MONTCLAIR, NJ - After learning the news of the Archdiocese of Newark's decision to close Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Montclair, devastated parishioners are seeking to overturn this decision by any means possible.
During the meeting held at Mt. Carmel located at 94 Pine St. on May 17, parishioners expressed concerns that they had not been given enough time to fundraise or take measures to reverse the decision.
Immediately after learning of the news, letters and calls began to flood Archbishop John Meyers' office and now parishioners are asking for the involvement of Pope John Francis.
Anthony Priolo began an online petition and in just three days, the petition has already garnered over 500 supporters. In his letter, he speaks of the rich history, diversity and shared values that exist at Mt. Carmel.
The petition was addressed to Pope Francis; Jim Goodness, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Newark; and Archbishop Myers, J.C.D., D.D.
The letter accompanying the petition reads:
"Let us tell you the story of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Montclair, NJ – the story of the American dream.
The Archdiocese of Newark (New Jersey, USA) wants to shut our church down and make our parishioners go to another church – one that does not share our history. The history of our church and its remarkable story are summarized below. Today our prosperous church (that is in great condition and is generating funds) is subject to closure for reasons that don’t seem to line up. Italian culture is world famous not just for its delicious treats – but for the openness of the Italian community to share its cultural values and welcome any and everyone to take part, this church was founded and built on these ideals. Parishioners in the early 1900’s brought the community together and introduced New Jersey to a love of community and culture that was simply not there before.
Anyone who believes in cultural values and religion can relate to what the people in Montclair, NJ are experiencing right now. Imagine the 1800’s, traveling across the ocean (in this particular case, from Italy to America) to leave behind everything you know and to find the ever famous – American Dream. So many of those Italian immigrants found their way to the 4th ward of the quaint little town of Montclair, New Jersey. Determined to make it work, they started taking all the jobs they could get utilizing their skills and introducing the town to the joys of their culture – there were bakers, builders, artists, singers working their way from the very bottom in order to provide for their families and contribute to the community. They found comfort in the church that was already there, but it was not a church that recognized their Italian values and traditions, while they respected and loved this establishment – it was not their own.
Diversity is what makes humanity so rich and beautiful, we share our cultures with each other and this is how we learn to love and grow as humans, every culture brings something invaluable to the world.
The Italians of Montclair started creating societies and mutual aid groups where they could embrace their cultural values – get a break from the 247 work life, and well, feel home. Around 1900 the “Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society” was formed – at this point the preexisting church (predominantly Irish) served the spiritual needs of the Italian community, but now there was a social and cultural place for the Italians to express themselves and remember their home. The Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society HAD NO IDEA the pivotal, historical, spiritual role it was about to play in the history of Montclair's 4th Ward.
Once the society was incorporated it began to organize events to share the world-renowned Italian culture with the community of Montclair – and to raise funds to build a church of their own. Primarily through the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and assistance from the St. Donato society enough money was raised to start construction of a small wooden church on Pine St. in Montclair. The first Mass was celebrated on Sept 8, 1907. The title " Our Lady of Mount Carmel" was given to the Parish in thanks to the mutual aid Society that made it all possible.
As time went on the parish began to grow, Italians from all over began to seek out our church because it truly felt like home in a place that was so new to them. More and more culture began arriving at OLMC, settlers from a small town in Sicily (Cerami) brought with them their devotion and patronage to St.Sebastion, and in 1926, the first Feast of St. Sebastian had been celebrated while the already growing Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast continued to prosper every July. These feasts not only united the Italians but played a much larger role, they brought different cultures and communities together – in true Italian style, they shared what they loved and introduced people to famous Italian traditions – and of course, food!
By 1937 the church we see today was built, in true Italian style the church reminds us of those scattered throughout the hills of Italy and brings a sense of charm to the area. Parish life and the neighborhood continued to grow, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church which was noted as a national Italian Parish opened its doors always to a very diverse, multi-cultural congregation with strong Italian roots.
To this day our parish has endured many changes, and has always served the community. Surviving the great depression and serving as a place of worship throughout - our parish has continued to prosper. Today the parish is just as alive as it was when it started. Initially its location was not seen as prime time real estate, but since the installation of the Montclair Connection (A train station with a direct train to NYC) the land now is more valuable. The church brings profits, the newly developed area brings people to our festive events and our doors are always welcoming to new churchgoers of all races, cultural backgrounds and beliefs. Closing our parish does not mean simply shutting down a Church, it means erasing memories, eliminating diversity, and forgetting the pivotal role our Church played in the development of the community – our doors do not open just to a building – they serve as a portal to the past and a reminder that with devotion, determination, faith and love of something greater – anything is possible. Please help us keep our doors open.
We ask you, please sign our petition! We need this to go to the very top of the church to see a change, the more signatures the better! Use the hashtag #SaveOurChurchOLMC on FB & Twitter, Like our FACEBOOK PAGE linked here -Save Our Church OLMC - FACEBOOK PAGE and don’t let the Archdiocese take away our community, our church and the legacy our Great, Great Grand parents worked so hard to leave behind for us. Also, don’t let them take away from the hard work of todays parishioners and committed churchgoers.
Thank you SO MUCH for reading – if you are ever in Montclair NJ, please know our doors are open to you :)"