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Diocese of Newark

Created in 1853, suffragan of New York

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NEWARK, Diocese of (NOVARCENSIS), created in 1853, suffragan of New York and comprising Hudson, Passaic, Bergen, Essex, Union, Morris and Sussex counties in the State of New Jersey, U.S.A., an area of 1699 square miles. The diocese originally included the whole State, but the fourteen other counties were taken (July 15, 1881) to form the Diocese of Trenton. As early as 1672 the records show that there were Catholics at Woodbridge and at Elizabethtown, the capital of East Jersey, and the Jesuit Fathers Harvey and Gage, Governor Dongan‘s chaplains in New York, visited them. Other priests came at a later period. Several of these pioneers were Alsatians who had come over with Carteret to engage in the salt-making industry. William Douglass, elected from Bergen, was excluded from the first General Assembly held at Elizabethtown, May 26, 1668, because he was a Catholic. Two years later he was arrested and banished to New England as a “troublesome person”. The whole atmosphere of the colony was intensely anti-Catholic. The law of 1698 granted religious toleration in East Jersey, but “provided that this should not extend to any of the Romish religion the right to exercise their manner of worship contrary to the laws and statutes of England“. In West Jersey, the pioneers were Quakers and more tolerant. It is claimed that John Tatham, appointed Governor of West Jersey in 1690, and the founder of its great pottery industry, was really an English Catholic whose name was John Gray. Father Robert Harding and Father Ferdinand Farmer (Steinmeyer) from the Jesuit community in Philadelphia, made long tours across the State in the eighteenth century ministering to the scattered groups of Catholics at Mount Hope, Macopin, Basking Ridge, Trenton, Ringwood, and other places. The settlement at Macopin (now Echo Lake) was made by some German Catholics sometime before the Revolution and their descendants make up the parish today.

During the Revolution Washington’s army brought many Catholics through the State. In the camp at Morristown the Spanish agent Don Juan de Miralles, died April 28, 1780, and his funeral was conducted by Father Seraphin Bandol, chaplain of the French Minister, who came specially from Philadelphia to administer the last sacraments to the dying Spaniard. Washington and the other officers of the army attended the ceremony. When in the following May the remains were removed to Philadelphia, Congress attended the Requiem Mass in St. Mary’s church. It was at Morristown in 1780, that the first official recognition of St. Patrick’s Day is to be found in Washington’s order book, still preserved there at his headquarters. Marbois, writing from Philadelphia, March 25, 1785, gives the number of Catholics in New York and New Jersey as 1700; more than half of these were probably in New Jersey. There were many French refugees from the West Indies in Princeton, Elizabeth, and its vicinity, and Fathers Vianney, Tissorant, and Malou used to minister to them from St. Peter’s, New York, in the early years of the last century. Mines, furnaces, glass works, and other industries started in various sections of the State, brought Catholic immigrants. The Augustinian Missionary, Father Philip Larisey, visited Paterson about 1821, and the first parish in the State, St. Francis, Trenton, was established in 1814. Newark’s first church, St. John’s, was opened in 1828, the pastor being the Rev. Gregory B. Pardow of New York, and the first trustees Patrick Murphy, John Sherlock, John Kelly, Christopher Rourke, Morris Fitzgerald, John Gillespie, and Patrick Mape. The first native of Newark to be ordained to the priesthood was Daniel G. Durning, son of Charles Dunning, in whose house Mass used to be said before the first church was built. In 1820 Father Richard Bulger erected the first church in Paterson. In New Brunswick the first Mass was said by Rev. Dr. Power of New York in 1825, and the first church was opened by Rev. Joseph A. Schneller, December 19, 1831. In Jersey City, originally called Paulus Hook, Mass was first said in 1830, and the first church opened by the Reverend Hugh Mohan in 1837. At Macopin the little band of German Catholics before mentioned had a church as early as 1829. Thus during the first half of the nineteenth century there was a slow but steady growth of the Faith all over the State, and as it was receiving a substantial share of the great inflow of Catholic immigrants, the Holy See deemed the time opportune to separate it from the Diocese of New York, and the See of Newark was erected. The Reverend James Roosevelt Bayley (q.v.), then secretary to Bishop Hughes of New York, was chosen the first Bishop of Newark, and consecrated October 30, 1853. There were then between fifty and sixty thousand Catholics in his diocese, for the most part Irish and Germans.

