Jersey City Jesuit community makes history with takeover of St. Aedan's Parish
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Posted by: jenny campbell
When local Jesuit history is written, Rev. Vincent Sullivan will be referred to as a pivotal figure.
Today he is the rector, or head Jesuit, of the some 22 St. Peter’s College priests who reside in two buildings on Glenwood Avenue in Jersey City.
Tomorrow, he also takes over the helm of St. Aedan’s Parish up the street on Bergen Avenue.
The historic transfer will expand the college’s campus under a rental agreement with the Archdiocese of Newark with an intent to buy the property years from now.
On a sad note, the legendary St. Peter’s Prep Jesuit community will dissolve with some Jesuits moving across the river into Manhattan, including the President, Rev. Robert Reiser. Four others are joining the college community.
Some will reside with Sullivan in the spacious rectory, where Bishop Martin Stanton once resided. Though some controversy has followed the college’s takeover of St. Aedan’s, the mild-mannered Sullivan takes it all in stride. "I like the diversity of people (in Jersey City),” he said.
Sullivan had previously pastored St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Catholic church in Jersey City, before it became part of Resurrection Parish, and he remained there for eight years. Since then, Prep has bought that property and closed the church.
Sullivan has consulted with Rev. Joseph Astarita, St. Aedan’s outgoing administrator, and some parish leaders. He has an open mind about what he has to do to lead the parish and has no set agenda. Parish programs will continue and the Jesuits will preside over the Masses, including a Spanish Mass on Sunday.
"I expect to be doing the normal pastoral work in the parish,” said Sullivan, who unlike most Jesuit priests has had extensive pastoral experience and retreat house administration.
I think he is probably the best Jesuit to oversee these changes. If any thing, he hopes to "broaden the conversation” and hopes the college community can get involved at St. Aedan’s. Unlike previous arrangements where religious orders are assigned to run a parish like the Capuchins at St. Ann’s in Hoboken the college is technically taking over the parish so the college president and his cabinet are ultimately responsible for the buildings and programs to be offered there.
Rev. Michael Braden, the college’s vice president for mission, will oversee the St. Aedan’s campus. Sullivan sees an occasional lecture series occurring there and special Masses, like at graduation, in the spacious church interior. It is one of the largest churches in the archdiocese. In the past, the late Bishop Fulton Sheen, a friend of Stanton, preached there during Lent to packed houses. He’s also thinking about a late Sunday evening Mass, which has become popular on college campuses, to attract students and other worshippers.
Sullivan expects to utilize the mostly part-time staff at the church and supplement the staff with college employees. Astarita has done a lot in his tenure to fix up the parish, adding a chapel for daily Mass, an electronic sign board, outdoor chimes, waterproofing the church, and landscaping.
A charter school rents the former St. Aedan’s school.
I am most saddened by the end of the Prep Jesuit community, the site where the college started in 1872. I graduated from Prep in 1970 when there were probably 40 priests and seminarians in residence. As numbers declined, about 11 Jesuits lived for the past five years in the former Our Lady of Czestochowa convent. Life will not be grand after the Jesuits leave Grand Street.
I wish Sullivan many blessings as he turns a new chapter on the Jesuits in Jersey City. Santora is the pastor of The Church of Our Lady of Grace & St. Joseph, 400 Willow Ave., Hoboken, 07030, (201) 659-0369, fax (201) 659-5833, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org