How it all began...
As the first Catholic Church in Lyndhurst, the history of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is very rich. Although it is not known when the actual building was constructed, we do know it was not always a place of worship. Both municipal and ecclesiastical records date back to 1849; however, that is where the records stop. Believe it or not, 149 Copeland Avenue – our church, once housed a family of people and a family of hogs in the cellar. The building was once half the size it is today. Since then, the building has been updated several times. In 1882, the building was reconditioned from a house to a Presbyterian Church which kept its doors open until 1901. Our area was very sparsely settled at the turn of the century. The few Catholics who were around longed and prayed for a church, traveling as best they could to Catholic churches that were established in other areas. In 1909, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark opened the doors once again, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel was born. There was no resident priest, therefore, priests from neighboring towns visited to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to administer sacraments. At some time in 1914 (no official date) there was a fire that destroyed the Sanctuary area. The building was so badly damaged that our people had to attend Sacred Heart Church. Eventually our church was repaired and expanded to accommodate our growing parish family. After the fire, OLMC was officially designated as a mission of Sacred Heart Parish. During the time of our affiliation with Sacred Heart, our Church was called the ‘chapel.’ It contained no room or area for meetings, religious instruction or social activity. At the time, the Circle Club (Copeland Avenue) was still in existence and they graciously donated their facilities for parish society meetings; social events; and even on one occasion, Christmas midnight mass for overflow crowds. Religious Instruction for children was provided at Sacred Heart.
Determined to be an independent parish again, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was designated as a separate parish on July 23, 1966, under the leadership of our first pastor, Father Patrick Fitzpatrick. The Rectory, located on Willow and Kingsland Avenues, was then purchased and was designated the parish office and provided a residence for our priests. Religious Education classes were held at Roosevelt School and in the Church. Bingo was held at the Knights of Columbus and society meetings were held at the Circle Club. Father Fitzpatrick was pastor for one year. Our next pastor was Fr. Edward Hayes. Under Fr. Hayes’ leadership, our parish flourished. In 1968, Fr. Hayes assembled a parish council to assess the needs of our growing parish. One of the main goals of the Parish Council and Fr. Hayes was to build a new church. At this time, the church began to purchase properties on Copeland and Sanford Avenues which is where the new Church was to be built. For a little more than a year, the parish was steadfast in their goal of building a new church. In 1969, after much deliberation and work with the parish council and engineers it was just not feasible to build a new church. Fr. Hayes announced plans to build a parish center. There were some litigation delays with a piece of property on Copeland Avenue which slowed down the plans to build the Parish Center.
In 1969, Bingo moved from being played at the Knights of Columbus to St. Mary’s Parish, in Nutley. Also in 1969 we saw some semblance of a parish feast. On July 13, 1969, a buffet supper was organized for parishioners. The Feast of OLMC was celebrated the following year, with an OPEN HOUSE at the Circle Club. With the rapid growth of the Parish, in July 1970, Fr. Hayes petitioned the Archdiocese to add a Saturday Vigil Mass. This was approved and was very successful; within a few months, Fr. Hayes contacted the Archdiocese to add another Vigil mass on Saturday. By September 1970, the litigation with the Copeland Avenue property had been resolved and the church then made a request for bids for the Parish Center.
In 1969, Bingo moved from being played at the Knights of Columbus to St. Mary’s Parish, in Nutley. Also in 1969 we saw some semblance of a parish feast. On July 13, 1969, a buffet supper was organized for parishioners. The Feast of OLMC was celebrated the following year, with an OPEN HOUSE at the Circle Club. With the rapid growth of the parish, in July 1970, Fr. Hayes petitioned the Archdiocese to add a Saturday Vigil Mass. This was approved and was very successful; within a few months, Fr. Hayes contacted the Archdiocese to add another Vigil mass on Saturday. By September 1970, the litigation with the Copeland Avenue property had been resolved and the church then made a request for bids for the Parish Center.