In organizing the new diocese Bishop Bayley found he could count on only twenty-five priests. There were no diocesan institutions except small orphanages, and the people were poor and of little social influence. In the interest of Catholic education, one of his chief concerns, he founded the Madison Congregation of the Sisters of Charity (q.v.), and to supply the lack of funds for the work of new churches, he obtained assistance from the Association of the Propagation of the Faith of Lyons, France, and the Leopoldine Society of Vienna. Seton Hall College was opened by him in September, 1866, and everywhere the diocese responded to the energy of his zeal and practical effort. In ten years the churches increased to 67, the priests increased to63 and a monastery of Benedictines and another of Passionists was established. The Sisters of Charity became a community of 87 members, conducting 17 different establishments. Other notable additions were 2 convents of Benedictine nuns, 2 of German Sisters of Notre Dame; 2 of Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis; a flourishing college, an academy for young ladies, a boarding school for boys, and parish schools attached to most of the churches, while the old wooden chapels had been replaced by buildings of brick and stone. “All this has been done”, the bishop wrote, “in the midst of a population of emigrants, comparatively poor, without incurring a great debt!” In twelve years the Association of the Propagation of the Faith gave the diocese $26,600. This progress, too, was made in spite of much local narrowness and bigotry, the culmination of which on November 5, 1854, resulted in a riot during which an anti-Catholic mob desecrated and sacked the little German church of St. Mary in Newark served by the Benedictine Father Nicholas Balleis. In this disturbance a Catholic was killed and several others wounded.

Bishop Bayley was promoted to the Archbishopric of Baltimore, July 30, 1872, and his successor as second bishop of the see was the Right Reverend Michael Augustine Corrigan (q.v.) consecrated May 4, 1873. He successfully overcame a number of complicated financial entanglements, and established a House of the Good Shepherd for girls May 24, 1875, in Newark, a protectory for boys about the same time at Denville, and in June, 1880, in Newark a community of Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration, from Ouillins, France. On 8 and May 9, 1878, an important synod was held, and in July, 1881, the Diocese of Trenton, which cut off a considerable portion of the Newark territory in the southern section, was established. On October 1, 1880, Bishop Corrigan was made titular Archbishop of Petra and coadjutor of New York, and to succeed him as third Bishop of Newark, the Rev. Dr. Winand M. Wigger, then pastor at Madison, was chosen and consecrated October 18 1881. Bishop Wigger was born of German parents in New York City, December 9, 1841, and made his classical studies at St. Francis Xavier’s College, New York. His theological course was followed at Seton Hall and at the college of Brignole-Sale, Genoa, Italy, where he was ordained priest June 10, 1865. Following the example of his predecessors Bishop Wigger made the diocesan seminary one of the objects of his chief solicitude. In 1883 he removed the Catholic Protectory to Arlington and established the Sacred Heart Union to aid in its maintenance. The Fifth Diocesan Synod was held by him November 17, 1886, at which strict regulations were enacted in regard to funerals and the attendance at parochial and public schools. On June 11, 1899, he laid the cornerstone of a new cathedral church at Newark, and soon after was forced to go abroad in search of rest and health. On his return he took up his duties with zeal, but died of pneumonia, January 5, 1901. The record of his administration shows a character entirely disinterested and unselfish united to a poverty truly apostolic.

The Vicar-General John J. O’Connor was the choice of the Holy See as fourth bishop, and was consecrated July 25, 1901. Born at Newark, June 11, 1855, he made his college course at Seton Hall. In 1873 he was sent to the American College at Rome where he spent four years. After another year at Louvain he was ordained priest December 22, 1877, and on his return to Newark, was appointed professor at Seton Hall College where he became Director of the Seminary in which he remained for the following eighteen years.

He was then named vicar-general and on October 30, 1895, rector of St. Joseph‘s. Early in his administration he adopted measures for the completion of the new cathedral of the Sacred Heart, begun by Bishop Wigger, making this the special object of the golden jubilee of the diocese. At this it was shown that in the brief space of fifty years, there had been an increase of tenfold in the number of churches and ninefold in population, with nearly 50,000 children attending 167 Catholic schools and institutions, and 396 priests attending the 416 churches and chapels throughout the State. Religious communities now represented in the diocese are, men: the Jesuits, Passionists, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Salesians, Pious Society of the Missions, the Christian Brothers, Alexian Brothers, and Xaverian Brothers; women: Sisters of Charity (Newark), Sisters of St. Benedict, Sisters of Christian Charity, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of Charity (Gray Nuns), Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary, Sisters of St. Dominic, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of St. Joseph, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Little Sisters of the Poor, Felician Sisters, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Pallotine Sisters of Charity, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Daughters of Our Lady of Help, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Baptistine Sisters.

Statistics (1910): Priests, 368 (regulars, 88); churches with resident priests, 162; missions with churches, 36; stations, 10; chapels, 82; seminary, 1, students, 42; students in Europe, 7; seminaries of religious, 3, students, 31; colleges and academies for boys, 6; academies for girls, 12; parish schools, 116, pupils, 52,600; orphan asylums, 12, inmates, 2400; industrial and reform schools, 4, inmates 450; protectory for boys, 1, inmates, 180; total young people under Catholic care, 56,000; hospitals, 10; houses for aged poor, 2; other charitable institutions, 8; Catholic population, 365,000.


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