By 1943, it was apparent to Bishop William A. Griffin that the Mission of Our Lady of Sorrows, founded in 1939 as a mission to Saint Anthony, Trenton had so developed that it was canonically erected to the status of a parish on June 19, 1943. The first pastor was the Reverend William P. McKeon (1943-48). As a temporary residence, the Father McKeon rented a house on Nottingham Way until a rectory could be built. During his pastorate, the debt incurred for the building of the church was paid, stained glass windows were installed in the church, and the Holy Name and Rosary-Altar Societies were established.
On December 18, 1948, Father McKeon was transferred to another pastorate and was succeeded by Father Paul A. Grieco (1948-67). He immediately undertook the construction of the rectory. A groundbreaking took place in September 1949 and the house was completed by January of the following year.
The post-war period witnessed a tremendous growth in the population of Hamilton Township. Masses were added to the schedule and the basement of the church served as a Sunday chapel. By 1953, the Hamilton Square area of the township had grown so much that Bishop George W. Ahr appointed to the See of Trenton three years earlier, erected the Parish of Saint Gregory the Great, the first of his episcopacy.
During this period, the parish committed itself to the mission of maintaining its own elementary school, which was staffed by the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross. The school’s construction began in 1954. The Sisters were housed in a temporary convent on East State Street Extention. In September 1955, Bishop Ahr laid the cornerstone and blessed the school which opened with an enrollment of 279 students in Grades 1-4. Upper grades were gradually added to the school. A convent, large enough to accommodate 21 sisters was completed and dedicated on November 24, 1963 by Monsignor Michael P. McCorristin, Vicar General.
By 1959, it was apparent that the church did not adequately serve the growing population of Mercerville. While the construction of a new church was considered, it was finally determined to add to two wings to existing structure. The basement would also be altered to accommodate a “lower church.” This project was completed by June 1960. One of the first ceremonies in the expanded church was the school’s first graduation.
Father Grieco’s pastorate also witnessed the joy of the ordination of two native sons to the priesthood: Father Paul A. Gluth (May 1959) and Father Louis Stingel (May, 1960).
On June 1, 1967, Father Grieco died suddenly at the rectory. His associate, Father Raymond Griffin was appointed temporary administrator.
As successor to Father Grieco, Bishop Ahr appointed Father Edward O’Keefe (1967-1986). In the wake of the ecumenical movement given momentum at the Second Vatican Council, the parish joined with the United Methodist Church and Grace Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in services marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. When a gas explosion destroyed United Methodist, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish offered the use of its facilities. While Sunday Masses were offered in the church, the Methodist congregation utilized the lower church.
Father O’Keefe oversaw the implementation of the liturgical reforms mandated by the Council. In 1974, the first Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion were commissioned for service.,
In the early 1980’s the parish hosted regional celebrations marking the centennial of the Diocese of Trenton (1981) and then the episcopal ordination of the Most Reverend Edward U. Kmiec, Auxilliary Bishop of Trenton. Bishop Kmiec, a native Trentonian, would later be named Bishop of Nashville and later, Bishop of Buffalo.
Within the church building, Father O’Keefe oversaw a number of improvements: the installation of air-conditioning, replacement of the flooring and lighting. The interior was repainted and the accommodations were made to house the Altar of Eucharistic Reposition in a side room.
Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Eucharist was instituted in 1985. Over 800 parishioners committed themselves to devoting time for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It was the single largest response to a perpetual adoration program nationwide to that date. Initially housed in the church, adoration was later moved to the convent chapel.
The pastoral ministry of Father O’Keefe was duly recognized by the Church when he was named a “Prelate of Honor” with the title of “Reverend Monsignor” at the recommendation of Bishop John C. Reiss. Monsignor O’Keefe retired from the active priestly ministry in 1986. His retirement would be short lived. He died on October 14, 1987.
Father Daniel Sullivan was appointed pastor on October 19, 1986. Under his tenure, lay involvement in parish activities grew. The ranks of liturgical ministers swelled and included women. The work of liturgical music, adult education, and community functions increased. Initiatives were undertaken to expand the parish’s care of the sick and bereaved. Father Sullivan implemented a “Board of Commissions” to coordinate the pastoral activity of the parish. This later evolved into a Pastoral Council.
The church underwent a few modifications during this time. In addition to a new altar of sacrifice, the images of the Resurrected Christ, the Holy Family, and the Via Crucis were installed. The church was repainted, the convent underwent a renovation to include additional classroom space for the school.
A number of diocesan events were hosted by the parish in the early 1980s. In 1981, Mercer County’s celebration of the Diocesan Centennial was held in the church. In 1983, the newly ordained auxiliary bishop of Trenton, the Most Reverend Edward U. Kmiec celebrated Mass for faithful of Mercer County.
In 1989, the parish celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its creation as a “mission church.” The year’s festivities began with a liturgy at the Mercerville Fire House, the site of the first mass. A “Peace Garden” was created, the parish field was dedicated to the memory of Fr. Grieco and the lower church hall was remodeled as a parish meeting hall, dedicated to the memory of a native priest son, Fr. Paul Gluth who died on January 26, 1987. On September 15, the patronal feast, the anniversary mass began with the procession from the Fire House to the church where Mass was offered by Bishop John C. Reiss. The anniversary year was also graced with the priestly ordination of another native son, Father Ken Szepesy.
Father Sullivan was transferred in February 1990 and his associate, Father Sam Sirianni served briefly as Administrator of the parish until the appointment of Father Ralph Stansley as pastor in May of that year. His tenure which came to an end only three years later was a time marked by great pastoral sensitivity and reorganization after a tumultuous period when a number of parishioners called for greater accountability and stewardship.
Father Paul Rimassa arrived as pastor in March 1993 and continued the good work of his predecessor. He was particularly attentive to the needs of children, the elderly and disabled. During his tenure, all the parish buildings were made handicapped assessable by elevator and lift. The ministry of “Angels’ Wings began to help displaced children. The church was embellished with a mosaic cross that serves as a backdrop to the image of Christ risen.
In 2003, Fr. Joseph Tedesco assumed the pastorate while at the same time serving the Diocese as Director of the Diocesan Office of Building and Expansion. This office would oversee the Trenton Parish Ward Study which would result in the major restructuring of the parishes of the greater Trenton Area. In effect, Father Tedesco served at the last pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. On July 1, 2005, the parish was suppressed and began part of the newly established parish-Our Lady of Sorrows-Saint Anthony Parish.