A Brief Summary of our History
THE EARLY YEARS
Prior to the establishment of the Diocese of Trenton by the Holy See in 1881, Roman Catholics living in the State of New Jersey were part of the Diocese of Newark est. 1853 served by the Right Reverend Frederick Kivelitz, Pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold. The Parish territory encompassed 125 square miles. Mass was offered one time per month in the Guire Home located at what is now State Road 34 & County Road 537 with Religious Instruction being offered weekly.
Building the domus ecclesiae, the house for the church began with the purchase of one half acre of land at the intersection of Heyers Mill Road at New Street for $150.00 from Robert Kelsey. There a simple edifice was constructed to accommodate 150 persons for sacred worship. This edifice was blessed by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Michael Corrigan on 23 November 1979 and received the name Saint Mary’s Catholic Church…a mission parish for nearly 100 years of Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold and, for a period, of Saint James, Red Bank until being transferred to the care of the pastor of Saint Catherine Parish, Farmingdale until 1972.
Recognizing the potential needs, the Right Reverend Michael P. McCorristin, Vicar General of the Diocese of Trenton recommended in 1960 to His Excellency, The Most Reverend Bishop George W. Ahr that 25 acres of land at the corner of Route 34 and Phalanx Road be acquired from Mr. G. Rezeau-Conover for $35,000.00 since it was located at the geographical center of Colts Neck.
A SHEPHERD FOR THE FLOCK
Ground was broken for a new Church Building and Parish Hall in December 1971. Two months later Saint Mary’s was erected as an independent parish. Reverend Fr. Raymond Griffin, pastor of Saint Catherine, Farmingdale was appointed the Founding Pastor and oversaw the construction of the new church, and celebrated the first Mass there on December 23, 1972. Fr. Griffin died suddenly at age 48 on January 7, 1973. His funeral was the first Mass of Christian burial in the new Church. His Excellency, The Most Reverend George W. Ahr, Bishop of Trenton, officiated at the dedication of St. Mary's Church on Feb. 11, 1973 dedicating the Parish Hall in Fr. Griffin's memory.
A SHEPHERD IN THE SPIRIT OF VATICAN II
The untimely death of founding Pastor Father Griffin posed a particular challenge to the Most Reverend Bishop of Trenton to provide for the needs of this growing community. The search for a new pastor did not lead far…Reverend Fr. William J. Bausch was serving as the Associate Pastor at Saint Benedict Parish, Holmdel/Hazlet when he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's on February 23, 1973. With 250 registered families, Fr. Bausch built upon the firm foundation established by his predecessors. With the establishment of Bell Labs and Prudential, new homes were needed and this very rural farming community gave way to several housing developments. Efforts for the Religious Education of Families, children and adults alike, became a cornerstone of parish life in Colts Neck. The Parish House was constructed by Parish Trustee Walt Zimmerer as a place for the clergy to reside with space for parish activities.
Parishioners responded to the needs of a growing parish by supporting the vision of Church as presented by their pastor adding a Spiritual Center (housing rooms for Religious Education, meetings, and social gatherings) in 1980; an outdoor prayer garden in honor of St. Francis of Assisi with the image sitting in a position with arms that invited children to sit in his lap. The statue was designed by Fr. Bausch, molded by the Guild Studios of Paterson and cast in a Brooklyn Foundry; a Grotto in honor of the Blessed Virgin was added as a place of personal pilgrimage and prayer; the hospitability apartment and the sharing shed.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Priestly Ordination, Fr. Bausch with parishioners gathered in June 1995; later that year transition in pastoral oversight began when the His Excellency, The Most Reverend Bishop of Trenton granted retirement to Father Bausch ending a 22 year tenure as pastor enabling this talented priest to continue serving the church as priest, homilist, author and lecturer. His final gesture was the gift a bronze statue of Dorothy Day, the advocate of the poor, sitting on a bench in front of the Church.
A SHEPHERD IN TIME OF TRANSITION, GROWTH & EXPANSION
The appointment of a successor to the popular Father Bausch, His Excellency, The Most Reverend Bishop of Trenton carefully deliberated who would take up this important pastorate. Acting upon the recommendation of advisors, Bishop Reiss called Reverend Fr. Edward J. Griswold from service outside the Diocese of Trenton to succeed Fr. Bausch. The parish had grown to 1200 families with continued growth in the coming years.
Father Ed continued many of the Spiritual, Liturgical, Social and Outreach Ministries that long characterized Saint Mary Parish. The Religious Education of children was greatly expanded; Music Ministry was further developed and expanded; Liturgical Dancers were added.