THE PARISH CENTER
With the plans of the parish center finalized, ground broke on the project on February 13, 1971.The weather that day – torrential rains. Fortunately, it stopped raining just long enough for an outdoor ceremony. Fr. Hayes and the Parish Council worked closely with the engineers and the architects. The plans included an all-purpose auditorium with sufficient capacity for mass overflow and classrooms for religious education instruction. Work progressed quickly and on November 27, 1971, the parish center and its appurtenances were approved for the celebration of Holy Mass by the liturgical commission of the Archdiocese. The cornerstone was laid on December 4, 1971, with Archbishop Boland officiating. A copper box was sealed into the stone, which contained the following items: official testimonial document issued by the Archbishop of Newark; missal for the current month; Holy Name Society scroll; a Rosary and scroll from the Rosary Society; solidarity membership medal from the Society of St. Anthony of Padua; St. Anthony Novena prayer; Miraculous Medal novena prayers; Rosary which touched the spot of the birth of Our Savior and His tomb; photography of Fr. Henry Naddeo; Miraculous Medal blessed by Padre Pio; picture of Padre Pio; picture of the Holy Face of Our Lord; and many other items offered by parishioners and spectators present at the laying of the cornerstone. Following the cornerstone ceremony, the Archbishop hung the first crucifix in the building, blessed the building and officiated at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The first Mass in the parish center was the Mass of Christmas, 1971.
1971 – The pulse of our parish has always been the people. Our people have always been active members of the parish and in our societies. In 1971, we saw our societies undertake great projects and social events which strengthened the bonds of our community. In 1971, the Rosary Society collected trading stamps that helped fund and defray the cost of many of their projects. That year, they also had a Cake Sale, Communion Supper, the FIRST Chinese Auction (October 20, 1971), made and sold grave floral pillows. In 1971, the Rosarians elected the following members for their leadership team: Ruth Jacobs, President; Mary Olivo, Vice President; Wanda Altieri, Treasurer; Helen Lubertazzo, Recording Secretary and Dorothy Cotugno, Financial Secretary. The Holy Name Society was represented by President, Ralph Battista; 1st Vice President, Jack Dempsey; 2nd Vice President, Frank Bubblo; Secretary, Joe Sammartino; Treasurer, Otis Richards; Catholic Action, Frank Ferrara; Angelo O’Dell and Assistant Marshall, Allan Aresanault. Under their leadership, the Holy Name Society had events such as the Father-Daughter Day, Italian Night and the Holy Name Parade. If you were looking for a fun night on the town or a mini-vacation, no need to look further than the Mount Carmel Society. This society was comprised of both men and women and they had Theater Nights, a trip to Niagara Falls and Dinner and Dancing. On September 10, 1971, the societies honored Fr. Hayes and Fr. Naddeo for their 30th and 15th respective ordination anniversaries. The party was held at San Carlo Restaurant. As the Parish Center was being constructed, Fr. Hayes worked closely with the Parish Council. The newly elected members for 1971 were: Fred Costa, President; Valerie Vendola, Vice President and Agnes Paluzzi, Secretary. Bingo was held one day (Thursday) a week at St. Mary’s in Nutley. Upon the completion of our Parish Center, it was going to be moved there. A Bingo Committee was formed to ensure a seamless transition to our grounds and to explore the idea of possibly adding a second night of Bingo.
1972 – On January 5, 1972, Bingo was held at the Parish Center for the first time. In February, plans for Sunday night bingo were announced – it was approved by the town/state on April 19th! In July, St. Peter’s Parish in Newark gifted us a church altar, three kneelers for the Parish Center, two monstrance – a large one for the Parish Center and a small one for the Church. On July 12th, there was an Open House Buffet in the Parish Center in honor of our patron saint. Also in July, the Statue of Our Lady outside of the Parish Center arrived and was dedicated on July 13th. During the summer of 1972, Wanda Altieiri held weekly sewing classes in the Parish Center for girls in our CCD program. In September, Fr. Vincent Chen joined the pastoral staff of OLMC which already included Reverend Edward J. Hayes, Pastor; Reverend Henry M. Naddeo, Parochial Vicar; Reverend Matthew Pesaniello, Sunday Assistant and Sister Rose Clement, Director of Religious Education.
