Catholicism was firmly rooted in Mays Landing prior to the actual establishment of St. Vincent de Paul Parish late in the year of 1906. Up to that time the spiritual needs of the people were under the care of St. Nicholas’ Church in Egg Harbor, some seven miles away, which had been established in 1864.
In 1902 a Mrs. Patrick J. McGeary moved from Pottsville to Mays Landing, and found, much to her distress, no Catholic Church here. Each Sunday afternoon, in her own home, she would gather together the neighborhood children for Sunday school. By 1904 the attendance had outgrown the McGeary residence, and Veal’s Opera House was secured for the Sunday sessions.
Then, in 1906, upon learning that a Father Theodore McCormick was the Pastor of Dorothy, Milmay, and Risley Churches, Mrs. McGeary went to see him and explained the need of a Priest in Mays Landing. Fr. McCormick had just been asked by Bishop McFaul of Trenton to look into the number of Catholics there. After it was found that there were more than 50 families in the community, plans were made for the first Mass to be said in Mays Landing at Veal’s Opera House on Easter Sunday, April 15, 1906.
Father McCormick had been a missionary of the Congregation of Missions prior to his coming to Dorothy. In 1904, his health had failed, and his physicians directed him to “live in the pines” for at least a year. He presented himself to Bishop McFaul in Trenton and asked if a place might be found for him in the pine forests of the Diocese. The bishop immediately appointed him to Dorothy, Risley and Milmay where churches had already been built but because of the shortage of priests, the people had never had Sunday Mass regularly. With Dorothy as the center, Father McCormick began saying Mass alternately at Risley and Milmay, later visiting and saying Mass at Tuckahoe, Richland, Beesley’s Point and many other stations in the vast territory under his care.
About a month after the First Mass was said in Veal’s Opera House, Father McCormick came to live in Mays Landing in May, 1906, occupying a rented front room in a small house in the rear of Bartha’s store (now County Seat Florist). Holy Mass was said in his room each day, with the dresser being used as the Altar.
On October 4, 1906, papers incorporating the "Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Mays Landing, NJ" were filed by the Clerk of Atlantic County. The old Smith property, 100 feet square, where the Church now stands, was purchased by br. Saulsbury, and the Leilings did all the work to make way for the new Church. The cornerstone was laid on August 25, 1907 and the first services were conducted in the new church on Christmas morning, 1907. The Church was finally completed and dedicated by Bishop McFaul on June 28, 1908. This was followed by the Parish's first Confirmation of 65 adults and children.
List of Pastors
|Rev. Theo. B. McCormick
Rev. Thos. F. Hennessey
Rev Hugh F. O'Connor
Rev. Nicholas Varinelli
Rev. Thomas M. Healy
Rev. Frederick J. Halloran
Rev. William F. Quinn
Rev. Thomas F. Kirk
Rev. Raymond Kavanagh
Rev. Alfred W. Jess
Rev. Ralph Mealy
Rev. James R. Duffy
Rev. Charles C. Beausang
Rev. William B. Cannon
Rev. Francis R. Araneo
Rev. John F. Sugrue
Rev Robert Matysik - Administrator
Rev. Edward F. Heintzelman
Fr. McCormick organized two baseball teams, A St. Vincent de Paul Beneficial association and a free school for boys in the community
Fr. Hennessey obtained the old Sheriff's residence as a Parish house.
Fr. Halloran cleared the church of all debt and redecorated the interior.
Fr. Quinn renovated the rectory only to see his work undone by a disastrous fire on New Year's Eve, 1930.
Fr. Kirk cleared the parish of debt incurred by the fire and wrote a history of the parish.
Fr. Kavanagh erected a shrine in honor of Our Lady in 1936.
Fr. Mealy painted the Church & Rectory, repaired the Church windows and purchased a new organ.
Fr. Duffy made many improvements in both the church & rectory and established the first Catholic Cemetery in the Atlantic County area, and converted the rectory cellar to a small parish hail.
Fr. Beausang purchased the Corson & Heinley properties in 1956 & 1958. The Corson property became the convent and the sisters arrived to teach in the new school in 1961. In 1958 the church was repainted, the wooden sanctuary floor was replaced with terrazzo, new statues were purchased and a new marble altar erected. He furthered developed Holy Cross Cemetery and had an irrigation system installed. March 28, 1961 marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the school which was dedicated on October 29, 1961.
Fr. Cannon installed a new walnut table altar made by Mr. Joseph Barresi, new red carpet, renovated kneeling benches, painted the church and acquired a new organ. He also started the library at the school.
Fr. Araneo developed the new parish council, established a night of recreation for senior citizens and started bingo in 1973 held at the Knights of Columbus building on Mays Landing Road. He made extensive renovations to comply with the spirit of the Church's new liturgy. The marble altar rail was removed, the green marble altar was restyled into a table altar, and the surplus marble was made into a pedestal for the tabernacle and for candle and plant stands. Walnut paneling was installed in the back of the sanctuary forming a background for the large crucifix.
There had been talk of closing the school in 1978. Fr. Sugrue was able to get the parish completely out of debt. He had stained glass windows installed, new pews with kneelers, air-conditioning in the church, and new carpeting He oversaw the building of the Parish Center, and began a full day kindergarten and then a pre-k class with after school care now being offered.