About the church
In 1842, the parish of Saint Mary was, first organized in the Lower Church of Saint John’s Parish of Mulberry Street in Newark by the Reverend Nicholas Balleis, OSB of the Abbey of St. Peter in Salzburg , Austria, to serve the German-speaking immigrants.
In 1857 the parish witnessed two significant moments of its history.The parish’s second house of prayer was built (to replace the wooden structure destroyed in the Know-Nothing and American Nativist Party attack of the previous year) and opened for public worship on December 20. 1857. The Right Reverend James Roosevelt Bayley, D.D. first bishop of Newark, successfully entrusted the care of the parish to the Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania . From this point on the history of the Benedictine community and the parish were to be entwined.
These two events were commemorated in 1987, celebrating the continued life of the parish and the existing house of the church in which we now worship. The Benedictine community also remains but it has grown and changed even as it sunk roots deeply into the soil of the city’s life and history.
At present, the future of the parish seems bright . Its story is one of change in ethnic population with an ebb and flow in numbers of members. In addition to the faithful, core African American community, a new immigrant group of West Africans - Cameroonians, Liberians, Nigerians, Togoles, South Africans and Ghanaians; as well as the people of the Caribbean Islands have come to St. Mary’s. Under the pastoral guidance of Rev Luke Edelen, OSB and succeeded by Rev Philip Waters OSB, our Catholic identity has deepened and a new openness to the local community signals our presence in this area of Newark.
Since 1968, when the Benedictine Sisters of Saint Gertrude Priory in Ridgely, Maryland , were compelled to withdraw from St. Mary’s School, the parish was blessed with the commitment of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. This congregation of religious women has ministered to the changing needs of men, women, and children since the seventeenth century. As a congregation they engaged in all levels of education, health and social services, spiritual and pastoral ministries, working so that all people may be united with God and one another.
Led by the principal, Sister Teresa Shaw SSJ, the dedicated faculty provides quality Christian education to boys and girls from kindergarten to eighth grade. St. Mary’s School strives to encourage Christian commitment in Children and their families. On March 23, 2001, as part of a large scale capital campaign and renovation of the St. Benedict’s Prep, ground was broken for the new building which now houses St. Mary’s School. On Sunday, October 14, 2001 Most Rev. John J. Myers, new Archbishop of Newark, offered a Mass of thanksgiving and blessed the new school. The next day, Monday, October 15, 2001, following a Church Service of thanksgiving, Abbot Melvin Valvano accompanied by many guests lead a procession to the new building, dedicating a Peace Pole and adding blessing to the new school. In this modern, peaceful, and disciplined atmosphere the school endeavors to lead each child toward a realization of his/her worth, to acquire the basic tools necessary to function in today’s competitive world, to excel in academic achievement and to live lovingly and justly in the manner of Jesus.In 1986, under the guidance of late Sister Mary Magdalene SSJ, parish outreach to the needy took on a new direction. The establishment of the Pierre Toussaint Food Pantry, an emergency food assistance program, flourished in response to the ever-growing needs of the poor of the Newark community.
Our pantry, now under the direction of Mr. Ambrose Amoakoh continues to provide assistance for a great number of families and single men and women. Recently, on March 27, 2004 a house in the Vailsburg section of Newark was purchased to house the Sisters who serve the parish and the school. This was accomplished by very generous benefactors and parishioners.Supportive friends and parishioners helped to move the sisters and launch this new Convent.Parish pastoral needs such as religious education within the school and parish, sacramental preparation, RCIA process, women’s ministry, liaison to the parish council, Harvest preparation and various other ministries are enriched through the work of Sister Linda Klaiss, SSJ, pastoral associate. As many members of the parish community come forward to share their gifts, new life and growth has emerged. An active pastoral council, a dedicated choir, liturgical ministers, catechists, pantry volunteers, committees for cultural celebrations, a finance council - all - work to minister to the needs of our growing parish community.The future of Saint Mary’s Parish depends upon the support of its congregation and friends, the continuing support of the Abbey and the Archdiocese together with a commitment to growing collaboration with our neighboring parishes of Deanery 20 and a firm faith in the Lord who builds his Church. Proud of our past and conscious of the inheritance that hs been entrusted to us, Saint Mary’s Parish desires to continue to be the Lord’s instrument among and for the people of the city of Newark. the tradition endures. we thank God for it today and ask God’s blessing and guidance for the future in the words of the psalmist: “Let the favor of the Lord be upon us: give success to the work of our hands.” Ps 90