Divine Mercy Parish
Holy Cross Church
St. Stanislaus Church
Sts. Peter & Paul Church
Divine Mercy Parish was founded July 1, 2005 with the merger of the Roman Catholic parish communities of St. Stanislaus Church, Church of the Holy Cross, and Saints Peter & Paul Church.
Following a year-long study undertaken by the Diocese of Trenton, a restructuring of the Trenton area parishes located in Mercer County was recommended. In order to sustain viable parish life within the Trenton Diocese, many of the area parishes were merged. Rev. Msgr. Edward J. Arnister was appointed the first Pastor of Divine Mercy Parish.
A synopsis through the years of some of the highlights from each of the three parishes that merged into Divine Mercy Parish is offered below.
During the second half of the nineteenth century many people from all over Europe began settling in Trenton. Many were from Eastern Europe, and a good number of them settled in the Chambersburg section of the City. One of the first priorities of these immigrants was to search out the nearest Catholic Church which could best serve the needs and wants of these devout people. Initially they worshiped at the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes (the former Immaculate Conception Parish on Chestnut Avenue). The Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception Province who ministered to this parish conducted missions, devotions and homilies in the Polish language.
At the behest of some of the elders of the Polish immigrants, the Diocesan authorities were approached in respect to founding a parish specifically for the Poles of Chambersburg. Receiving a positive reply from the Bishop of Trenton, it was announced that within three months a Franciscan priest from Poland would be in Trenton to serve the parish as pastor. The promised Franciscan priest from Poland arrived in the Fall of 1890. Fr. Stanislaus Czelusniak was a newly ordained priest and St. Stanislaus was his first parish.
With the necessary funds on hand, construction on a new church began in the Fall of 1891; the blessing of the cornerstone took place on September 11, 1892. One year later, on August 29, 1893, the church was blessed and officially dedicated for sacred use.
The second pastor, Rev. Felix Baran, who had a great love for learning and nationalism, was instrumental in beginning the parish school in what is now the church hall and which was staffed by The Bernadine Sisters. This Religious Order was eventually replaced by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph. It was on September 8, 1897 that this Religious Order began, when Sister M. Colette and four American Sisters became Franciscan Sisters in a ceremony in St. Stanislaus Church. The Sisters soon became an integral part of the local community, contributing their talents - teaching in school, music, comforting the sick and needy. Due to financial difficulties, the school was closed a short time later; however, in 1911 the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph returned and remained throughout the years, and until today minister to the parish of Divine Mercy. It was in the Fall of 1928 that construction of a larger St. Stanislaus School building began. When the neighboring parishes of St. Stephen and Sts. Peter & Paul closed their schools, some of their children enrolled in St. Stanislaus School.
Also during the early years, many organizations were founded which sought to improve and foster parish life. When the parish celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1940, it would boast of a vibrant spiritual life.
In the years that followed, St. Stanislaus continued to thrive as a parish community and continued to add to the physical plant, including painting and renovating its buildings. In 1984, when a fire occurred in the left side altar, which was the result of faulty wiring, the church sustained heavy smoke damage and virtually everything in the church had to be replaced. By June 1985 the bulk of the renovations was nearing completion, and the Most Rev. John C. Reiss, Bishop of Trenton, celebrated a special liturgy of Thanksgiving.
On November 11, 1990, Bishop Reiss, together with the parish and invited clergy, concelebrated an inspirational Mass of Thanksgiving on the occasion of the parish centennial. At both the Liturgy and the banquet, the parish rededicated itself to know, love and serve Jesus Christ far into the future.
To capture the uniqueness of the Church of the Holy Cross, we must remember its location. In 1891 there were twenty-two ethnic churches in six square blocks, Holy Cross being one that ministered to people of Polish ethnicity. The first six Pastors came from a Poland that for 103 years (1815-1918) did not exist on a map of Europe; their schooling and ordination to the Holy Priesthood was in a Poland that was partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria. These "Partitions" of Poland lasted until 1918 when Poland regained its independence; but Poland was again partitioned in 1939 between Hitler's Germany and the Soviet Union until 1941 when Poland came under German rule after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. During the later nineteenth century, there began an enormous emigration from the Polish lands, mostly of poor peasant families, seeking a better life in North America, or the in the coal mining areas of France, Belgium and Germany.
The first pastor, Rev. Valentine Swinarski, first acquired a house on the corner of Elm Street and Home Avenue which he converted into a small chapel. Proving insufficient to the growing number of parishioners, sixteen lots were purchased on Adeline Street, the present site of the Rectory, Church, School and Convent. Permission was received from Bishop O'Farrell to erect the first Church, a combination Church-School-Rectory (in what is now the present Rectory). The Church of the Holy Cross was incorporated on April 17, 1891; the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Michael O'Farrell on Sunday, April 6, 1891. During his pastorship, Father Swinarski organized the Societies of the Holy Cross - the Sacred Heart and St. Florian.
