BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Father Andrew Prachar, pastor of The Church of the Little Flower, revealed the content of the dated cornerstones of the upper auditorium church and the 'Little Church' at Sunday's 9:30 a.m. mass held outside at Columbia Park.
"We had to take out the sledge hammers to get into these cornerstones," said Father Andy. "Interestingly enough, the 1930 [cornerstone] had been opened up a number of times, and there were things in there from 1980 to celebrate the 50th anniversary." In the upper auditorium 1963 capsule, there was a document signed by all the priests within the parish at the time and there was something from the Archbishop of Newark, he said.
Father Andy lifted the cloth to unveil the cornerstones and the content of the capsules. He raised the yellowed paper document that was of interesting historic value. "This was put in the  cornerstone as the church was dedicated," he said. October 26 will be the 90th anniversary of the inclusion of the 'Little Church.' "We are blessed to have a portion of the 'Little Church' with us for the new church."
The document read: "This, the Holy Roman Catholic Church of The Little Flower, a mission church of the parish of St. Vincent de Paul of Stirling, in the diocese of Newark, State of New Jersey, and located in the village of Berkeley Heights, Township of New Providence, County of Union, State of New Jersey, was dedicated to honor and glory of God, and the corner stone containing this document and other things inserted, by the Right Reverend Thomas J. Walsh, Bishop of Newark, this twenty-sixth day of October in the Year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and thirty and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and fifty-fifth, His Holiness Pius XI being Pope, His Excellency Herbert Hoover being President of the United States and His Excellency Morgan P. Larson being Governor of the State of New Jersey."
Reverend Thomas F. Morrissey conceived the plan for a Roman Catholic Mission church at Berkeley Heights, the document stated. He was the pastor of the Stirling parish at the time. On Christmas Day 1926, he assembled a congregation and celebrated the Holy Mass in the building adjacent to the site of the church. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society of Berkeley Heights loaned the building, and continued to do so for the next three and a half years. They held Sunday mass in what is now the Reverend Edmund G. Bernauer Parish Center located at 290 Plainfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. This was the first public religious service of any kind ever held within the "Township of New Providence."
Father Morrissey had accumulated $4,500 in money and property for the church plan. The church was incorporated as a religious corporation on May 17, 1928, under the corporate name of The Church of The Little Flower, and the church site was acquired on June 25, 1928.
On December 24, 1929, Father Morrissey transferred to another parish and was succeeded by Reverend Matthew J. Toohey. The administration of the parish was set and on December 24, 1929. Father Toohey "addressed himself to the erection of the Church, and on Sunday, May 11, 1930, the ground was blessed and broken by him," the document stated.
With the construction progressing, Father Toohey was able to celebrate a Mystical Solemn High Mass for the benefit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society for the occasion being the annual fiesta of that Society, the document said. The Feast of Mount Carmel continues to be celebrated every July 16th in Berkeley Heights. On September 10, 1930, the church celebrated the first Nuptial High Mass uniting Michael A. Del Duca and Philomena C. Delia in the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
The Church was completed on Saturday, September 27, 1930, and the first regular mass was celebrated on Sunday, September 28, 1930.
Click here to read document in full.
"It's our history," said Father Andy. "All of us are making new history," he said, as the parishioners applauded.
The "Going Home" project, when complete, will accommodate 500 worshipers in the expanded "Little Church" and add new gathering spaces and a memorial garden. The ground breaking of the project took place last December, and the completion is anticipated anytime between Christmas and Easter, said Father Andy.
He thanked the parishioners for their attendance on Sundays and their generosity for the building. He provided a construction update. "If you pass by lately, the external windows, the stained-glass is in, and the siding is going up. We're progressing nicely." He added in jest, "I wish the church was only costing $4,000," referencing Father Morrissey's funds raised to erect the original church.
He recognized Father Matthew Dooley, his staff and project manager Bridget Neigel [Chair of the Parish Finance Council] for their hard work. "Just to give notice to the project manager for our project -- if it wasn't for Bridget, I certainly couldn't be doing all of this."
Click here for church renderings and background to the project including the land and property transaction between The Church of the Little Flower and Berkeley Heights Township.
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