1973 – In January, the stain glass windows were installed in the Parish Center. Beginning on January 19th – May 20th, Fr. Hayes wrote and distributed a weekly insert with the bulletin entitled, ‘What the Windows Say.’ On January 13, 1973, the parish priests, societies, religious education students, choir and many parishioners organized a first anniversary celebration for the Parish Center. In 1973, the parish societies were still thriving: the Holy Name Society had their first Macaroni Night and Roast Beef Dinner; the Rosary Society had a Harvest Table and the Mount Carmel Society had a Valentine Dinner and Dance at San Carlo.
1974 - 1977
There was tremendous growth and change from 1974–1977. New programs and initiatives were introduced as we said farewell to people who were with our parish from the beginning and welcomed those who took our parish through its next era.
On January 20th, 1974, the three catholic parishes in Lyndhurst (OLMC, St. Michael & Sacred Heart) came together at St. Michael’s Social Center for Christian Unity. At the event, Fr. Chen spoke and our children’s choir sang. On March 18th, Frank Bubblo and Wanda Alteri were nominated for the Archdiocesan Council. That same week Sister Rose Clement & Wilbur Croll’s names were sent for consideration to become Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. On June 28th, there was an attempt to set fire to a building near the Parish Center, putting it at risk. Fortunately, our quick-thinking Sacristan, Joe Magarelli, Jr.; alerted the authorities before any damage was done. In September of 1974, St. Patrick’s Parish in Newark donated a cope, stole and vile which are used in procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. At the end of the religious education school year, we said goodbye to our Director of Religious Education, Sister Rose Clement. We also bid a fond farewell to our Choir Director Mildred Renehan. In the summer of 1977, OLMC welcomed permanent deacon, Mr. Steve Rodeal. Upon his arrival, he quickly started a weekly Prayer Group.
As always, during these four years, the parish calendar was very full with a variety of events that welcomed all parishioners and community members. Some events included: Valentine Dinner & Dance at San Carlo hosted by the Rosary Society; Girl Scout Sunday, which had local girl scouts all attending the 10:00am mass; and Holy Name Roast Beef Dinners. On January 12, 1975, all three catholic churches in Lyndhurst joined together for the Holy Name Brotherhood Breakfast. In 1977, OLMC announced a joint venture with the Township of Lyndhurst to begin the Mount Carmel Senior Club. In the beginning, membership and interest was slow but it quickly caught on with community members 60 and over. Nicholas De Leo was named Chair of the Club and Fr. Chen was named moderator.
It was in June of 1977 that Fr. Hayes announced that he would be retiring as pastor on June 30th. Fr. Hayes’ contribution to Our Lady of Mount Carmel was invaluable and is still felt today. In his nine years of service, he ‘laid the foundation’ for what we have built since. His meticulous planning and organizational skills resulted in the construction of the Parish Center which essentially saved our community. The parish center brought in revenue because it allowed us to have two nights bingo on our own grounds, as well as, parish and society functions. The parish center enabled us to accommodate the growing number of people attending mass at our Church. We were able to better educate our children by having classrooms and an office for religious instruction. All of Fr. Hayes contributions are too numerous to list and for that the parish will be eternally grateful. The parish commemorated his time at OLMC on October 22, with a Dinner and Dance at the Parish Center.
Fr. Vincent Affanoso was announced as the new pastor of OLMC. He was set to arrive in August and in the interim, Fr. Naddeo was named as administrator. Fr. Affanoso was installed as pastor on October 1, 1977, at the 5:00pm mass in the Parish Center. One of his first acts as pastor was a General Parish Meeting on November 14th for parishioners to express their concerns about parish matters. The purpose of the meeting was to prioritize the needs of the church and the people it serves.