In 1901, the third pastor, Rev. Francis Czernecki, found an urgent need for additional teachers to instruct the growing numbers of Polish-American children enrolled in the Holy Cross parish school, and he succeeded in securing the services of a religious teaching community, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice, better known as the Felician Sisters. Holy Cross was the first parish in the Diocese of Trenton to obtain the services of the Felician Sisters; and Holy Cross School became an accredited school. Tuition was free and the registration was only one dollar. The three-story school building, containing twelve classrooms, an auditorium, cafeteria and conference rooms for meetings of the various parish societies and organizations was constructed in 1919 during the pastorship of Rev. John Budziak.
The present church was built in 1910; the cornerstone was blessed on November 6, 1910 and approximately one year later the Church of the Holy Cross was dedicated. Father Budziak, a cabinet maker before he became a priest, personally undertook the construction of a main altar in the new Church of the Holy Cross during his pastorate (1912-1923). Annual May crowning’s, outdoor Corpus Christi processions and Forty Hour Devotions were among the parish's great spiritual events.
Throughout the years many societies and organizations were established at the Church of the Holy Cross including the Polish Ulani Society; a Polish Dramatic Society; the St. Vincent de Paul Society; the White Eagle Brass Band; the Children of Mary and Young Ladies Society; the Altar-Rosary and Holy Name Societies; and the Holy Cross PTA, among others. Rev. Msgr. Francis Kasprowicz introduced the Perpetual Novena in honor of the Miraculous Medal and a Novena in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, as well as the formation of the Catholic War Veterans Holy Cross Post 417 and the Ladies Auxiliary.
The Holy Cross Community Center was built in 1979. On the occasion of his retirement, the facility was renamed in honor of Rev. Msgr. Thaddeus J. Wojciehowski, the parish's beloved pastor for nearly a quarter century.
In 115 years (1890-2005) all eleven of the parish's pastors maintained the beautiful Polish traditions of the parish founders' native country.
SS. Peter and Paul Parish had its humble beginnings in a rented hall on Genesee Street, with Mass being celebrated there from 1896 to 1901 by the first Pastor, Rev. Ladislav Neuwirth. It was in May of 1896 that members of the SS. Peter and Paul Society and St. Peter the Apostle Society called a meeting to discuss the matter of establishing SS. Peter and Paul Slavonic Catholic Church. These two societies took upon themselves the plans for building a new church, and expressed their desire to the Right Reverend James A. McFaul, Bishop of Trenton, who granted his permission to the Societies' representatives.
Actual construction of the parish's first church, which seated 350 people, began in April of 1900, and when the church building was completed in the Summer of 1901, Father Neuwirth celebrated the First Mass; however, the church was not blessed until June 29, 1902.
With the services of two lay teachers, two classrooms in the basement of the church were used for school in September 1902. Then in August 1908, the services of the Sisters of St. Dominic as the teaching staff for the parish school took effect, and it was in the fall of 1911 that construction on a school building began during the pastorship of Father Coloman Tomchany, a deeply religious priest and excellent administrator. The school opened in September 1912, and in the early years, only the first floor served as classrooms while the second floor was used as a parish hall. Eventually, as school enrollment increased, the upper floor was divided into classrooms.
As the years went by, it was evident that a larger church was needed, and Father Tomchany called a meeting to discuss plans for the construction of a new church, which was begun in January 1927 and completed in December 1927; the cornerstone was blessed and then the church. Mass was celebrated by the Pastor, Father Tomchany, who would serve the Slovak community of SS. Peter and Paul Church for forty-three years.
The Parish boasted of many societies through the years including the aforementioned St. Peter and Paul Society and Society of St. Peter the Apostle; a Parent-Teacher Association; St. Joseph's Society; Sodality of the Blessed Virgin; St. Elizabeth Society; Rosary Society; and, St. Cecilia Society.
Traditions like the blessing of Easter food on Holy Saturday, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and Solemn Novenas to St. Anne and St. Jude continued to be part of the long-time services at the parish. In addition, the Rosary was recited in small groups before Sunday and daily Masses; Religious Education was provided for the children; and, the May Crowning took place on the First Sunday in May. The Societies of the First Catholic Slovak Union and SS. Peter and Paul Church maintained a faithful, constant relationship through the one-hundred-plus years, when the world crossed over into the New Millenium. When the parish celebrated its One Hundredth Anniversary, its parishioners once again declared their Faith in God, their Commitment to their Church, and their Loyalty to the Catholic Religion and the parish as it moved forward into the future.
These beautiful stories of love, charity and especially faith, bring us to the present day, where members of these former parishes were joined together to form Divine Mercy Parish on July 1, 2005, and who together continue in prayer, praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings He bestowed upon our ancestors as He continues to pour out His blessings upon us as we evolve from our ethnic diversities into one.
Divine Mercy Parish
233 Adeline Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08611
Fax (609) 393-3538