Parish History

Saint Catherine of Siena

A 60-Year Pilgrimage of Faith
On September 12, 1951, Archbishop Thomas J. Walsh, sitting in his office in the Archdiocese of Newark, signed a letter of incorporation creating a new parish in the rapidly growing town of Cedar Grove.  His action set into motion a pilgrimage of faith for the parish of Saint Catherine of Siena, a journey that continues today.
That date does not represent the first appearance of Catholics in the Cedar Grove area.  Long memories recall a small band of faithful Catholics in the early years of the twentieth century walking the three miles up Bradford Avenue over First Mountain to celebrate Mass at St. Cassian’s in Upper Montclair.  By 1949 the faithful had grown into a 250-family Mission of Our Lady of the Lake parish in Verona.  Priests from that parish celebrated the first Mass in the new Mission that year at the Towers Restaurant on Pompton Avenue (site of the current CVS at Stevens Avenue).
As the veterans returned from World War II, the GI Bill helped young Catholic families get a mortgage for one of the new houses then being built in Cedar Grove and other similar town throughout the area.  This farming community was rapidly being transformed into the suburban town we now call home, and Catholics here knew that it was time to build a parish of our own.
A Catholic Club was formed by Mr. and Mrs. J. William Bradshaw to work toward that goal.  In the spring of 1950, Mr. Bradshaw learned of the availability of the Philip Grissing farm at Bradford and Pompton Avenues, owned by one of the old Catholic families of the area.  That news and the request for a new parish signed by 334 Catholic families occasioned the incorporation of Saint Catherine’s.  The land was purchased and work begun on the new Church, which was dedicated on December 6, 1952, by Bishop James McNulty, and the following day Solemn High Mass was celebrated by the parish’s first pastor, Father Raymond Quinn.
Rosary and Altar and Holy Name Societies were formed to assist the pastor, plan spiritual programs and organize social functions.  Father Quinn was soon joined by newly ordained Father Charles McDonnell, later to enter the US Army as chaplain, rise to the rank of general, and later still be ordained an Auxiliary Bishop of Newark.
The new parish needed new buildings to accomplish its mission.  The first order of business was to build a school for the burgeoning number of children in town.  Staffed by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell and lay teachers, St. Catherine of Siena School opened in 1958 with 424 pupils; an addition had to be constructed in 1965 as the school population reached 620.  The school building also housed a 450-child CCD program and a well-attended CYO youth program, as well as that staple of 50’s parish fundraising, Bingo.
Meanwhile the priests and sisters had been living in temporary quarters.  But in 1961 the generosity of parishioners in a capital campaign allowed the parish to build a rectory and convent.  The campus as we know it was now complete, all buildings designed in the same style, set on a beautiful landscape of rolling hills.
The 1960’s brought great changes to society and parish.  Greater lay participation in liturgy and parish life was channeled into activities like Bible Study, Young Christian Students, parish council, town ecumenical services, and parishioner involvement in outreach efforts like Project Understanding, which brought urban and suburban children together during summers otherwise rife with turmoil.  Lay people became lectors and Eucharistic ministers, and in the 1970’s, a renovation adapted the church building for the new model of liturgy introduced by Vatican Council II (1962-65).
An era of parish history ended in 1967 with the death of Father Quinn.  He is buried on the property of the parish he worked so hard to build; his memorial is located between the Church and rectory.  Father Quinn has been succeeded by 6 pastors: Msgr. William Noe Field, Rev. Daniel Mahoney, Rev. Robert Gibney, Msgr. Michael Saltarelli, who later became Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware, and then, just before the celebration of the parish’s fortieth anniversary, Msgr. Charles Gusmer.  Known to everyone affectionately as “Father Charlie,” his eighteen-year pastorate would leave a deep impression upon the parish.  Upon his retirement in 2009, he was succeeded as pastor by Msgr. Robert Slipe.
The parish today is marked by a spirit of Stewardship, a following of Jesus Christ by parishioners deeply aware that all that we have is a gift from God, who recognize that we must return God’s blessings by a generous sharing of our time, talent and treasure.  That sense of Stewardship is expressed here by the activity of more than forty ministries that have been created over the decades since the ‘60’s.  They continue to grow in number and scope.  Most recently, a parish initiative entitled S.O.S. ~ “Shepherds of Service,” has involved in its first year of operation nearly 300 parishioners in direct service to the poor and marginalized.  Our Religious Education program instructs 573 children; St. Catherine of Siena School educates 257, Pre-K through Grade 8.  Our parish currently has a registration of 2,270 households.
In 2011 we commenced the celebration of our Sixtieth Anniversary as a parish, with gratitude for all that has gone before.  We remember all the people who made it happen, especially the priests, sisters and lay staff members who have given themselves so generously in service to the parish over these past years and do so today.  Their generosity and their accomplishments are best known to the Lord.  The parish today builds upon foundations of living stones, the parishioners of past and present, whose faith has shaped this pilgrimage which is our history.  For our future, we entrust ourselves into the loving hands of the God whom we worship and serve.

Parish Center Hours

Monday through Friday
9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Office is closed
Saturday and Sunday


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If your group is having a meeting
in the evening, please contact
the rectory office before hand
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