1978-1980 were the years of the committee at OLMC. All of the committees that were created were meant to enrich the parish and create a tighter community. Based on the parish meeting held in the Fall of 1977, the parish’s goals were to increase parish life and increase youth involvement. To begin this process, Fr. Affonoso decided to rebuild the parish council. The first step was to create a Steering Committee which, essentially, would help (steer) create a larger parish council. Members of the Steering Committee included: Frank Bubblo, Cora Lee Arsenault, Pat Carr, Rose Marie Giaquinto, Georgette Giaquinto, Joanne Bencivenga, Mary Ann Lukachyk, Joyce Primerano, Betty & Bob Marino and Connie & Ray Tracy. The committee worked closely for months to identify the role of the parish council at OLMC. In April, applications were made available to interested parishioners to become a member of the new parish council. After a slow start and extended deadlines, eventually, there were 35 nominees for 15 available seats. With over 400 votes casted, the winners were: Marc Cardo, Carol Ann Guzzo, Sal P. DeCarlo, Jr., Ann S. Mastria, Frank Bubblo, Frank Primerano, Salvatore P. DeCarlo, Sr., Jack Dempsey, Joyce Primerano, Robert Jennings, Josephine Lepore, Carmen Vasto, Elizabeth Marino, Ralph Battista and Mary Olivio. On January 7, 1979, the council distributed a questionnaire to get the opinions and feelings of what the council had done thus far, as well as, suggestions and recommendations for the future. Based on the results of this survey, in April the formation of the following committees was announced: Liturgy Committee, Education Committee, Parish Life Committee, Social Concerns Committee and the Administration Committee. Some of the works of these committees included – March, 1980: Adult Religious Education (over 90 members); Parish Life: April, 1980: Square Dance; June, 1980: Parish Picnic at the County Park; Social Concerns Committee – Lent 1980: Operation Rice Bowl (raising money/food for hunger projects); 1980 –Boat Family Project (plans underway to adopt a family from Vietnam) A planning youth committee was established to encourage youth involvement in our parish. On March 13th, there was a ‘Battle of the Bands’ in the parish center for children 13 and up. Youth group meetings were originally set for Friday evenings, however, later in the year it moved to Tuesdays. There, our young people were encouraged to come ‘hang out’ bring games, favorite instruments, school work, etc.
There were several notable events, changes and recognitions that occurred in 1978-1980. Each year began off honoring our parish volunteers at a Volunteer Dinner. January, 1978, a larger bulletin (8.5” x 7”) was introduced allowing better communications to our parishioners – we further increased our bulletin space on August 3, 1980 by publishing an 8.5” X 11” parish bulletin. Throughout the years, special topic lecture series were held at the Parish Center. For example; in April, 1978 a four week parenting program was held for the community. Rose Iosco began her long career as the Parish Organist and Choir Director and Kathleen Henderson, was our new Director of Religious Education for the year. Upon her arrival, Mrs. Iosco planned to start a co-ed choir. Despite enthusiastically reaching out to our parishioners, the choir never fully came to fruition. Unfortunately by the end of 1979, the choir had dwindled down to 5 members. In November 1978, the Ushers received nametags which were donated by Ralph Battista. It was announced that Larry Paluzzi was the Captain of the Ushers, Sam Del Core was Co-captain and Marty Garabarini was the Chief of Ushers. On December 10, 1978, the Religious Education students presented a Christmas Pageant in the Parish Center. On March 24, 1979, after 12 years of service to OLMC, we said farewell to Fr. Henry Naddeo. Fr. Henry’s contributions were celebrated as he was honored at a farewell party on June 16th. In the summer of 1979, Anita Foley was introduced as the new Director of Religious Education. The Church Improvement Fund was established to help with projects such as making the church basement a functional meeting place, a new furnace and renovating the church Sanctuary. To raise money there was a raffle and a parish social. On June 2, 1979, the parish societies came together for a special Saturday night bingo where the proceeds benefited this fund. As of November 11th 1979, $3,300 was raised. In January 1980, the church sanctuary was updated bringing the priests closer to the people during mass celebrations.
