Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton
Diocese of Trenton
|Territory||South-Central New Jersey counties of Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean|
|Established||August 2, 1881|
|Cathedral||Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, Trenton|
|Co-cathedral||Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine, Freehold|
|Patron saint||Blessed Virgin Mary|
|Bishop||David M. O'Connell|
Bishop of Trenton
|Vicar General||Rev. Msgr. Thomas Gervasio|
|Emeritus Bishops||John Mortimer Smith|
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton is a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in southern New Jersey, United States. Its ecclesiastic territory includes the counties of Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean, and Mercer (where Trenton, the capital city of New Jersey, is located).
Catholicism in what is now the diocese dates back more than 250 years.
Jesuit Father Joseph Greaton arrived in Philadelphia in 1729 and built Old St. Joseph Church, on Willings Alley at Fourth St. About 1732, he took charge of the West Jersey mission territory extending from Trenton to Cape May.
A few years later, visits to the widely scattered Catholic families were recorded by Father Theodore Schneider, another Jesuit, who visited the iron furnaces in the southern part of the state in 1744. Traveling on horseback, by stagecoach and riverboat, the energetic Jesuit covered all of south and central Jersey, as well as parts of eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.
When Schneider died in 1764, Father Ferdinand Steinmeyer, another Jesuit, succeeded him. Also known as Father Ferdinand Farmer, he traversed the state from Philadelphia to New York twice yearly visiting scattered Catholic families. He continued the ministry until his death in 1786.
When the dioceses of New York and Philadelphia were established in 1808, West Jersey, the southern part, came under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishops of Philadelphia. When the Diocese of Newark was established in 1853, all of the state was in its jurisdiction.
About 1804, records show, Mass was celebrated in the printing office of Isaac Collins at Queen and Second Streets (now State and Broad Streets) in the heart of the Trenton business district.
From 1811 to 1814, Mass was celebrated in the Federal St. home of John Baptist Sartori, a consular official who represented the commercial interests of the Papal States in Italy.
When the number of Catholics coming to Mass became too much for the Sartori residence, it was decided to purchase land for a church to accommodate the growing congregation.
With the encouragement of Michael Egan, the first bishop of Philadelphia, Sartori and John Hargous bought a plot at Lamberton and Market Streets. A small brick church was erected and dedicated to St. John in 1814. The congregation was the first Catholic parish in the state.
Some time later, a new parish church was built on South Broad Street. Following a devastating fire in 1883, a new church was erected and dedicated to the Sacred Heart. As the population of Trenton grew, new churches were built in Bordentown and Lambertville. In the 1860s, Father Anthony Smith saw the need for a new parish in the northern section of the city and, in 1865, purchased land where St. Mary Cathedral stands.
The site of the Cathedral is the place where Col. Johann Gottlieb Rall, commander of the Hessian troops, had his headquarters in December 1776 during the Battle of Trenton. Construction of the church took five years, and it was dedicated by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley of Newark on the Sunday of 1 January 1871.
In 1860, there were 25,000 Catholics in New Jersey, and by 1880 there were 130,000.
In 1881, Pope Leo XIII established the Diocese of Trenton to serve the Catholics of the southern part of the state and named Father Michael J. O’Farrell of New York as its first bishop. At the time, the diocese had 68 churches, 23 parochial schools and 51 priests.
In 1937, Pope Pius XI created the Diocese of Camden to serve Catholics in the six counties in the southern part of the state, under Bishop Bartholomew Eustace. The now smaller Diocese of Trenton had a Catholic population of 210,114 in eight counties with 212 diocesan priests, 121 parishes and 70 parochial schools.
Much of the growth of the Catholic population in the Trenton Diocese took place during the episcopacy of Bishop George W. Ahr, from 1952 to his retirement, on 23 June 1979, an era in which the Catholic population grew to more than 800,000.
Ahr established more than 50 new parishes and blessed more than 250 new buildings, including 100 new churches and parish centers and 90 schools and school additions.
On 14 March 1956, in the midst of the tremendous growth, tragedy struck when fire destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral, claiming the lives of the rector, Msgr. Richard T. Crean, and two housekeepers.
In a diocese that was growing and a world that was changing, Ahr took part in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council and guided implementation of the Council’s decrees in the diocese.
Just a few months later, on 24 November 1980, the diocese, now with a Catholic population of 850,000, was divided again to establish the Diocese of Metuchen, which included the four northern counties of Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren.
Following the split, the Diocese of Trenton had a population of 447,915 Catholics in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties, with 119 parishes served by 193 diocesan priests and 105 religious priests.
Preparing for a New Millennium
After initiating the Emmaus program of priestly spirituality in 1982, Reiss implemented the Renew process for lay spirituality, which was intended to bring parishioners together in small faith-sharing groups in five seasons from 1985 through 1987.
In 1986, Reiss approved a new vicariate structure for administration of the diocese. On 13 January 1991, he opened the Fourth Diocesan Synod during a Mass in St. Mary's Cathedral. It came 60 years after the Third Synod.
On 30 June 1992, Reiss launched Faith-In-Service, a diocesan capital and endowment fund campaign, to try to ensure the financial stability of diocesan services. The campaign had a goal of $32 million and raised more than $38 million in gifts and pledges.