Father Ed celebrated the 25th Anniversary of his ordination as a priest while pastor of St. Mary’s. The parish held a dinner celebration for him at Buttonwood Manor in Matawan. With Father Ed, St. Mary’s also celebrated its 25th Jubilee. An outdoor Mass was held on the church grounds with many current and former parishioners in attendance.
During Father Ed’s tenure the parish continued to grow. The Millennium Project was inaugurated to provid needed funding for the expansion and renovation of some facilities on campus. This process began by writing to His Excellency the Most Reverend Bishop of Trenton, as President of the Parish Corporation, to begin the planning process, schedule a needs assessment and commence with the needed architectural renditions for approval. This project proved very time consuming and, at times, discouraging. The pastor and parishioners remained focused on their mission and slowly overcame many obstacles, especially those from local leaders. The construction on the church expansion and the addition of the Family Life Center was completed in April of 2006, just in time for Palm Sunday. Work continues in the Gathering Area and Parking Lot so that this effort will be completed.
The untimely death of Reverend Msgr. Armand Pedata of Saint Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton challenged His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop to find a suitable replacement for this large parish. Reverend Fr. Richard LaVerghetta, Pastor of Saint Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, was appointed to the pastorate of Saint Joan of Arc following the 30+ years of service given by Msgr. Pedata. Fr. Ed was appointed to the Pastorate of St. Gregory the Great’s 5000+ families completing 11 years of faithful service to our Parish of Saint Mary.
A SHEPHERD PROMOTING STEWARDSHIP OF GOD’S GIFTS
Reverend Fr. Thomas J. Triggs was appointed Pastor by His Excellency, The Most Reverend John M. Smith following the transfer of Fr. Ed to Saint Gregory the Great, Hamilton Square. Fr. Tom served the Diocese of Trenton for many years ministering to Youth & Young Adults. He was named to his first pastorate serving the Community of Saint Charles Borromeo in Cinnaminson.
Fr. Tom continued to build upon the firm foundation established by his predecessors. The call to be Stewards of all God’s gifts helped to shape his vision for this new community. This philosophy developed and encouraged the idea of a free giving of Time, Talents and Treasure by all parishioners to the parish, to the community, and to those in need. It was an inclusive vision and invitation that all would be welcome to participate in the Parish Community of Saint Mary. To help implement this new vision, a parish ministry book was developed and a ministry fair was implemented. Community Building was a cornerstone of good stewardship a Community Building Committee was launched to coordinate parish events. Father Tom suggested an Annual Parish Golf Tournament to help build community while also raising needed funds so that the parish could become more solvent. The Social Concerns Ministry continued to be developed. When Super Storm Sandy devastated much of the Jersey Shore, the Parish of Saint Mary responded generously to the devastation that was in our Monmouth County Community. During this time the approval was granted for the construction of the Solar Panel site on the church property. In 2007 the Light Up A Memory program was launched to help parishioners remember those who have gone before us with the sign of faith.
To assess parish life, Fr Tom called forth parishioners who oversaw two surveys during his tenure at St Mary Parish, the Stewardship Survey and the Appreciative Inquiry Survey. Each of these instruments provided important snapshots of the parish from a broad perspective and together they helped parish planning and assessment. A statue of children at play was added to the courtyard. The little boy at the base of the statue seems to be waving at Jesus who is standing in the midst of the greenery surrounding the courtyard. This sculpture was another way to welcome both parishioners and visitors. A Peace Pole in the St Francis Prayer Garden’s was erected as a way to remind all daily of the need for peace in our hearts, homes, workplaces and world. Fr. Tom resigned as Pastor and was assigned to a one year sabbatical before receiving a new pastoral assignment.
A SHEPHERD TO PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE
Reverend Fr. Jeffrey E. Lee was serving as Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish (Immaculate Conception Church & Saint Joachim Church) and Episcopal Vicar for Mercer County when His Excellency, The Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, CM assigned him to the Pastorate of Saint Mary, Colts Neck effective 8 May 2013 while continuing to serve in Trenton and Mercer County. Father Jeff was installed as Pastor by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Bishop of Trenton in the presence of the Diocesan Vicar General, Episcopal Vicars, Presbyters & Deacons from throughout the Diocese of Trenton, Reverend Scott Brown of the Colts Neck Reformed Church and Township Committeeman and Parishioner James Schatzle during Sunday Mass attended by parishioners and friends taking up full time residence 1 July 2013. During the homily Fr. Lee announced a series of 30 listening sessions to be conducted from September through mid-November as a way to meet parishioners and listen to the concerns of those active, in-active as well as those who no longer come to the Catholic Church. These interviews along with the previous Stewardship Report and Appreciative Inquiry would become the foundation of the vision for the future of our parish. He invited all parishioners to come together as stakeholders for the future.