H olmdel H istorical S ociety

PO Box 282, Holmdel Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey 07733

St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church
Holmdel Historical Society's
Major Restoration Project

St. Catharine's Church

Prayer from the Mass for the Dedication of a Church

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven; and it shall be called the court of God. Alleluia, alleluia. How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the court of the Lord. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

If you would like to help in our efforts to save the church, you are invited to join our "Save the Church Campaign." Please contact Holmdel Historical Society.
The Holmdel Historical Society is raising several hundred thousand dollars to restore the church. We plan to reach our goal in four years. We plan to bring the building up to code, to use it for Society monthly meetings, to use it as a museum to protect and display our collection of historical items from Holmdel, and to use it for community events, and auctions, art shows and craft shows. We want to maintain the church appearance and atmosphere, including restoring the altar, altar rail and pews and to include an area to sit peacefully and reflect.
Architectural plans to apply for the building permits will cost about $20,000. Phase I, to rebuild a foundation, will cost about $100,000. Replacing the slate roof will cost about another $100,000. Repairing all of the 13 stained glass will be about $130,000.

Update, January 20, 2010:

The animal problem has been corrected. The floors have been cleaned and the racoons have been relocated. The slate roof was repaired Jan. 19, 2010. Hopefully it will be dry inside with less mildew and less humidity.

We are currently in the process of creating a donation brochure for a mailing, showing what the church looked like "before" the restoration project and our image of what it will look like "after" we collect enough funds to complete the project.

Estimate to remove, repair, rebuild and replace the stained glass windows is $5000 each. We have 13 windows, which any donor can memorialize. Personal tours are available by calling George. Donors can choose a window and have added "In Memory of ..." Windows are avialable on a first come, first serve basis!

We plan to hold a garage sale at the church sometime in the spring, to sell only the non-Holmdel items that have been donated to the Society. More on this to follow. Anyone interested in cleaning, repairing, preparing for the garage sale, please contact George at 732-946-2743.

In the Beginning
Thomas Meehan donated the one-quarter acre plot on Stilwell Road. Irish immigrant Father Michael L. Glennon began building this church in February of 1879. Nine months later, Bishop Corrigan dedicated the church. In 1879, it was the only church of any kind in the Morrisville section of Holmdel. It was the first Catholic Church in Holmdel and it was the first Catholic Church in New Jersey dedicated to Saint Catharine of Genoa. The building measures 25'x75'. It has a slate roof and the exterior walls are of batten board construction. Inside, pews seated about 100 parishoners. The choir loft accommodated an organ and a dozen choir members. Two wood burning stoves heated the building.
Original windows were clear glass. The stained glass windows were added about 1914. The entrance foyer has 2 small clear glass windows. The front wall has 3 stained glass windows. The round one at the top is not visible from the inside. The stained glass in the two narrow matching windows, one on each side of the front door, measure 18" x 68". They have hinges on the inside that allow them to swing open. Ten more stained glass windows, five on each side of the long walls, measure 30" x 80". These ten windows have a unique way of opening, by sliding up about two feet into the wall pocket directly above. There are a total of 13 stained glass windows.
The interior walls are beadboard horizontal slats covered with 4x8' sheets of masonite or sheetrock. The ceiling is also beadboard, with 3 large ornamental stars, and in the center of each star is a large metal hook, which probably held 3 large gas chandeliers.

Bishop Corrigan Bishop Michael Augustine Corrigan of Newark dedicated St. Catharine's Church at Morrisville on November 25, 1879. Michael Corrigan was born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 13, 1839. Cardinal Patrizzi ordained him to holy priesthood on September 19, 1863, in the Cathedral Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, Italy.
The ceremony to dedicate St. Catharine's Church began 11:00 am with Reverend John J. O'Connor of Highlands as master of ceremonies. A solemn high mass was offered with Reverend Patrick E. Smyth of Jersey City as celebrant. Bishop Corrigan delivered the sermon. Mrs. Ashurst assisted the choir from Jersey City in singing Mozart's Twelfth Mass.

Father Glennon
It was in the town of Crohan, one of the loveliest parts of County Cavan, Ireland, that on September 2, 1852, the home of James and Rose Glennon was brightened by the arrival of their sixth and last child. They named their son Michael, in honor of the great archangel of his birth month.
Michael Glennon arrived in New York on May 20, 1870. His elder brother preceded him, so he was not entirely alone when he first set foot in America. He entered the Seminary of Holy Angels in Niagara Falls and two years later entered the seminary at Seton Hall in Orange, New Jersey. Most Reverend Michael L. Glennon was ordained a priest on May 27, 1877, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Joseph's Church in Newark.
While studying at Seton Hall, Father Glennon met Monsignor Corrigan. Corrigan took a great interest in Glennon, whom he described as having exceptional intellectual gifts, with an appearance and manners that were captivating enough to disarm the most adverse critic. With Corrigan's approval in 1878, Father Glennon authored "A Simple, Orderly, and Comprehensive Catechism of the Christian Religion," printed by the American News Company. Monsignor Corrigan gave Glennon his first assignments, as that of curate for Reverend Patrick E. Smyth of St. Bridget's Church in Jersey City. His second assignment was to establish a mission and build a church at Morrisville.
Father Glennon moved to Red Bank and boarded with Father Michael E. Kane at St. James Parish. Reverend Kane helped raise most of the $1600 funds needed to build the church in Holmdel. When Reverend Glennon took charge of St. Catharine's, it was almost devoid of any debt. Bishop Corrigan considered Glennon's work in Morrisville a phenomenal success. In February 1880, Corrigan appointed Father Glennon as the first rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Asbury Park but did not relieve him of his duties at St. Catharine's. Every Sunday, Father Glennon would say mass in Asbury Park, then, rain or shine, snow or ice, would ride his black stallion named Sabbath, to St. Catharine's in Holmdel to offer mass in this church. Father Glennon died of malaria in 1900.

