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St. Valentine Parish - Bloomfield NJ

A history from the 1949 Golden Jubilee Book

The Polish colony in Bloomfield was at first an isolated settlement of Poles. The few miles that separated it from the older and more numerous Polish centers in Newark and Passaic were fifty years ago vast distances which had to be traversed afoot or on horseback. Left to itself it has developed characteristics proper to itself and has had to rely on its own resources for growth and progress. Because of this isolation, the founding of a parish in Bloomfield was a difficult task and a noteworthy accomplishment.

As early as 1876 there were a few Polish families already settled in Bloomfield. These and later settlers in this vicinity attended St. Stanislaus R. C. Church on Belmont Ave. in Newark. often walking the whole distance along the banks of the Morris Canal. By 1838 there were over 90 Polish families in Bloomfield and Franklin (Nutley) and even two societies: St. Valentine's Mutual Benefit Society and the Joseph Poniatowski Society.

St. Valentine's Society took the initiative in the founding of the Parish, calling a meeting of all the Poles in the vicinity for that purpose first on June 11, 1898 and again on June 26th. The decision of those present was that a Roman Catholic Parish be founded as quickly as possible to serve the religious needs of the Poles in Bloomfield and a Committee was chosen to approach the Most Rev. Michael Wigger, then Bishop of Newark. for the necessary permission. With the permission secured, the Committee began to look about for a suitable place of worship. This was found in the "Hope Chapel" on Hoover Ave. (then called Franklin Ave.) and on July 14, 1898 the decision was taken to purchase the chapel, its site and furnishings, from the Broughton Presbyterian Society for $1,875. The transaction was completed on the 24th of October and soon thereafter a sacristy was added to the building, an altar and a confessional were erected and the building made ready to serve as a church.

Still lacking a priest, for there were few Polish priests in the U.S. at the time, the Parish was officially incorporated at the Sacred Heart Rectory in Bloomfield on February 16, 1899. In accordance with the State corporation laws, the officers of the new parish were: His Excellency Bishop Wigger; Rev. John O'Connor, Vicar General of the Diocese; Rev. Joseph Nardiello, Pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Bloomfield; John Lewandowski and John Sanok, the Lay Trustees of the Parish. Father Nardiello relinquished his post as Secretary-Treasurer of the corporation, with the coming of the first Polish priest to administer the Parish.

The first priest at St. Valentine's was the Rev. Constantine Lazinski in March of 1899, followed shortly thereafter by the Rev. John Adamowski and later by Rev. John Stankiewicz. In the meantime St. Valentine's Society turned over to the parish the title to land and church on July 13th and the church was blessed by Bishop Wigger on August 6, 1899.

With the coming of its first permanent Pastor, Rev. Alexius Iwanow, in 1900, the Parish embarked on the road of steady development and expansion. A Rectory (the present Convent) was built in 1901 and in 1905 the church was moved to a space next to the Rectory and the present church erected on the 'Corner site for $15,000. The old church was turned into a school taught by lay teachers. The Church Choir was organized at this time under the name of "The Harmonia Choir". The Main Altar was installed in 1913 for $1,300. and three years later a new large bell was bought and installed for $450. Also in 1916, the Parish purchased the present Rectory and grounds across Hoover Ave. and the old rectory building was later transferred into a Convent for the Felician Sisters who began to teach in the Parochial School in 1918.

Our present capable Organist and Choir Director, Mr. Sylvester Gutkowski, began his duties in 1917. At the same time the choir adopted its present name: St. Valentine's Choir.

In 1921, Father Iwanow resigned after 20 years as pastor of St. Valentine's, a tenure that saw ever increasing numbers of Poles and Lithuanian settle in Bloomfield, Nutley, Belleville, the Oranges and West Essex County, most of whom became active parishioners. In March of 1921, the Most Rev. John J. O'Connor, Bishop of Newark. appointed, Rev. Bronislaus A. Socha, an Alumnus of Seton Hall College and of the Diocesan Seminary, as the new Pastor of St. Valentine's.

Soon after assuming his new duties, Father Socha,  began a wide of spiritual program and material improvements. Two week Parish Missions were begun in 1922 and preached regularly every four years since then. The need of an organization for the young men of the parish was filled when St. Valentine's Athletic Club, a virile and active parish society to the present day, was organized. The use of English in addition to Polish for the Sunday Gospel and Parish Announcements was also introduced at this time to meet the changing conditions. The Parish Grounds were extended by the purchase of a large undeveloped tract to the east in 1922 and a year later, the parish and the real estate company which was developing the adjacent land, jointly donated the land for the extension of North Spring St. from Gillespie Rd. to Hoover Ave., an action that immeasurably accelerated the development of the entire area in the vicinity of the Church. The Little Flower Club for the young ladies of the parish, was founded a few years later in 1926.

