New Jersey, Catholic Church in
NEW JERSEY, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
A Middle Atlantic state, one of the Thirteen Colonies, admitted to the Union as the third state on Dec. 18, 1787. Bordering on New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey is heavily urbanized and the most densely populated of the states. Newark is the largest city, and Trenton is the capital. The population in 2001 was 7.6 million, of whom 3.4 million, about 44 percent, were Catholic. They are served by the Archdiocese of Newark and its four suffragan sees, Camden, Metuchen, Paterson, and Trenton.
Catholicism in the Colonial Period. After the English assumed control from the Dutch in 1664, New Jersey was divided into West Jersey, a Quaker stronghold, and East Jersey, whose fortunes were tied to New York City. Proprietary government ended in 1702, when the Jerseys were united as a royal colony. In 1738, New Jersey was established as a separate legal entity under Lewis Morris, the first Royal Governor. Its geographic position and large Tory population gave it a leading role in the American Revolution, and it was an important defender of the small states in the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787.
For much of New Jersey's early history, Catholics were neither numerous nor significant. Catholic immigration was discouraged by legal and social conditions. In 1668, the first general assembly of the Province of East Jersey was held in Elizabeth. William Douglas of Bergen, who had been elected, was refused his seat because, as a Catholic, he was not able to take the required oath.
The first known Catholic resident of West Jersey seems to have been John Tatham, also known as John Gray, a former monk of Douai Abbey in England, who left the monastery (possibly absconding with some funds in the process) and settled first in Pennsylvania and then in the area of Trenton in New Jersey. The inventory of his estate shows that he possessed a number of Catholic books, and items for the celebration of the Eucharist. There is some evidence that he served as Governor of West Jersey for a time.
In 1683, the Catholic King James I appointed an Irish governor of New York, Thomas Dongan, who brought with him a Catholic priest, later to be joined by two more, who occasionally would go to Elizabeth and Woodbridge
to administer the sacraments. When James was over-thrown, the anti-Catholic sentiment returned.
In 1698, the East Jersey Assembly promised religious tolerance, but not for those of the "Romish" religion. When New Jersey became a Royal Colony in 1702, Queen Anne, writing to her representative, Lord Cornbury, said that he should give liberty to all "except Papists." She went on to express fear of the "dangers which may happen from popish recusants." Under George II, an oath was administered to civil and military officers, which contained anti-Catholic sentiments. In 1758, religious toleration for all "except papists" was again reiterated.
Meanwhile Catholic settlers came to New Jersey in some numbers, especially as the glass and iron industries were developed, and their settlements were tended by Jesuit missionaries working out of St. Joseph's Church in Philadelphia and "riding the circuit" through New Jersey. Theodore Schneider, S.J., cared for the spiritual needs of Catholics in New Jersey, especially in Salem County, where a number of Catholics had settled. He was followed by Ferdinand Steinmeyer, who adopted the English name farmer. Farmer made twice-yearly trips through New Jersey to visit the communities of Catholics. His mission stations included Ringwood, Basking Ridge, Charlottenburg, Pilesgrove, Cohansey, Long Pond, Mount Hope, and Springfield. Catholics had come to Ringwood in 1764 to work in the mines. Farmer spent a total of 21 years ministering to the scattered Catholics of New Jersey. His registers include Irish, English, German and French names. While New Jersey officially remained anti-Catholic, the ministrations of the Jesuits from Philadelphia, which were frequent enough surely to bring notice, were tolerated, although Farmer did report some instances of anti-Catholic prejudice.
Another known Catholic of the period, Patrick Colvin, who operated a ferry on the Delaware river near Trenton, is said to have supplied some of the boats that George Washington used to ferry his troops from Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve, 1776, when he was on his way to attack the British troops at Trenton. A number of Catholic officers from France who had come to help the cause of the revolution, settled at war's end in Madison.
They were soon joined by other French Catholics who fled the French Revolution. Although these Catholics worshiped in the Presbyterian Church because of the lack of a Catholic Church, they remained staunch Catholics, and their descendants were among the founders of Saint Vincent Martyr Church in Madison.
This anti-Catholic atmosphere continued in New Jersey into the post-colonial period. The state constitution, adopted in 1776, excluded an established church and guaranteed to everyone "the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience," but it guaranteed only that "no protestant inhabitant …be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles"and that "all persons professing a belief in the faith of any protestant sect …shall be capable of being elected into any office of profitor trust or being a member of either branch of the legislature." These provisions were not removed until a new constitution was drafted in 1844.
Nineteenth-Century Growth. The ecclesiastical status of New Jersey changed several times in the 19th century. When the Diocese of Baltimore was erected in 1789, the state was included in its jurisdiction, and there is a record of a visit paid to Trenton by Bp. John carroll in September 1803. When the Dioceses of Philadelphia and New York were established in 1808, New Jersey was divided between them. Belonging to New York was "the eastern part of the province of New Jersey closest to" it. Attached to Philadelphia was "the western and southern part of the province of New Jersey." Following the recommendation of the Second Provincial Council of Baltimore (1833), the Holy See, on June 18, 1834, redefined the boundaries of all the dioceses in the U.S.; New Jersey, however, remained divided between New York and Philadelphia.