Saint Catharine of Genoa
Caterina Fieschi Adorno was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1447, to parents Jacopo Fieschi and Francesca di Negro. Her father, Jacobo, was Viceroy of Naples. At the age of 13, Caterina asked to join the convent but was refused because of her age. Honoring her parents wishes, she married Giuliano Adorno, nobleman of Genoa, at the age of sixteen. The marriage failed. Ten years later she was in confession when a ray of Divine light pierced her soul. In one moment it manifested her own sinfulness and the Love of God with equal clearness. The revelation was so overwhelming that she lost consciousness and fell into a kind of ecstasy. She gave herself to the care of the sick at the Hospital of Genoa until she died in 1510. She wrote, "Dialogues of the Soul and Body," and "Treatise on Purgatory." Her writings have been examined by the Holy Office and pronounced to contain doctrine that proved her sanctity. She was beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X and canonized in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.

Silver Jubilee
The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the dedication of St. Catherine's Church in Holmdel took place Friday, November 25, 1904, at 10:30 am. Reverend John A. Lawrence, pastor of the church, celebrated a solemn high mass. Father John A. Norris of Trenton, secretary of Bishop McFaul, gave the sermon. Father Edward J. Egan of Sea Bright was master of ceremonies and Father Healy of Lakewood was deacon. Reverend James A. Reynolds of Red Bank was sub-deacon. About 400 people attended. The choir from the St. James Church of Red Bank supplied the music.

Golden Jubilee
More than 20 priests gathered to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the dedication of St. Catharine's Church on Tuesday, November 26, 1929. Rector Francis J. Sullivan celebrated a solemn high mass. Monsignor Peter J. Petri of Atlantic City delivered the sermon. Reverend Thomas H. Reilly of Spring Lake was master of ceremonies. Father Reilly was also Chancellor of the Trenton Diocese. Sister Mary Beatrice directed a choir from Georgian Court College in Lakewood. Sister Miriam, college teacher, rendered the solo parts. The altar was decorated with large golden yellow and white chrysanthemums. The officiating priests wore special golden vestments.
After the Mass, the choir gave a concert at the convent of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Wickatunk, where a dinner was served for the visiting priests. Members of the Blessed Sacrament Guild of St. Catharine's Church helped the sisters prepare and serve the meal of grapefruit, bouillon, roast turkey with dressing and gravy, potatoes, peas, celery, radishes, olives, pickles, ice cream, cake, lemon pie, coffee, cheese and crackers. Father Walter L. Leahy of Deal prepared a booklet on the history of the church and a list of names of those who donated toward the cost of 1929 renovation of the church.

St. Catharine's Church in 2008
In May of 1975, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Trenton, New Jersey, donated the St. Catharine Church property in the Everett section of Holmdel to the Holmdel Historical Society for one dollar. Located at 84 Stilwell Road, it is the official headquarters and museum of the Holmdel Historical Society.
The sill plate, rim joists and floor joists show extensive water and insect damage. These are major structural defects which are causing the church to tilt. The floor is tilted and uneven. The walls are bowing out which can lead to a total roof collapse. There is no bathroom, kitchen, septic tank or handicapped access. The heating and electric system need to be replaced.
The slate roof is missing shingles and is leaking in some places. Some slate shingles are loose and others are delaminating. Extensive roof repairs or a new roof is needed immediately.
Plexiglass was installed on the exterior to protect the 13 large stained glass windows from malicious damage. The plexiglass may have trapped the heat, causing the metal to melt and glass panels to fall out and break, although the lead in the windows doesn't last much longer than 100 years. We need a carpenter to remove the windows and replace them with temporary ones. The windows can be put in storage until we have enough to funds to repair them, one by one. Each window will cost about $10,000 to repair.
Rodents have made openings to crawl underneath the building. Poor grading around the structure has caused damage to the wood from standing water. The standing water has allowed rot, mold and mildew to grow. We need a handyman to install wire and dirt to block up the holes under the flooring to prevent the animals from getting inside.
Toxic mold and fungus is growing on the walls and ceilings in some areas. We are in the process of protecting and/or removing the historical items in our collection. There is evidence of active infestation of wasps, raccoons, woodchucks, squirrels, mice, bats and other rodents.

If you would like to donate your time or money to this historical project, please contact Holmdel Historical Society, or you can mail your donation to Holmdel Historical Society, PO Box 282, Holmdel NJ 07733.