Deacon Christian Knoebel, who has been a parishioner for 20 years, said the festival is “a terrific time to come together as a parish, celebrate the Lord’s gift of grace in our life as a parish community.”

 






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