The years following the War of 1812 were a time of rapid industrial and commercial development in New Jersey. Catholic immigration, especially from Ireland and Germany, increased with the railroad and canal building that began in the 1830s. By 1814 the number of Catholics in Trenton had increased sufficiently to build a small church, which was dedicated to St. Francis by Michael Egan, first bishop of Philadelphia. In 1820 the Catholic community in Paterson received its first pastor, Rev. Richard Bulger. Newark's first parish, St. John's, was established in 1826, and its church dedicated in 1828.
When newark became a diocese in 1853, encompassing the whole state, James Roosevelt bayley, a former Episcopalian, and nephew of Mother Seton, was named first bishop. At the time, the city of Newark had three churches, the original St. John's; St. Mary's, for the Germans; and the new St. Patrick's. In Trenton there were two: St. John's and St. Francis of Assisi (the original St. Francis) for the Germans. In the entire state there were 30 churches, with at least as many mission stations, all tended by 30 priests.
The rapid growth of the foreign Catholic population caused concern among the mostly Protestant population and gave rise to a new wave of anti-Catholic sentiment. The Know-Nothings were particularly prominent in New Jersey. The trouble culminated in an attack on St. Mary's Catholic Church on Shipman Street in Newark, which was a German ethnic parish. Tension had been building up ever since a fire in the nearby Halsey and Taylor factory, whose workers were mainly Irish and German immigrants, was ignored by the Protestant fire brigades nearby. During an Orangemen parade in September, 1854, an exchange of words and rocks led to a riot that destroyed the church and led to the deaths of two Irishmen "at the hands of persons unknown" according to the coroner's report, but who had certainly been shot by some of the marchers.
Despite opposition, the number of Catholics in New Jersey continued to grow. In July 1881, Pope Leo XIII divided the diocese of Newark. Fourteen counties in central and southern New Jersey were split off to form the diocese of Trenton. The Most Reverend Michael J. O'Farrell of New York was named the first bishop.
Twentieth Century. Immigrants continued to come. Their numbers and place of origin changed the composition of New Jersey Catholicism. Italians came in large numbers at the end of the 19th century, and eastern Europeans came in the first quarter of the 20th century. In order to address their religious and cultural needs the bishops created national parishes, notably in urban areas. The national parishes were also a source of tensions when their members felt their customs and practices were not understood or appreciated. Sometimes the tension was a question of authority pitting clergy against the bishop. In a few cases it led to the establishment of independent church bodies as among the Poles in 1987, and the Ruthenians in 1936.
In 1937 the Holy See once again rearranged the ecclesiastical map of the state. The counties of Passaic, Morris, and Sussex were separated from Newark to form the Diocese of Paterson. Bishop Thomas H. McLaughlin, to that point an auxiliary bishop in Newark, was named Paterson's first bishop. The counties of Camden, Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem were split from Trenton to form the Diocese of Camden. Most Reverend Bartholomew Eustace of New York was named its first ordinary. Newark was raised to the rank of archdiocese with the new dioceses as its suffragan sees. In 1981 the Holy See again divided the Diocese of Trenton forming the counties of Warren, Hunterdon, Sommerset, and Middlesex into the Diocese of Metuchen with Most Reverend Theodore McCarrick who had been an auxiliary in New York its first bishop. Bishop McCarrick served in Metuchen until 1986 when he was promoted to the archdiocese of Newark.
New Jersey has a goodly number of Eastern Catholics and is the home of two of eparchies of the Eastern Churches.The Eparchy of Passaic, embracing Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholics living in New Jesey and eastern Pennsylvania, was established in 1963. More recently, the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark for Syrian Catholics was established in 1995.
New Jersey is home to six Catholic institutions of higher learning, the most prominent of which is Seton Hall University, founded in 1856 in Madison as Seton Hall College, and now located in South Orange. It is a diocesan university, staffed by the priests of the Archdiocese of Newark. The major seminary for the Archdiocese of Newark, Immaculate Conception Seminary, serves as Seton Hall's graduate school of theology. The minor seminary, Saint Andrew's, is also part of Seton Hall. Other Catholic colleges in the state include Caldwell College (sponsored by the Sisters of Dominic), St. Peter's College in Jersey City (sponsored by the Jesuits), Georgian Court College in Lakewood (sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy), Felician College (sponsored by the Felician Sisters), and College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown (sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth).
Bibliography: j. m. flynn, The Catholic Church in New Jersey (Morristown, N.J. 1904). w. t. leahy, The Catholic Church of the Diocese of Trenton (Princeton 1907). c. j. giglio, ed., Building God's Kingdom. A History of the Diocese of Camden. (South Orange 1981). r. j. kupke, Living Stones: A History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Paterson (Clifton 1987). j. c. shenrock, ed. Upon the Rock: A New History of the Diocese of Trenton (Trenton 1993). new jersey catholic historical commission, The Bishops of Newark, 1855–1978 (South Orange 1978).
[j. h. brady/