In the meantime, Father Socha was gradually gathering funds for the construction of an adequate school building. With 400 families in the parish and $17,000. on hand, Father Socha began the construction of a $100,000. modern building to accommodate eight classrooms, a Parish Auditorium, meeting rooms and club rooms. Ground for the project was blessed on April 27th and the Corner-stone put in place by Rt. Rev. Msgr. McHugh, Pastor of St. Patrick's Pro-cathedral, Newark. in very impressive ceremonies on July 6, 1924. The new school was opened for use in September, 1925 and blessed by the Rt. Rev. Msgr., later Bishop, John Duffy.

By 1930 the Parish had grown to such an extent that four Masses on Sunday became a necessity and the first Assistant, Rev. John Witkiewicz, was appointed to the parish. 1930 also saw the complete renovation of the Church and the extension of the Convent. The renovated church was blessed by Rt. Rev. Msgr. V. J. Masnicki, P.A., on October 19, 1930.

On April 14, 1939, our Pastor, Father Socha, celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his Ordination with a Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving in the presence of His Excellency Thomas J. Walsh, Archbishop of Newark. many of the clergy and a multitude of well-wishing parishioners.

During the Second World War, 514 men and women of the St. Valentine's Parish served in the Armed Forces of the U. S. and 18 of them made the supreme sacrifice for our country. Those who remained at home worked actively in every Drive and Campaign for Funds. Our school children placed high in the "Schools at War" Bond-selling campaign with a total of $66,951.75 worth of War Bonds sold among the parishioners. The post-war Relief Campaigns were all contributed to with self-sacrifice and generosity.

The years 1945 to 1947 saw extensive repairs on the Parish plant. Repairs were made upon the church, the exterior of the school was repaired and waterproofed and the interior redecorated, the Rectory was thoroughly rebuilt and enlarged, and a new storehouse built on the Schools grounds, at a total cost of $50,000.

The Parish Catholic Youth Organization was chartered in 1945 and the following year, the first of the weekly Canteen Dances for teenagers was held. On January 1, 1946 the first issue of our "St. Valentine's Bulletin" made its appearance. This mimeographed parish bulletin, written by our Rev. Pastor and edited and printed by Father Marjanczyk, is now produced in an average of 800 copies which are distributed in church every Sunday. In the fall of 1946, a Testimonial Dinner was tendered to Father Socha by his grateful parishioners on his 25th Anniversary as Pastor of St. Valentine's Parish.

The steady growth of the Parish made it necessary to increase the number of Sunday Masses to five in 1947. Our Parents-Teachers Association was organized the same year. In the fifty years of its existence, St. Valentine's Parish has had only a few religious vocations.

Priests ordained from our Parish were:

Rev. Irenaeus Targonski, O.F.M., 1939 Rev. Henry Gauer, 1948
Rev. Joseph Tyminski, S.C., 1949

Sisters from our Parish are:

Sr. Mary Letitia, (Helen Wysocka) Felician Sisters
Sr. Mary Leonora, (Eleonore Kliminska) Sisters of Charity

Since 1930 the following priests served as
Assistants at St. Valentine's:

Rev. John Witkiewicz, 1930-1932
Rev. Ladislaus Nazarewicz, 1932-1940 Rev. Ladislaus Kopec, 1940-1944
Rev. Valentine Lwowski, 1944-1945 Rev. Joseph Marjanczyk. 1945-
Rev. Boleslaus Moscinski, 1947-

Looking back over the past half-century, we see a pleasant picture of work well done, of sacrifices made and efforts expended for our Parish. From its small beginnings, St. Valentine's has developed into a parish of 900 families and is still growing. All the debts that had been contracted for construction and improvements through the years will be paid off completely in this Jubilee Year. The Parish has large and beautiful grounds, an excellent school building and a fine rectory. The valuation of the Parish is over a half million dollars. Two major projects remain for the future - the construction of a new and adequate Church and the building of a new Sisters' Convent. With God's help and ihe iniercession of His Blessed Mother, with the whole-hearted effort and cooperation of our parishioners, these dreams may be realized in the near future. The accomplishments of the past are the enduring glory of our parishioners, who cooperate so selflessly with their Pastor and Priests. With the continued devotion and love of its parishioners, St. Valentine's can look confidently towards the future!


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Last Updated on December 27, 2011