1981 - 1983
In January 1981, the parish celebrated Fr. Chen’s recent citizenship at a “Citizen Chen” night in the Parish Center. The Social Concerns Committee held a Food Drive the entire month of March which benefited the Food Center of Bergen County. On March 21, Fr. Affanoso received permission from the Archbishop to purchase the property at 200 Kingsland Avenue with a long-term goal of expanding the Church. The transaction was quickly completed on May 11th; luckily, two parishioners lent the church money at a lower interest rate than the bank. Also, in May the Holy Name Society hosted a Ziti Dinner and furnished the Church basement with the proceeds. The Parish Life Committee had hoped to have another Parish picnic; but, unfortunately, it was canceled due to a lack of interest. During the summer months, ‘Operation Shape-up’ was announced. Parishioners were invited to come and clean the grounds of the church and parish center as well as paint the center and church. Due in large part to Rose Iosco’s efforts, the Choir began to recruit new members and was slowly becoming a success! On October 10th, we began having hospitality meetings after the 10:00am & 11:00am masses for parishioners to get a acquainted. In November, the Education Committee presented a very successful multi- week “Focus on Faith’ adult education program. During 1981, the Teen program struggled due to a lack of interest from the adults which frustrated many. However, Joan Drzewicki organized a fun-filled Teen Christmas Party on December 18th. December was a very exciting time in our Parish. We were treated to a new Nativity Scene which consisted of ceramic figurines and stable made by Marilyn and Anthony Romano. Also, in December the parish center was officially owned by the church as the final mortgage payment was made to the bank. At the end of the year, the parishioners were pleasantly surprised at the result of the yearly fundraising efforts - ‘Building for Tomorrow’ which mainly consisted of the parish raffle and the Dinner-Dance raised over $11,000!
1982 started off with a ‘Night of Recognition’ to honor those who have given so selflessly to make our parish such a strong community. On March 30th, the Holy Name Society hosted their first “Fish and Chip” Dinner which was so successful they had another one later in the year – it ultimately became a staple for many years to come. In April, the Rosary Society began hosting weekly Aerobics in the Parish Center – which too became hugely successful. In June, the teens hosted a fun evening of ‘Battle of the Bands.’ Operation Shape-Up continued throughout the year and after the work parishioners were treated to refreshments and slide shows of the parish events throughout the years. In August, the Social Concerns Committee, helped teens earn their ‘Certification in Babysitting’ from Riverside Hospital. They also helped get elders to and from doctor’s appointment. In the Fall, it was announced that due to an increase in robberies the church’s insurance company advised us not to publish the weekly collection amounts in the bulletin. There was a General Parish Meeting on October 18th regarding the possible expansion of the Church. With more than 200 people in attendance, it was decided that our church did not meet the needs of our parish and it should be expanded. Based on that meeting, the parish council was going to move forward with plans to expand the Church. On November 24th, all the families who attended the Family Bonanza in the Parish Center had a great time at the western themed party. The parishioners were once again pleasantly surprised when the ‘Building for Tomorrow’ fundraising results were announced -- $12,000! From that money, $5,000 went to back bills and the remaining $7,000 went into a building fund.
In early 1983, we were in great need of Ushers and an appeal to all interested men and women was made. In February, the parish celebrated Fr. Chen’s 25th ordination with a reception in the parish center. After many months of consideration, on March 20th, the 10:00am mass was officially changed to 9:45am. The purpose of this was to alleviate the parking issues that arose at the end of the 10am mass and the beginning of the 11:00am Mass. The parish community was so proud of the teen group, as they raised over $2,000 for a local boy who was seriously injured in a car accident (later in the year their efforts were included in a spotlight feature in the Bergenite). In April, an OLMC Boy Scout Troop was announced – Troop #97! On Monday, June 28th, the place to be was at the Fiesta – which was where the Rosary Society hosted a hugely successful Fashion show. Regrettably, in July, after 11 years of service to OLMC, we said farewell to Fr. Vincent Chen. 1983 did end on a high note, the ‘Building for Tomorrow’ fundraising efforts added an additional activity this year – in addition to the Dinner-Dance and Raffle, there was an Ad Journal that was distributed at the Dinner-Dance. The total amount raised for 1983 was $14,600!
To Be Continued