In 1982, Msgr. Edward U. Kmiec, who had been master of ceremonies and secretary for Bishop Ahr and later for Bishop Reiss, was named auxiliary bishop of Trenton. Ten years later, Bishop Kmiec was appointed Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee.
On 21 November 1995, John M. Smith was named Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton, to eventually succeed Reiss as bishop of the diocese. Smith, a native of the Newark Archdiocese and a former Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, at the time was Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida. On reaching the age of 75, Reiss submitted his letter of retirement to Pope John Paul II. The letter was accepted, effective July 1, 1997, and that day Smith became Chief Shepherd of the Diocese of Trenton.
A New Era
In his 13 years leading the Diocese of Trenton, Bishop John M. Smith is responsible for fostering numerous initiatives that have served the people of the diocese and beyond.
Following the call of Pope John Paul II to place ever-advancing communications technologies at the service of the Gospel, Bishop Smith oversaw the diocese's establishment of an Internet presence with the launch of the diocesan website (www.dioceseoftrenton.org) in 2000. He also championed the diocese's newly created teen talk show, Realfaith TV, which is televised and webcast throughout North America and has garnered numerous prestigious awards.
That online presence has grown significantly in the decade that followed, with specially targeted websites for the diocese's Hispanic Apostolate; Ministry of Vocations; the sanctity of human life with (www.respectlifetoday.com) and, most recently, The Monitor online (www.TrentonMonitor.com).
Bishop Smith has also shepherded the diocese toward new ways to be Church in response to new and changing realities. As part of the call to empower the laity and prepare lay men and women for ministry in the diocese, Bishop Smith created the Institute for Lay Ecclesial Ministry, which has formed and commissioned 110 individuals to date.
In order that parishes might be more effective and engaging in their ministry and outreach to their parishioners and the wider community, particularly in response to population changes and a declining number of priests, Bishop Smith set forth "The 11 Elements of a Vibrant Parish" in 2000 and launched a consultative study process in the years that followed in support of those ideals. The study gave rise to parish restructuring that reduced the number of parishes to 111 to date, and pointed to areas of interparochial cooperation and collaboration to enhance their ability to serve the shared needs of their people.
With declining enrollment in some Catholic schools, Bishop Smith also called for a strategic planning process to determine the best ways to preserve Catholic education in the diocese for generations to come. In January 2006, Bishop Smith announced the "Commitment to Excellence" initiative and action plan that enumerated new measures in school leadership, marketing and financial management, and benchmarks that schools needed to achieve in enrollment, class size and curriculum development. Although many schools were still thriving and operating on a waiting list, his mission to suburbanize the Diocese of Trenton remained undeterred. Bishop Smith effectively closed every Catholic school in Trenton to the detriment of the community, Catholic education and, the city of Trenton.
In August 2009, Bishop Smith officially inaugurated and promulgated a new diocesan pastoral plan, "Led By the Spirit," the result of nearly two years of consultation with Catholics throughout the diocese. The plan identifies seven pastoral priorities -- dealing with charity and justice, pastoral leadership, ethnic diversity, youth and young adult ministry, faith formation and Sunday worship - and resulted in a restructuring of the diocesan administrative structure that better supports the priorities. Since the promulgation, all parishes have been engaged in developing action plans in service to "Led By the Spirit."
On June 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI named Vincentian Father David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. as coadjutor bishop of Trenton. As required by Church law, Bishop John M. Smith submitted his resignation to the Holy See on June 23, his 75th birthday.
Bishop O'Connell was consecrated to the episcopacy for the Diocese of Trenton on July 30 by Bishop John M. Smith in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., became the new bishop on Dec. 1, 2010.
Bishop O'Connell has as his episcopal motto "Ministrare non Ministrari" which means “To serve and not to be served”
The following is a list of Bishops of Trenton and their years of service:
Bishops of Trenton
- Michael J. O'Farrell (1881-1894)
- James A. McFaul (1894-1917)
- Thomas J. Walsh (1917-1928), appointed Bishop and later Archbishop of Newark
- John J. McMahon (1928-1932)
- Moses E. Kiley (1934-1940), appointed Archbishop of Milwaukee
- William A. Griffin (1940-1950)
- George W. Ahr (1950-1979)
- John C. Reiss (1980-1997)
- John M. Smith (1997-2010)
- David M. O'Connell, C.M. (2010 to present)
- James John Hogan (1959-1966), appointed Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown
- John C. Reiss (1967-1980), appointed Bishop of Trenton
- Christian Brothers Academy*, Lincroft
- Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River (known as Monsignor Donovan High School until 2014)
- Holy Cross Academy, Delran
- Mater Dei High School, New Monmouth
- Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville
- Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank
- St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel
- St. Rose High School, Belmar
- Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart*, Princeton
- Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton
- Trinity Hall*, Middletown
- Villa Victoria Academy*, Ewing Township
- *Operates independently with the concurrence of the Diocese.
- John Joseph Cardinal Carberry (secretary to Bishop Moses E. Kiley)
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|Wikisource has the text of a 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article about Dioceses of Trenton.|