Our Parish History
Arising from a New Reality: The Trenton Ward Study
The history of Our Lady of Sorrows-Saint Anthony parish began on July 1, 2005, at the behest of the Bishop of Trenton, the Most Reverend John M. Smith. Responding to the pastoral needs of greater Trenton, the Bishop commissioned the “Trenton Ward Study” that restructured the parishes of the area. This year-long consultative and fact-finding process recommended the merger of two independent parishes, Our Lady of Sorrows, Mercerville and Saint Anthony, Trenton to form a new parish which incorporated both names. The parish territory of Our Lady of Sorrows would remain the same while the territory of Saint Anthony was reduced to include only that area within the confines of Hamilton Township. The portion of Saint Anthony territory that was with the City of Trenton was incorporated within the territory of the newly merged parish of Our Lady of the Angels, Trenton. The parish churches would retain their respective “titulars” i.e. Our Lady of Sorrows and Saint Anthony. In sum, the new parish was one territory with the advantage of two churches and their respective campuses.
The Rev. Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, former pastor of St. Anthony’s, Trenton was appointed pastor of the newly established parish of Hamilton Township. Father Garrett Fitzgerald, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows would serve in the new parish along with Fr. Oscar Sumanga, who would be an adjunct priest. The rectory of Our Lady of Sorrows was designated as the parish office and priests’ residence. The rectory at Saint Anthony was utilized as a convent for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.
Another recommendation of the “Trenton Ward Study” received episcopal approval. The Saint Anthony campus was designated as the center of the Church’s ministry to the Haitian community. To this end, the former convent housed the “Haitian Center” of the Diocese of Trenton. This center was transferred from St. Francis of Assisi, Trenton which was closed as a result of the parish restructuring. The Haitian apostolate was placed under the aegis of Our Lady of Sorrows-Saint Anthony. Sr. Frances Paglione serves as director and Fr. Pierre Michel Alabre oversees the spiritual needs of the Haitian community. Liturgies and other services are offered in Creole at St. Anthony’s Church.
In October, 2005, Bishop Smith appointed Fr. Fitzgerald administrator of Holy Trinity Parish, Long Branch. Two months later, he appointed Fr. John C. Garrett as parochial vicar.
The new parish continues its solid commitment to Catholic education through Our Lady of Sorrows School, founded in 1955. At the time of the parish’s establishment, the principal was Donna Bacsik with Mariyam Francis serving as the parish’s first religious education director.” The Parish also sponsors a PreSchool and Child Care Center under the direction of Mrs. Mary O’Boyle. These parish institutions operate on Our Lady of Sorrows Campus.
The parish ministries and organizations existent at the time of the merger continue to function from either campus as needs dictate. A number of organizations have been reorganized to reflect the reality of the new parish.
The merged parish has grown from two parishes rich in history and tradition. Both parishes have common roots. Our Lady of Sorrows Parish was first a mission administered by St. Anthony’s Parish. It arose as a response to the growth of Mercerville, a Trenton suburb in the late 1930’s. The “reunion” of both communities after the passage of decades, was again a response to the changing demographics and needs of the greater Trenton area.
In order to appreciate the new parish’s unique and rich history, the pages on each community (in the submenu on the left) provide a brief history of each. Each parish enriches the other with a variety of gifts to build up God’s Kingdom.
Highlights of each year following the merger are included on separate pages, listed on the submenu on the left.